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. 4: Rodney Coe, Defensive Tackle, Dismissed
This is the third top-15 player off the team since the spring started, joining David Irving (No. 15) and Devron Moore (12).
Coe's dismissal, compounded with Irving's, is double-trouble for the Cyclones, who're all of the sudden without their only experienced interior linemen.
How bad is it?
Well, you won't find anyone in the program crying over it, but take this quote from Paul Rhoads from the start of the spring on the state of the team's defensive tackles — this is when Irving and Coe were on the team but out until the summer with shoulder injuries.
"It's going to be scary going into spring practice with only Devlyn Cousin, a redshirt sophomore, as our most veteran interior defensive lineman able to play," Rhoads said.
Little did he know.
Coe didn't get the chance to go a full 60 snaps until Irving sat out the TCU game with an injury. He immediately proved to be the superior player. While Irving would flash every couple games, Coe was the same guy most of the time, relying less on Irving's bursts of speed and more on a brutish force. The coaching staff was excited to refine Coe's technique this spring and in fall camp, to teach him to use his hands, and he would've been an awfully good player had be been able to apply those lessons to the size and balance he was gifted.
At his best, Coe could've been an all-conference performer, a three-down three-tech capable of holding up against the run and getting into the backfield. At worst, even if he had regressed, he would've at least been 6 feet, three inches and 305 pounds of semi-experienced player.
Without Coe — and it is entirely his fault he's off the team, having committed the same, minor infractions time after time — Iowa State loses its second-best defensive player and its best chance at shoring up a unit that was dead last against the run last season in the Big 12.
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.