Iowa State focusing on fundamentals during spring game

Plus: Irving suspended after riot-related arrest

Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette

Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads, on the field during last year’s spring game at Jack Trice Stadium, will be looking for consistency today when the Cyclones hold their annual spring finale at 2 p.m.
Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads, on the field during last year’s spring game at Jack Trice Stadium, will be looking for consistency today when the Cyclones hold their annual spring finale at 2 p.m.

AMES — First off, they won’t keep score.

Iowa State’s football team will be hyper-focused on crisply-performed fundamentals at 2 p.m. Saturday when the spring game begins at Jack Trice Stadium.

Points be darned — or ignored, anyway.

“(We’re) going to have such a mash and mix of who’s going against each other that it wouldn’t be relative to who’s playing who and who’s competing,” Cyclone Coach Paul Rhoads said.

Translation: With an entirely new offensive coaching staff and new mentors for the secondary and defensive ends, spring has been about building keen understanding of concepts, techniques, mastering new terminology and meeting fresh, heightened expectations.

Who’s where is unimportant at this juncture. How they do what they do — from star players such as tight end E.J. Bibbs to hungry walk-ons such as linebacker Levi Peters — ranks paramount.

And that’s not about points. It hinges on being on point and on the same page at all times, or else.

“You’re going to get yelled at or coached by multiple guys,” said reigning starting quarterback Grant Rohach, who’s locked in a three-way battle for the top job. “So you’ve got to be able to take all that criticism and funnel it into playing better.”

That goes for everyone.

Even Bibbs, who with 39 catches for 462 yards and two touchdowns last season will enter the fall as the Big 12’s most productive returning tight end.

“He can make some plays,” said ISU offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, one of a handful of men to both be named a national assistant coach and head coach of the year. “In our system, it’s more disciplined and I think he’s learning that now. You just don’t run out somewhere where there’s green grass and put your hand up and look for the ball. That’s not how we do that. I think he realizes that and he’s adapting and he’s going to be just fine. He’s going to be good.”

Tough love? Sure — but recognized as such.

“He’s a great guy,” Bibbs said of Mangino. “I can’t be just one guy, learning to run routes. I’ve got to both run block and (catch) the ball.”

As for the quarterbacks, the same approach stands. Mangino preaches consistency — and he practices it by applying blunt criticism and high praise when warranted.

No favorites, at any position group. Take quarterbacks. Who will be “the guy”? Far too soon to tell, but that guy — whether it be Rohach, former starter Sam Richardson or up-and-comer Joel Lanning — will have to fully earn it.

“I’m not going to force anything,” Mangino said. “I’m not going to make something happen that’s not there.”

What is happening on both sides of the ball is progress, as expected and demanded. Whether there’s been enough to this point can be discerned by fans who show up to view the score-free and free-to-the-public scrimmage today.

“Execution of the simplest forms of our offense and defense,” Rhoads said when asked about what he’ll be looking for this afternoon. “There should not be a lot of mistakes from an alignment standpoint and quite honestly, there shouldn’t be a lot of mistakes from a footwork standpoint. ... Everything that we’ll do (today) will have been rehearsed and ran so I’m looking for consistency.”

IRVING SUSPENDED: Iowa State defensive tackle David Irving has been suspended indefinitely after being arrested by Ames Police for second degree criminal mischief, fifth degree theft and disorderly conduct. Irving’s charges stemmed from alleged actions that took occurred during campus rioting late Tuesday/early Wednesday, according to an Ames Police news release. That incident led to the cancellation of the remainder of this week’s annual VEISHEA events. Irving totaled 19 tackles and two sacks in 10 games last season.

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