An eight-day holiday in Texas rendered me without my desktop or usual laptop and had me working at less than full strength. When news bubbled on Twitter that Tommy Mister had texted some of the Indiana guys at Rivals.com guys he had recommitted, I was in line at the movie theater, so I quickly called him up and took down some quotes with a pen on the back of a thank-you note from my Mom's purse, then typed up a story on my phone.
Coupled with an overall lack of new information and the Christmas break, it was a dry content week here at AllCyclones.com. To all our new subscribers: Do not fear. We will never be less busy.
For the eight days of my pseudo-vacation, I present to you eight Iowa State thoughts — recruiting, basketball, football, the full gamut.
1. Our big news of the week is the decommitment of Tommy Mister, the three-star Chicago St. Rita running back.
Those who have been with AllCyclones.com since the September relaunch will remember our first story posed the question: Is Tommy Mister wavering? At the time, he really wasn't, just concerned with a slow start to the football season and wanting to make sure the offense would get him enough touches.
I checked in with Mister about once a week, and had a great working relationship with him. He's never been dishonest with me, and I'd think the reports from our conversations reflected that. It was clear after the Iowa State firings of Courtney Messingham and Kenith Pope that Mister was sort of worried, but then an in-home visit with Paul Rhoads gave him the impression a new hire could be announced soon.
When one wasn't, Mister and his family grew worried. Throw in a very strong Indiana visit on Dec. 13, and the Cyclones were suddenly in a precarious situation.
One of the most recent updates we did with Mister, we quoted him as saying he'd know what he would do — Iowa State or Indiana, or maybe some other school — once the Cyclones hired their coaches, but something changed in the past two weeks to accelerate his established timeline for a final decision.
The Cyclones are not at all out of this recruitment, though, and they're smartly still after the talented running back. I can't imagine Rhoads making underwhelming hires to plug the vacancies — he knows what rides on this — and he'll be able to come to Mister with a strong pitch.
The biggest key, though, is a pending Jan. 24 visit to Ames. Allen Lazard will be on the visit, as will Illinois receiver Jauan Wesley. Can the Cyclones get Mister back to campus, and in such company? If so, that might be enough to do it.
Mister told me Friday he'd like to decide by mid-to-late January and didn't offer any guesses, yes or no, on if he'd make that Jan. 24 visit.
2. What next with the running back spot?
Iowa State has a commitment from the criminally underrated Martinez Syria, who I really like, and will have Clifford Kwah-Mensah walking on (that's the other big news for the week).
There's a case to be made for the Cyclones not needing another 2014 running back, what with Aaron Wimberly, DeVondrick Nealy and Rob Standard likely key players next season, and that would be supported if Iowa State doesn't find another back it likes. Sure, there's still a chance at Jeff Jones but national Midwest analyst Allen Triue, after having extensive talks with Jones' camp, thinks that's a long shot, even thought Jones was — sorry — jonesing to visit Ames in December.
However, it's always smart to "trace" over a team's offers and its commitments in a class. The Cyclones took verbals from two backs and extended offers to seven other projectable players, that Scout.com knows of. Iowa State will keep tabs on Mister but I wouldn't be surprised to see Iowa State target another running back, because clearly it felt the need to get numbers at the position.
3. In basketball recruiting land, five-star Findlay Prep shooting guard Rashad Vaughn announced his narrowed list of five schools. To nobody's surprise, Iowa State made the cut, as did UNLV.
Let's see how this plays out, but the Cyclones are in very good position. Vaughn has already visited Iowa State and UNLV and has a visit to UNC set up for Feb. 15 (the opponent is Pitt).
Iowa State is putting all its 2014 recruiting efforts into landing Vaughn, who'd be the biggest prep get in Fred Hoiberg's time here.
4.Iowa State managed zero, four and eight bench points in three games in Hawaii (it won the Diamond Head tournament with three impressive wins over George Mason, Akron and Boise State).
I pointed this out on Twitter, and Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune pointed out it really just means Naz Long wasn't playing well.
Per my math, Long is shooting 61 percent from three-point range at Hilton Coliseum and 21 percent everywhere else — on the road and at neutral sites. A thick line of demarcation.
If Long isn't giving the Cyclones anything off the bench, uh-oh. Monté Morris has done a very good job as the backup point guard, posting an assist rate of 21.1 (assists divided by teammates' made field goals, accounting for playing time), but his contributions are mostly of the play-making variety. Morris is shooting a very poor 34.6 percent on two-point jumpers and 35 from distance and is only taking 13.3 percent of available shots while he's on the court. It's been six games since he scored over six points in a game.
K.J. Bluford is headed toward a season on the pine and Sherron Dorsey-Walker has graduated from bench warmer/mop-up guy to bit player. He's far from a microwave, though, and has taken seven shots this month. I guess if the Cyclones were down 20 in a game and needed a serious dose of offense, they'd turn to Bluford, a delightful gunner.
5. I haven't shied away from pointing out Matt Thomas' lack of contribution thus far, but it hasn't been absolutely terrible for the freshman. Thomas is shooting 35.3 percent from distance. It's not a mark at all indicative of his abilities, but it's still somewhat early, and it's not like he's shooting in the 20s.
Would Thomas be better-served coming off the bench? Chris Williams of CycloneFanatic.com and I talked about this during the Iowa game and came to the conclusion that, while Long is a better defender and at this point a better player, the only thing keeping Thomas' noticeable lack of court confidence in the red is his standing as a starter. Move him to the bench, how will he react?
6. Isadore Outing's recruiting coordinator at Dekaney (TX) high school tells me nothing will happen with Iowa State and the 2014 defensive end until the dead period ends (Dec. 15). Makes sense, as the staff would want to get to know Outing more and meet him in person before adding him to the recruiting class.
To quote the recruiting hot board, which I will update Monday, things are "hot."
7. The biggest remaining need in the 2014 class is at defensive tackle, where Iowa State might like to add up to two defensive tackles of any variety, but likely at least one JUCO player.
The 6-foot-2, 310-pound David Moala of Cerritos (CA) will probably visit Iowa State and Kansas State after the dead period.
Greg Gaines, the Boise State decommit and the No. 37 defensive tackle in the class, has an Iowa State offer. Our West Coast analyst Brandon Huffman reported Gaines would be open to all the schools who'd previously offered him but we'll see if the Cyclones can get him on a visit.
At this moment, I'm not sure how this goes, but I am confident the Cyclones will add interior defensive linemen to their 2014 class.
8. Just to hammer home the point that a quarterback remains the most important position on any roster — and to reinforce all eyes need to be on that battle for Iowa State this spring — I took a look at the victorious starting quarterbacks of the 14 bowl games thus far, not including Saturday's late game against Michigan and Kansas State. Compiling each quarterback's Total QBR, the all-encompassing ESPN metric, let's take a look at how each quarterback fared (not wasting time on player or team name but it does go in order from time of kickoff).
53.5, 97, 82.4, 26.5, 60.6, 88.4, 57, 27.9, 71.1, 84.2, 56.3, 67.1, 61.4, 88.3.
A few otherworldly performances there — the 97 is USC's Cody Kessler's — and perhaps the last number, Teddy Bridewater's, doesn't do his sublime night justice.
But the point: Outliers exist, but it takes a good quarterback to get to a bowl game, and it takes a really good quarterback to beat a bowl peer.