The debate's getting serious.
AllCyclones.com began listing ISU's best 50 players for 2014 earlier, Nos. 50-26 — using production, potential, positional value and a little bit of by-the-gut reasoning.
Now we get to the nitty-gritty, beginning our one-by-one countdown of No. 25 to No. 1, a task that'll run through Spring Football.
The envelope, please ...
No. 17: Grant Rohach, Quarterback, SO
For Iowa State to improve on its 3-9 season, get back to a bowl game and have fans feeling good about the future of Paul Rhoads' program, the Cyclones need a quarterback.
They've got a few options right now, with Joel Lanning (No. 47), Rohach (No. 17) and Sam Richardson (??) apparently even in spring practices. OK, scratch that: For ISU to do all that nice stuff we just talked about, it needs more than a quarterback. It needs a very-good-to-great quarterback.
Is Rohach that guy?
As a redshirt freshman, Rohach went through spells where I was convinced he wasn't good enough to play in a BCS conference. His last two games, in wins over Kansas and West Virginia, he was the difference between 1-12, 2-10 and 3-9, amassing 661 yards passing and six touchdowns, to go with 77 yards on the ground and a score.
Per ESPN's adjusted QBR rankings (a metric I'll vouch for), Rohach was better in those final two games (85.3 and 88.2) than Sam Richardson was in all but one (91.6 on a scale of 100 against Texas).
We'll use some more metrics below, outlining the reason for this ranking.
A few things ...
... Richardson is more experienced than Rohach and more athletic ...
... Rohach might be totally green if Richardson's 2013 injuries hadn't opened the door to playing time ...
... Richardson is more adept at making plays with his feet.
Now, for some advanced stats:
We're splitting hairs on many of those stats, but enough of them go in the favor of Richardson to support the objective eye-test, along with film review. One advantage Rohach has over Richardson is the deep ball.
It is with caution that I dip my toe into what will likely be choppy waters. Ranking Iowa State's 50 best players is an arduous task. With a number that allows for the two-deep (22 on each side) plus a few, any omission might be construed as an insult. That's not at all what I set out to do here. I wanted to locate and then rank the most valuable Cyclones for the 2014 football season. Read that again. For the 2014 football season. Not from last season. Or for 2017. How'd I do this? I looked at production, sure, and of course I looked at short-term potential — can this player contribute in 2014, and at what level?
Phone calls were made, brains were picked, contributions considered. I tried to think like an NFL executive: Quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback are by many accounts the most important positions in football, but I didn't always obey that rule, not unless the talent stacked up. I went back to my notes for the first and second watches of all the 2013 games, but those were last season's schemes, at least on offense, and I project the change to Mark Mangino's scheme will shake things up.