There is no way of predicting how Mark Mangino’s offensive brilliance will transform the Iowa State offense this season.
The true reveal will come Saturday when the offensive guru calls plays from the Jack Trice Stadium box for the first time since his arrival. The rest of the Iowa State offense — ranging from who might get touches to who will be the focal point — has widely been ‘wait and see.’
“We have some depth, we have some speed, we have some talent,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “A good problem to have is figuring out where to put all of those guys.”
Last season the Cyclones had seven players with 30 or more rushing attempts and three primary ball carries — Aaron Wimberly (141), Sam Richardson (101) and Shontrelle Johnson (90). In all, 14 players had receptions, eight with 11 or more.
Who will get touches and how many they will get remains a mystery as Saturday fast approaches. True freshman Allen Lazard? “Haven’t put a number total on that,” is the answer from Rhoads. How about No. 2 running back DeVondrick Nealy?
“Ball distribution will vary based on opponent and defense and what they’re trying to take away and so-forth,” Rhoads said. “We’re going to distribute the ball. We’re going to be smart with how we distribute it. Some games it might look like that’s the go-to guy and other games you might say, ‘Oh, gosh, he disappeared.’ I don’t think that’s anything to get alarmed about if the other weapons where we’re distributing to are being productive.”
The answer, then, will vary game-by-game.
Quenton Bundrage and E.J. Bibbs figure to lead the way in the offense. Bundrage (48) and Bibbs (39) led the way last season and will be primary targets for Richardson come Saturday. There is also Lazard, Jarvis West, Dondre Daley, D’Vario Montgomery and the list goes on.
In the backfield Wimberly and Richardson will likely have comparable workloads to last season while Nealy will up his 41 carries from a season ago to the level of Johnson (90) or quite possibly beyond.
“We don’t put a game plan in and say, ‘We’ve got to get this guy the ball 15-20 times.’ That’s just not how we operate,” Mangino said. “We have a game plan that includes 11 players doing their job and we’ll see how it plays out.”
When Mangino led Kansas to the Orange Bowl in 2007, his top three carriers had 190, 147 and 92 carries with the latter being quarterback Todd Reesing. Seven different receivers had at least 20 receptions compared to four last season for the Cyclones.
How much scripting Mangino does from the onset of the game will vary, too.
“Our offense is such that the things that we’ll be running Saturday are the things that we’ve been working on through spring and training camp,” Mangino said. “We don’t do an overhaul each week. Our game plan is basically what we do and what our kids are good at and how it matches up against the team we’re playing.”
What is that game plan?
“Stay tuned for Saturday right there,” offensive line coach Brandon Blaney said.