Spring Preview: One-on-one with Coach Rhoads

While the 2010 season definitely had some solid highlights it definitely did not end the way Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads had hoped. In this CSR exclusive interview, Rhoads gives his take on last season, points out what must improve heading into the spring, and gives his insight on the battle for the starting quarterback position.

Cyclone Sports Report: You have said that the goal of each season is not to just play in a bowl game but to win one. That didn't happen this past season so what are your thoughts when you look back at the 2010 season?

Paul Rhoads: We talk about satisfaction and we were not satisfied with how last season ended up. We were a very competitive team but due to our poor end of the season we had no opportunity to win a bowl game which is our goal every year. That will remain the standard for us every year because we are not going to take years off. My ultimate expectation is that we become a championship program. I meant that we are champions in the classroom, off the field, and in the Big 12.

Cyclone Sports Report: In your first two seasons your teams were able to break down some barriers by beating Nebraska on the road for the first time since 1966 and by beating Texas for the first time ever in school history. It seems that they are not intimidated all by any of their opponents. How huge has it been for you to see your teams win games that they clearly were not expected to?

Paul Rhoads: That really is due to the character of our kids. We looked at the strength of our schedule and embraced it. We said we fully expect to win these games and our guys have a full understanding that we take the field to win. The bottom line is that you can't beat anyone that good unless you expect to do so and our kids expect to win every game.

Cyclone Sports Report: How important will it be to have a clear cut favorite in the fight for the starting quarterback job by the end of the spring or are you okay heading into fall practice with it not yet determined?

Paul Rhoads: It would be nice to have it done but when one of the competitors is a junior college transfer, I don't know if it can be done by then. It should be a great competition and we'll just take it one day at a time. Jerome (Tiller) and James (Capello) of course have had two falls and two springs so Steele (Jantz) is playing catch up but right now he's already showing signs of progress with what he has shown us so far.

Cyclone Sports Report: The loss of Alexander Robinson would usually hurt a team in a big-time way the following season but it seems like the one-two combination of Shontrelle Johnson and Jeff Woody could be just as effective for the Cyclones in 2011. Do you agree?

Paul Rhoads: I do and that's why it is so very important to have outstanding depth at that position. Shontrelle and Jeff really gained valuable experience last season and we're definitely a better team because of our depth at this position. James (White) and Duran (Hollis) are very good and they will all compete for playing time. We are very excited about what we have at running back and it's huge for us considering the great emphasis we put on running the ball.

Cyclone Sports Report: The pass rush seemed to get a lot better late in the season last year. How important is it for the 2011 defense to start showing even more of a consistent pass rush?

Paul Rhoads: It's very important and overall our defensive line has to show more production in a lot of areas. Last year stopping the run was hit or miss and it can't be that way again. As the season went on last year our pass rush opened some eyes and we have got to continue to get a solid push from a four man line. We also want to mix things up by bringing five and six guys at times.

Cyclone Sports Report: From September of 1998 to September of 2002, Iowa State beat Iowa five straight times. Since then the Hawkeyes have won six out of the last eight. When you came back to Ames to coach Iowa State you were taking over a team that had only won five games the past two years and Iowa had teams that would combine for 19 wins over these past two seasons so initially the deck was kind of stacked against you in regards to the in-state rivalry. Now that you are heading into season number three in Ames, how important is it for Iowa State to start beating Iowa again?

Paul Rhoads: It's huge and what we really have to start with is being a lot more competitive in the game because that has not been the case over these past few years. Iowa has had some great talent on their teams and they have been much more physical than us and that has to change. We need to compete with them for four quarters and if we can do that this year I think we'll have a good chance to win.

Cyclone Sports Report: What do you want to improve on most in regards to offense during your spring practices?

Paul Rhoads: Well you have to score points to win and our point output the last two years has not been what it should be. We have talented players but we're not doing enough to get into the end zone. I really feel we need to improve on making more plays in space. I feel like we have some guys that can really make huge plays. Jarvis West is a kid who can turn a 7-yard play into a 37-yard play. Aaron Horne has the looks of a playmaker and has shown really great speed. Josh Lenz looks fantastic so far in the off-season and we expect him to continue to make big plays. Overall, all of our wide receivers have to make plays and we have to be more consistent running the ball. I don't think we were as good running it in 2010 as we were in 2009.

Cyclone Sports Report: What do you want to improve on the most in regards to defense during your spring practices?

Paul Rhoads: I just want to see us working on being a good defense in all areas with the main three being red-zone defense, turnovers, and points given up. If you look at the numbers it shows that we improved in those areas last season as the year went on. We just have to spend the practices during the spring building on that momentum. One major area that we will focus on will be our pressure packages of bringing five or six guys. We hope to be able to do that with more frequency. Up front we need to d a better job stopping the run so we'll be looking for playmakers during spring practice. The position that is most wide open on the defense is safety so that will be real interesting to watch during the spring. We'll have Deon Broomfield, Jacques Washington, Earl Brooks, Durrell Givens, and Jansen Watson all competing for spots.

Cyclone Sports Report: A lot of Iowa State fans became a little worried when your name was brought up when the Pittsburgh job opened a few months back. How does it feel to know that the Cyclone fans truly want you here at Iowa State and are really appreciating the job that you have been doing during your first two seasons in Ames?

Paul Rhoads: It feels good and it's exciting to have a fan base that has shown a belief and a true faith in what we are trying to do here at Iowa State. We know we have to keep working hard because we know we should have been in a bowl game. We didn't win either game in Kansas City against Kansas State when we had chances to do so and we also suffered two other painful losses last year that would have helped us get to a bowl game. We have a certain core group of fans here at Iowa State that show fantastic support. We're just looking to get Jack Trice sold out more on a regular basis and it's my job to make sure that there is a product out there that gets more people showing up.

Cyclone Sports Report: When you took the job you stated that the walk-on program would be very important to you and you have definitely followed through on that promise. Why is this aspect of your program so important to you?

Paul Rhoads: We have put ten former walk-on's on scholarship during my first two years at Iowa State and while I don't anticipate that we'll be anywhere near that number over the next few years I want to make it very clear that this is not a process of charity. I expect to see one or two players each year earn a scholarship and I'm real excited about it. Back in the 1990's when I was first coaching here we saw a number of great young men like Jordan Carstens and Lane Danielson earn scholarships and I just think it's vital part of our program.

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