CSR Exclusive: Coach Rhoads Interview Part II

So what was Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads favorite moment of this past season? The answer to that and whether Austen Arnaud is the clear cut starter for next year are a just few topics covered in part two of our interview with the Cyclones head coach.

Cyclone Sports Report: How important was it to win at Nebraska for the first time since 1966?

Coach Rhoads: It broke down a barrier and proved to our guys that all of our hard work was really paying off. Hopefully I won't have to use it next season for motivation because they've now already done it and should believe they can win big games again in 2010. I think that us winning that game and our bowl game has really helped our off-season because they are working really hard. I'm not saying they wouldn't have been working hard had we lost our bowl game but going into the off-season with a huge bowl victory really has them inspired them to do it again next season.

Cyclone Sports Report: You have always recruited as an assistant coach. How has that changed for you as a head coach?

Coach Rhoads: I've been fortunate in my career to have coaches that allowed me as defensive coordinator to see kids not as necessary the closer but as a step up in regards to my involvement. They put me in charge of many players that easily recognized me due to my role in their recruitment. That prepared me for doing this as a head coach. The best lesson I learned as an assistant coach came when I was recruiting a kid at Pacific. He said the key was to be genuine and felt that I had done that with my recruitment of him. I've tried to work hard to make sure each player knows that I am genuine ever since I had that talk with him.

Cyclone Sports Report: The team never lost more than two straight games last season. How important was it not to have a small losing streak snowball into a huge one like the year before and how did you go about trying to stop it?

Coach Rhoads: I think it was critically important and that was one of our coaching tools that we used during the 2009 season was the fact that we never had a losing record. We focused on winning to stay .500 or better all throughout the season. We used it in preparation for the bowl game at 6-6 that we didn't want to end the season with an under .500 record. It was a powerful tool helped put an end to any of the losing streaks.

Cyclone Sports Report: In talking with Coach Burnham and Coach Herman they both tell me about how they are really looking to improve team speed over the next few years. How important is it for Iowa State to improve its team speed in order to compete in the Big 12 on a consistent basis?

Coach Rhoads: It's paramount because you have got to be able to run with people in order to compete in this league. Having a 7-6 record is not where we want to get to but if we want to improve on that record we have to get faster. Being able to run with more speed allows you get extra yards on offense and tackle someone on defense a lot faster which are two areas we need to improve on next season. There are two ways to get more speed and they are to recruit it and to develop it.

Cyclone Sports Report: What has it been like for you to be back in your home state over the past year?

Coach Rhoads: My excitement for being back has never been so evident in the past months when it has been eleven degrees outside at times and I'm still very happy to be here. I've got to say that I hate the winters but I'm thrilled to be back. I recently went out to lunch at Aunt Maude's which is one of my favorite places with some of my old high school buddies and we had a great time. I'm really comfortable being back in Ames and real happy to be at Iowa State where I hope we have a lot more success.

Cyclone Sports Report: Austen Arnaud made a lot of solid plays last season but he also combined for nine turnovers in the Iowa and Minnesota games which were two of your biggest games of the season. Is he guaranteed the job heading into next season?

Coach Rhoads: In the off-season there is always competition but Austen will begin the spring as the starter with the first team. Now if Jerome (Tiller) continues to develop and does a better job then he could become the starter. There is no controversy here and Austen is our starter but every position is a competition and it is his job to hold on to while competing with Jerome during camp. If James White comes off his redshirt season and outplays Alexander Robinson then he could beat him out for the starting running back job. Each player will get a chance to compete and we as a staff with the group of players that give us the best chance to win.

Cyclone Sports Report: How important is the walk-on program at Iowa State?

Coach Rhoads: It's a big bonus to your program. We have worked hard to get the walk-on's that we did. We fully expect them to eventually fight for a scholarship and feel that many will have the chance to contribute. Just think where we would have been this past season if we didn't have Michael O'Connell when Terran Benton went down with a broken leg. At Pittsburgh and Auburn we didn't have the luxury of having a solid walk-on program. Our staff did an excellent job of getting kids with potential and they are treated as full fledged members of the team.

Cyclone Sports Report: What was your favorite moment during this past season?

Coach Rhoads: Without a doubt it's the first meeting that I had with the team on January 12th. It was without a doubt the most special meeting I have had as a football coach and even more so than any celebration that we had as a team this season after some of the games. It was the first time I addressed a team as a head coach and I will never forget that day for the rest of my life. The second thing would be the whole process. Getting my first victory, beating Nebraska, and winning our bowl game were really special but what made me so happy was that the players embraced our philosophy from day one. They believed in what we were doing and it paid off by us getting seven wins and bringing home the Insight Bowl trophy.

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