THE Practice Report

Exclusive to subscribers is a detailed breakdown of Iowa State's open practice, complete with position-by-position breakdown, video and play-art as Mark Mangino's offense comes into focus

Let's dive right in.


  • Grant Rohach looked the best. Comfortable, accurate. A better arm than Sam Richardson but still doesn't throw the best piss rod. If the season started tonight he'd be the starter and I really think it's his job to lose. It helps that he got most of the first-team reps today because he was throwing to some supreme talent. Richardson gets his chance tomorrow with the 1s I bet. Unfortunately, we won't get to see that.

    Rohach has improved considerably in working through his progressions and getting rid of the football. That was his bugaboo 2013 — memorably one of his first plays he decided not to throw the ball away on a rollout against Baylor and took a loss of four yards or something.

    Richardson is obviously quicker than the other two contending QBs. His ball wasn't as tight today.

    The way the reps were meted out today, don't know if Lanning is in this QB battle or not. Today he was the clear No. 3 starter. His best play — and maybe the top play of all QBs — saw him roll out to his right and fire a dart to running back Mitchell Harger on an out route. If the QB play is mediocre this year then Lanning will be the favorite to start in 2015.

    I want to say this nicely because I appreciate so much the media being allowed to take in the first practice of the year: Whether it was the nerves or something else, Darius Lee-Campbell just did not look good. Balls were missing the target by a yard or two even on short routes. At one point, Todd Sturdy pulled Lee-Campbell aside just to calm him down and help him with a few pointers. In a Mark Mangino offense that lives and dies by timing, spacing and, above all else, accurate passing, Run DLC's got a ways to go.

  • Running Back

  • Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy continue to pass the eye test and at this point are interchangeable with the first team, meaning Rob Standard gets reps with the second unit. Didn't see much Tyler Brown. Martinez Syria got snaps before Michael Warren, for what it's worth, and is a more polished all-around running back.
  • Tight End

  • Bibbs is Bibbs. Alex Leslie scored the day's only touchdown on a seam route down the middle of the defense and Jake Ortale, the walk-on, had his moments, too.
  • Wideouts

  • On the first-team offense's first action from scrimmage, Iowa State had D'Vario Montgomery on one side of the field by his self and Quenton Bundrage and Jarvis West coupled off to the other. Being the lone receiver on one side of the field is indicative of a split end, so I tweeted that Montgomery was working at X/split end while Bundrage working at flanker. Bundrage said that's not true and technically, he might be right — I don't get to sit in on meetings with Tommy Mangino — but the point remains that the Cyclones have made it a priority to get Montgomery on the field with the first team and will slide Bundrage to a different role if that's what it takes. Maybe they've ditched the traditional names. Anyway, it's a deadly wide receiver trio, however you call it.

    The frustration with Bundrage has long been his ability to make the spectacular catch and then his penchant to drop the gimmes. I didn't see any drops Monday but did spot two fantastic catches. Really good stuff.

    Montgomery is a beast. #analysis, but he's an imposing presence on the outside and he gets up the field quickly.

    The latest with Allen Lazard? He's just a third-string freshman trying to find his way for now. He's a physical specimen, but ISU's got a lot of those at receiver. The media was laughing amongst itself because Lazard dropped two passes in the opening drills of practice.

    I reported fellow true freshman Jauan Wesley was a standout of 7-on-7. He made a nice grab on a Joel Lanning post route over the middle of the defense.

    Brett Medders is going to see the field. Caught a pass on a slant route in traffic. Needs to get bigger but he's got a stretchy catch radius.

    Now's a nice time to get into a very quick, basic discussion of personnel.

    This is what Iowa State can look like in the '10' personnel. Either E.J. Bibbs flexes out, which allows the team a lot of flexibility and helps maintain tempo, or he exits and P.J. Harris replaces Bibbs in the slot.

    Iowa State ran one play that began trips left and then put Montgomery in motion to the right, where he became the only wideout on the right side of the field, which would usually make him the split end and make Bundrage the flanker. But hey, splitting hairs here.

    A cool wrinkle is stacking two wideouts on one side of the field. For an example, here's the myriad route tree combinations for Quenton Bundrage (9) and Jarvis West (1) out of the stack. It's one of those "un-defendable" plays Paul Rhoads is talking about.

    Could also run a screen out of it.

    And for our last screen shot of the day, what looked like a fake to the running back and a quarterback sweep around the right side. Bibbs begins the play as a tight end on the strong side of the formation and shoots down the line of scrimmage to seal off a hole. Could run it with an option, but that might complicate the spacing with Bibbs roaring down the line.

    What I continue to hear with Mangino is how beautifully simple his playbook is. His genius is that, oh, by the third quarter he'll notice a subtle tendency of the opposition — this defensive end is cheating up, this safety is a step slow backwards — and exploit it, mercilessly. We're beginning to see a few of his options. With an accurate quarterback, you can imagine running that route-tree option out of the stack play after play after play until the defense takes a drastic measure to stop it, and then you've got D'Vario Montgomery in single coverage on the other side of the field.


  • First-team five, from left to right: Dagel, Oni, Tom, Burton, Gannon.

    Backups: Campos, Lalk, Loth, Glenn, Dunning.

    But Brandon Blaney made it a priority to get Wendell Taiese snaps at both guard spots.

    Jamison Lalk played center when Loth was carted off with a left knee injury, the severity of which is not known.

  • Defensive end

  • Gabe Luna sat much of practice out w/pinched nerve in his back. Cory Morrissey is light-years ahead of the other defensive ends, in terms of physicality and just his grasp of the nuances. He did well to coach up a lot of the players and he knows he needs their help if he's going to have open pass-rushing lanes this fall. The spring did Gabe Luna well. Is technically sound. Justin Madison could be freaky as a pass-rusher. Dale Pierson and Trent Taylor are going to have a tough time of it, thrown to the sharks, but important for them to make the first practice. Stan Eggen rode Pierson HARD which tells you he has high expectations for Pierson. But as Morrissey said of both Pierson and Taylor, there's a very steep learning curve for a late-arriving JUCO player. Pierson actually worked with the second-team defense along with Darius White, backing up Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers.
  • Defensive tackle

  • Devlyn Cousin got all the first-team snaps over Brandon Jensen at NG, his partner at three-tech was Robby Garcia. They were agitating the interior offensive linemen so that tells you they're doing something right. Backing them up, respectively, were Jensen and Pierre Aka. That'd be really nice for ISU if the light would come on for Aka but he's not where he needs to be physically. Vernell Trent rotated in as well.
  • Linebacker

  • Drake Ferch (SAM), Alton Meeks (MIKE), Jevohn Miller (WILL). Miller was quite quick to his run fits and popped DeVondrick Nealy pretty good, the hit of the day. Ferch is a tough player but not elite lateral-quickness nor coverage ability and Jared Brackens, who worked with the second team, is much better in that regard. I'd be surprised if Brackens doesn't earn back his starting job. Jordan Harris, Luke Knott/Levi Peters rounded out the second team. Meeks could be a force at Mike but he's still learning his angles. Knott is 100 percent but the coaching staff is trying to be smart in how they bring him back and they're making sure to get him reps w/2nd-team and 3rd team players to make up for what he missed in spring.
  • Defensive backs

  • In first play of 7-on-7s, Nigel Tribune jumped a hitch route and swatted the ball down. Shortly after, Sam E. Richardson sat on and jumped a 15-foot comeback route on Bryan Ajumobi and picked off a pass.

    T.J. Mutcherson and Kamari Cotton-Moya should grow together into a pair of nice, playmaking safeties, and it's not out of the question they'll be an upgrade over the Cyclones' safety unit from 2013. I'd say Cotton-Moya needs to be more physical and Mutcherson has to improve his pass coverage — poorly played a deep Grant Rohach ball that should've been intercepted. But that's OK for a free safety to need to get more physical and a strong to need to get better around the ball. The right tools are in place.

    Darian Cotton and Kamari Syrie are the backup safeties. Didn't see Qujuan Floyd with the second team and wish I had made it more of a priority to watch him.

    Ken Lynn brings better size than Sam E. Richardson to the cornerback spot but Richardson is unquestionably a better playmaker. This might be the best battle of the entire camp. I still think Richardson would be a fantastic nickel in a more traditional system, which calls for the nickel to be a slot cover corner in essence, but the Cyclones like more of a safety there. Richardson is a solid open-field tackler. I haven't seen enough of Lynn to make a sure judgement. Brian Peavy and DeMonte Ruth got in reps w/the third team. Matt Thomas is essentially the fourth-string cornerback. There weren't enough reps to be had by Peavy or Ruth today to get a gauge if they'll be ready for Saturdays. The depth at corner is very bad, which is why the Cyclones so badly wanted to sign a JUCO corner.

Special Teams

  • Didn't see any kicking but observed a fun drill, which had four defenders run at a ball-carrier, who had about an 8-by-2-yard box to wiggle. Drill is to mimic the live action of a kickoff team. Keeping containment important. Trevor Hodge struggled with this, Mutcherson very good. Rhoads said coverage teams should be excellent because of the experience.

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