DALLAS – Speaking to AllCyclones.com and a few other reporters in an afternoon media breakout session at Tuesday's Big 12 Media Days, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads touched on a smattering of topics. Let's jump right in.
- Recruiting challenges at Iowa State
"Recruiting is very challenging. Probably, arguably the two biggest programs I've been at — Ohio State and Auburn — recruiting was hard there, too. There's challenges everywhere you go in recruiting. We have more of them in Ames, Iowa, and Iowa State than most folks. We're in a state that produces eight to 10 division-1 players a year, on a good year. Very rarely there are defensive linemen. There's not a ton of speed in our state. Now you spread out your fingers and go elsewhere, Texas and Florida. Well, they can't necessarily find Iowa on a national atlas. So you've got to educate them and get the best pitch in front of them that you can, and work hard to get them on your campus. That's the hardest part of the whole process, getting the young man to our campus, because once we do that, we've got a pretty good product to sell whether it be facilities or people or philosophies, whatever it is. That's why I'm hopeful the NCAA here in the next year or two will adopt a rule the basketball programs already have in place where we can pay for parents and guardians to come on the trips with them. Once we get that in place we'll get more kids on campus."
- Giving players a third chance
"For the most part, take away really serious offense, most 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds deserve a second chance. Heck, 47-year-olds deserve a second chance. You've got to remember and monitor and have chronicled [their issues]. Right behind my desk I've got a drawer that has a file on every player in our program. Whether it's a missed study hall, a missed tutor, late to the weight room, I've got a copy — handwritten or computer-generated — of that incident in the folder. I know the full body of work in the young man's time at Iowa State. The seriousness of some of those incidents, the consistency of those issues, that leads to that third chance or not. How detrimental is he becoming to the program? Some of the issues we've had this offseason, I've dismissed a couple guys, it was tearing at our football team. It wasn't necessarily them as much as what it was doing to everybody else. That's another overriding thing you've got to consider when making those decisions."
- Why Rodney Coe (now at Akron) didn't return to the team
"It was something we were considering and something I met with the leadership council about and yeah, if Rodney was willing to do the things the coaching staff and the administration and his teammates thought he needed to do to fully engage, we would've taken him back."
- How much input Rhoads has on scheduling
"Our football scheduling process? Every bit of it. If we're adding something, Jamie [Pollard] and I are talking. Our scheduling's done so far out that any decisions we've had to make are a long way coming. These games we've been playing and are in the middle of have all been in place. [Bruce Van De Velde], we've been playing a lot of his games. When these games were put on the schedule, these teams were 2-9. And now they've gone on to be 9-2."
- Bracing for a tough job this year, considering the schedule
"I stood in the corner and punched myself in the gut when I took the job, bracing for a tough coaching opportunity. I knew what I was getting into. I grew up in the state and spent five years as an assistant. I knew the challenges that were ahead. Add the recent changes to our league, where we play nine games and every other team, that's a hard run right there. It's the reason why in the five years we've been through, we've been in the top five or 10 toughest schedules. The first year maybe we were 27th. The Big 12 alone, playing Iowa every year adds to that. Now we've got 24-games-in-a-row-victor North Dakota State and Toledo. I haven't seen MAC predictions but they'll be right at the top. Having a guy right off their staff (Louis Ayeni), I know how good he feels about good they'll be. We've our hands full again. It doesn't scare our kids, doesn't scare our coaches, it's a fact of life. We know you've better strap it up every week because every week's gonna be a battle."
- Why the Devron Moore saga is over
"Last time I talked to you guys, he was putting himself in position to do what he needed to do to get on campus. He didn't do it."
- On the other JUCO safety, Qujuan Floyd.
"He's been intent, serious and hardworking. Not to say this in a way that's stereotypical but he has not come in like a junior college player. He's come in like a guy on a mission doing whatever it takes to get it done and get on the field."
- Still buried on the depth chart, should there be concern about Jordan Harris?
"Jordan Harris' biggest attribute still is when the lights go on, he makes plays. When you break it down into pieces, he's not fully where he needs to be as far as understanding the defense and getting aligned consistently. Neither was Jeremiah George. George took two full years on campus and the light didn't go on for him until his third year and you can arguably say it wasn't completely bright then because he had A.J. in one ear and Jake in the other helping him accomplish that. You want to get him in there sooner rather than later but it's gonna happen when it happens. I can't force it and say, 'By August 30, by God, you are going to know everything.' But he will knock your cavity loose and that's a pretty important piece to the game."
- On why he's not apt to radically change the uniforms
"No. Truthfully, it probably hurts me. The players would love that. You talk about those teams and you watch a lot more games than I do I'm sure, but I can't stand turning on a game and not knowing who the heck is playing because there's nothing that defines the university. It's not the helmet logo, it's not the colors, I mean — I didn't know so many teams had changed school colors. We're cardinal and gold at Iowa State and I want to be cardinal and gold. The matte finish is a different way to express that."
- The recruiting energy the new staff has generated
"So we go invest all this money and wear cam uniforms and it's like, eh that wore off. With the change in the staff, I think there was instant energy — but it's carried on. I've got guys who are doing a great job out there recruiting and competing. It's fun to see and be a part of and get the feedback from recruits on what they're getting from our staff."
- Plucking players from Dallas (cough, Devine Ozigbo, cough)
"We're a mainstay. You're guaranteed to come back here twice a year. Which means families are gonna see [prospects], chances are he's playing against programs that overlooked him and there's always a chip on your shoulder. [Dallas players] have an opportunity to play against the best competition in the country by being a part of this league. We're very much recognized in this part of the country and very well received. Stan Eggen has been recruiting down here for a long time and Mark Mangino is well recognized down here. Those are our two guys covering this area and they're doing a very nice job."
- Why he's also not going to get on Twitter
"No, no. I'd be really good at it. I don't always say things like that, but I would … No, because overall it's just not me. It'd be hypocritical. It'd be do this or do that. I like talking like this. This is my favorite part of recruiting, too, being in somebody's home and sitting at somebody's dining room table and talking face-to-face to recruits. Having that telephone conversation as well. … It'd be too hypocritical to be a part of [social media]. There's a story of a certain coach, a very well-respected very successful coach in our profession who was standing face-to-face with a young man and a young man looked down at his phone and looked up at the coach, looked down at his phone again and said, 'Huh, you just texted me.' Somebody else was sitting back in the office sending all those personal texts out back in the time texting was legal. You can't keep up with that. You do have to have a ghost tester. That's not me."
- Is there something about Midwest kids who emerge later in the process?
"I think the weather's a big part of it. I've been in California and I've been in the south. There's a lot more activity that goes on in those states because they're outside doing it. Expanding facilities and indoor buildings and year-round training guys are devoted to have helped guys in the north and the midwest but it's still not to a level from age two being outside and competing and enveloping in that regard. That's one of the pieces. You're going into programs in the state of Texas and Georgia — and I name those two in that order — you're going into college-type programs. You have all your coaches and all your coordinators, your strength coach, you have your year-round program. Florida's loaded with talent but they don't have near the same level of coaches or programs overall, like the programs in [Texas and Georgia]. In the midwest, my two sons are and were four-sport guys. Tell me how many guys you can find around the country that are four-sport guys at the high school level? They just don't exist. Well, they're getting good at the sports they are training at."
- Not referencing Oklahoma State as landmark moment for ISU
"I don't think you have to. Because it did take place. There's been several other ones. That's been the most talked-about one because it was the No. 2 ranked team in the country and put the BCS Championship into and uproar. Because it happened and you've got guys in your program who lived it and was a part of it, you don't have to bring it back up. It's a part of the culture. You've got to continue to try and add to it."
- Won't be tuning in for College Football Playoff show
"I've barely got time to go to the bathroom Tuesdays. I guarantee you it won't be a show I'll be tuning in for. They've got a great charge to do and, boy, they've got an excellent committee to get that accomplished. I'd like to be a part of the conversation where maybe I do want to tune in but whether that's this year or not, I'm not gonna spend a lot of time in October losing sleep if I miss it. Maybe I'll TiVo it."
- A true freshman could play at cornerback
"Potentially. I think we've got three proven guys — arguably proven guys — Nigel for sure but Sam [Richardson] and Ken [Lynn] have both done things on the field that makes me as a coach say 'proven' and I know what they did this spring left me excited. Matt Thomas is a fifth-year guy and he's taken a lot of reps and had a lot of coaching and I think he improved a good bit under Coach Linguist this spring. Matt's certainly in a position to be that fourth guy. But Brian Peavy and DeMonte Ruth will have a chance to get their reps this August and see if they're good enough to get out there. I think it's a position you can play early because it's further away from the ball. The closer you are to the ball the harder it is to play young."
- Expectations are high for Nigel Tribune
"Nigel will make a big jump. He was intimidated a year ago. He probably wouldn't admit it but he was probably scared, facing some of the nation's best receivers and knowing he was gonna get picked on. And he got picked on. He had too many penalties and got beat at other times. But in the level of maturity I've seen this summer and the level of plays he made in the springtime, he will probably make the biggest jump freshman to sophomore year over any other time in his career. And that's really exciting. He's gonna be a really, really good player."
- Justin Madison could contribute as a pass-rusher
"I hope so. He has the skills to do it. We'll see if he has the confidence to do it on that knee. He will be cleared when we start contact in August, probably on a limited basis, but he'll be able to hit right away."
- Lots of guys for Mark Mangino to keep happy offensively
"That's his problem and his exciting challenge because that's what he believes in. He believes in ball distribution. Identifying who all those guys are and figuring how to get it to them is part of the fun."