Monday Musings

While our publisher was on an extended holiday, lots of ISU sports news broke. Now he finally gets the chance to comment on it.

First off, I hope all of you had a blessed Thanksgiving holiday with your families! Now it's back to work, and the Monday after the long, holiday weekend has to be the worst Monday of the year, isn't it?

Anyway, I've been a way for awhile and as usual big news breaks while I am gone. This week, I thought I would give you my take on the most pertinent ISU sports headlines of the past 10 days.

Headline: Jason Scales makes it official

The worst kept football recruiting secret in Central Iowa finally became public in the moments after West Des Moines Valley clinched a second consecutive Class 4-A state title by beating a very talented Cedar Rapids Washington squad.

Our sources here at CN indicated to us well over a month ago that the record-setting Scales would be heading to Ames. However, it was very important to Jason to keep this news from being a distraction during his team's state playoff run, so we only communicated that exciting news to you via our premium message board and weekly chats.

This was a must-get for Dan McCarney. He's one of the most prolific tailbacks in state history. By all accounts, he's a polite kid with a humble work ethic. He's an excellent student. ISU has playing time available at the tailback position. This was a great-get for Mac.

Finally some good news for ISU. Thankfully, it didn't end there.

Headline: From Iowa City to Ames

All of a sudden, there's an embarrassment of riches in ISU's offensive backfield.

Talented, but troubled, Iowa City West tailback Greg Coleman pledged to the Cyclones over offers from schools like Michigan, Oregon, and – of course – Iowa. Coleman was probably headed to the Hawkeyes until a summer where he became quite aquintated with the local law enforcement.

That caused Kirk Ferentz, and everyone else, to back off the bruising runner that was ranked by TheInsiders as one of the top 100 players in the nation last spring. Coleman's college football future looked pretty murky six months ago.

Coleman served a five-game suspension to start the season, and forged a close relationship with ISU running backs coach Tony Alford. That bond, and a desire to leave his hometown troubles behind by going away for college, led to Coleman coming to ISU.

Now, you brethren on the eastern side of the state point out that Iowa didn't really want Coleman because of his off-field faltering. That's partially spin, partially true. Yes, the Hawkeyes had taken a wait and see attitude. However, Coleman definitely had a scholarship offer from the Hawkeyes and was receiving frequent correspondence from them as well. It probably worked out best for both sides. Iowa still has a lot of talent coming back at running back, and Coleman is wise to get out of Iowa City.

It's not like Mac to take a chance on a young man with a checkered past, and the cynics among us would note he's only doing so after a 2-10 season. However, I think I know Mac well enough that if he's willing to take a chance on a young man – and of course he's doing it because he's a very talented one – then we should trust him. Mac wouldn't compromise his program for any player, no matter how dire the current circumstances.

Between the slashing Scales and the bulldozing Coleman the very gifted Stevie Hicks is going to have some competition next fall.

Headline: Nebraska fires Frank Solich

Don't think this is an ISU sports story? Then you're not following recruiting very closely.

The Husker State has been fertile territory for the Cyclones. Players like Bob Montgomery, JaMaine Billups, Nick Leaders, Stevie Hicks, and Caleb Berg crossed the state line to play for ISU.

This weekend is the first big recruiting weekend of the year. Top prospects around the country usually begin taking their official visits this weekend because it's tough to schedule them during their seasons.

So, who are some players that originally committed to Coach Solich and Nebraska that were offered by the Cyclones? Three-star TE/LB Clayton Sievers, three-star OL/DL Andrew Christensen, and two-star QB Allan Evridge, are a few names that I'm sure the ISU coaches will be calling this week to see if they're still solid in their commitments to the Big Red.

Headline: ISU closes out forgettable football season

Even by ISU's paltry pre-Mac standards, the 2003 football season was abysmal.

The latest Big 12 squad to rout the Cyclones was Missouri, which rolled to a 45-7 romp on national television Saturday afternoon. What a terrible way for one of the most successful senior classes in school history to go out.

This ISU senior class finished it's four-year run with a 25-25 record, making it the first group of ISU seniors since 1981 to not finish with a losing mark. It's the only ISU senior class to play three bowl games in four years. It helped ISU to its only nine-win campaign, it's only bowl win, and a rare final ranking in the AP top 25.

To top it off, over 90 percent of these guys are on pace to earn their degrees. They deserved better than this, and unfortunately the Church of What's Happening Now will have a hard time overlooking the fact they lost 18 of their final 21 games; most of them by a wide margin.

Now that the season is over fans want to see some accountability (i.e. coaching staff changes), a solid recruiting class brought in, and some better leadership within the team. And keeping some guys healthy wouldn't hurt either.

I can't speak to the last item, because that's up to the football gods. But I'm fairly confident the fans will see the former three occur. There's definitely going to be some changes on the coaching staff. Mac is well on his way to signing what could be his highest-ranked recruiting class. And you can bet this offseason Mac will drill into the returning players' heads that you don't show up teammates on the field or question the game-plan in the press at ISU.

Despite the turmoil and mounting losses this season, Mac never singled out players and coaches as scapegoats, even though at times the culprits were obvious. In fact, his public loyalty periodically came off as nauseating spin. It's too bad some of the players couldn't repay the favor.

I suspect we're going to see a vastly different team next season. It will be younger and hungrier. Some new faces will lead it on the sidelines and in the pressbox. And a new quarterback will guide it. Will that translate into more wins? Let's not get greedy, at this point I'd settle for not getting blown out in every conference game.

After what he's accomplished in Ames, Mac is well-deserving of the chance to rebuild following this debacle. I trust that he will, but next season the fans are certainly going to want to see some certifiable evidence that the program is still on solid footing.

Headline: Jackson Vroman apologizes

Since I was on vacation when the press conference occurred, I can only go by what was said as opposed to how it was said. Nonetheless, I give Vroman credit for publicly expressing some contrition for the repeated embarrassment he's caused the university over the last year.

After that statement, Vroman was reinstated by new coach Wayne Morgan and made his debut Sunday afternoon against Northern Iowa. By the way, Vroman was clearly the best player on the floor and led ISU to its second win of the season over the Panthers.

Many of you know that I am an old-school guy when it comes to discipline. I would not have shed a tear at all if Morgan and the staff would've decided to make an example out of Vroman. In fact, I probably would've applauded.

Vroman is clearly a very talented player that could be the difference in the Cyclones being an NIT or NCAA team, and let's not kid ourselves into thinking that doesn't factor into the grace he's being shown here.

Personally, I like Morgan a lot. Despite the "awe shucks" vibe he puts off in public, he's sharp as a tack and I would be surprised if he's not successful during his stay at ISU. He deserves the chance to establish his program, and the discipline within it. Therefore, even if it's not exactly the statement I thought ISU should have made in light of what's happened in the program in 2003, I'll reserve final judgement on this decision until we see what Jackson does with his new lease on basketball life.

Let's hope, for once, that a student-athlete given a second – or is it third? – chance actually does something with it as opposed to wasting it.

Headline: Wayne Morgan starts 2-0

The Cyclones already look deeper and more athletic than they were last season. If Tim Barnes can get his academic house in order, and Reggie George gets healthy, this would be one of the most physically gifted teams that ISU has had in years. There may not be an NBA first-round pick on the roster, but it's a pretty solid nine-man rotation.

However, before we start punching our ticket for the NCAA Tournament let me sound a warning. The Cyclones are minus-21 so far this season in rebounding margin, and they haven't exactly been trying to block out Jared Reiner, Wayne Simien, and Arthur Johnson in their first two games.

That has got to change. Year in and year out, if you look at the teams that lead the nation in that statistic you're looking at many of the 65 teams selected to play in the Big Dance.

Still, I'm optimistic this team is going to make it a fun winter.

My Top 25

Ranking the top teams in college football this week.

1. Oklahoma (12-0)…Of the Sooners' two remaining games, it will be this weekend's Big 12 title game against Kansas State in Kansas City – and not a Sugar Bowl date with USC – that will provide the sterner test.

2. USC (10-1)…Just how good are the Trojans? That's a tough question to answer considering how anemic the Pac-10 conference is. Nonetheless, even though they didn't play this weekend they were the big winners in the BCS.

3. LSU (11-1)…Hard to believe a team that goes 12-1 in the SEC would be passed over for the national title game by an 11-1 Pac-10 team, but that's exactly what is about to happen.

4. Michigan (10-2)…Barring absolute BCS carnage this weekend the hot Wolverines are headed to their first Rose Bowl since 1998. Not a bad consolation prize for a team left for dead six weeks ago.

5. Texas (10-2)…The Longhorns deserve credit for regrouping after another blowout loss to Oklahoma. Now the Burnt Orange are in the unique position of rooting for the Sooners to win the Big 12 title game so they can play in their first BCS bowl.

6. Georgia (10-2)…The best coach you never hear anything about is Mark Richt. Last season he won the school's first SEC title since 1982 with offense. This season he's one step away from winning his second in a row with defense.

7. Ohio State (10-2)…The Buckeyes are also rooting for the Sooners this weekend. Because with their strong fan support, national name recognition, and high BCS rating they would get an at-large bid with an Oklahoma win.

8. Tennessee (10-2)…Phil Fulmer is often-maligned as a mediocre coach who gets by on his strong recruiting, but he deserves SEC Coach of the Year honors for the job he's done this season.

9. Miami, Fla. (10-2)…The Hurricanes get the last laugh on the Big East by making a statement in a road win at Pittsburgh. They take the league's likely last automatic BCS bid and maybe cost the league's best player the Heisman Trophy on their way out the door.

10. Florida State (10-2)…Finally a gutsy performance for quarterback Chris Rix, and after two mediocre – by their lofty standards – seasons the Seminoles have their first 10-win campaign since 2000.

11. Purdue (9-3)…The Boilermakers are concerned they may get past over by the Capitol One Bowl because the Hawkeyes are higher in the BCS and have a far stronger fan following.

12. Iowa (9-3)…For the first time in school history the Hawkeyes are headed to consecutive New Year's Day bowl games. Not bad for a rebuilding season.

13. Kansas State (10-3)…The only folks rooting for the Wildcats in this weekend's Big 12 Championship Game are the 30-40,000 fans they'll be taking with them to Arrowhead Stadium.

14. Miami, Ohio (11-1)…One bad half at Iowa way back in the season-opener is all that is keeping the Redhawks from being the ultimate BCS spoiler.

15. Mississippi (9-3)…Eli Manning didn't quite have the storybook ending he and the Rebels were hoping for against LSU two weeks ago, but Ole Miss still has a shot at a rare 10-win season.

16. Washington State (9-3)…If it weren't for their annual Apple Cup loss the Cougars would again be making plans for Pasadena and the Rose Bowl.

17. Boise State (11-1)…The Broncos have quietly won 23 of their last 25 games. That's impressive, no matter how atrocious that Smurf-turf looks on television.

18. West Virginia (8-4)…If there were a tournament in college football, nobody would want to see the Mountaineers in the first round. Rich Rodriguez could be your National Coach of the Year for sharing the last Big East title that matters with mighty Miami.

19. Florida (8-4)…Ron Zook has now lost five home games at The Swamp in his first two seasons. That just happens to be as many as the mad scientist himself, Steve Spurrier, lost during his entire coaching tenure in Gainesville.

20. TCU (11-1)…You don't really think they turned down the GMAC Bowl for academic reasons, do you? Come on, the Horned Frogs were angling for a better bowl bid. Hawaii at Christmas perhaps?

21. Bowling Green (10-2)…The Falcons were once the toast of mid-major college football, that is until Miami of Ohio took them behind the woodshed a month ago. Now they get a rematch in the MAC Championship game.

22. Nebraska (9-3)…When was the last time a school fired a coach who had nine regular-season wins and was ranked in the top 25? Frank Solich, a lifelong Husker, deserved better.

23. Oklahoma State (9-3)…The Cowboys have a chance for their first 10-win season (in the Alamo Bowl?) since Jimmy Johnson was the coach in Stillwater.

24. Southern Mississippi (9-3)…Although they were overshadowed in Conference-USA all season long by rival TCU, the Golden Eagles are the outright league champs.

25. Utah (9-2)…Urban Meyer's cell phone is ringing. Could it be Nebraska's athletic director on the line?

Honorable mention—#26 Northern Illinois (10-2), #27Maryland (9-3), #28 Minnesota (9-3, #29 Connecticut (9-3), #30 Clemson (8-4).

My Heisman Ballot

The top five candidates for the award this week.

  1. Jason White (QB-Oklahoma)…It's over. Just give him the award.
  2. Larry Fitzgerald (WR-Pittsburgh)…Had a chance on national television to impress the voters, but you don't win Heisman Trophies against Miami.
  3. Chris Perry (RB-Michigan)…Won't win the award, but he'll certainly enjoy the banquet circuit this month.
  4. Eli Manning (QB-Mississippi)…When was the last time brothers were each Heisman finalists?

 

(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Central Iowa each Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)

 

 


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