The Iowa State football team comes into this season with momentum. After winning a total of eight games in three seasons the Cyclones finished 7-6 in Paul Rhoads first season as head coach, including a victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. Rhoads is looking for the program to take another step and he unveiled his team to the media in Ames this morning.
Rhoads says he sees a lot of excitement in the football program now from the players and the staff, and he says that’s because of the development they have made in the last 19 months. He says the players have improved, and now they need to be sure that they are an improved football team.
Twelve starters return from last season and unlike a year ago, the offense is the most experienced unit. Offensively he says they will have a greater grasp of the offense and should be more productive with more points. Defensively Rhoads says they are just the opposite and will need to improve daily throughout the season.
The schedule is much more difficult this season. Not only do Oklahoma and Texas return to the schedule but the Cyclones host Utah in a non-conference game. Rhoads says the players know the challenge and embrace that, and he says if they didn’t embrace it, then they’ve recruited the wrong players.
Rhoads says a key will be getting some young players ready to step in when the season begins. He says the focus isn’t on Northern Illinois, but it is to improve as a football team. He says after fall camp they will begin focusing on the first game.
Rhoads is confident the series with Iowa will survive expanded conference schedules. The Big Ten and Big-12 have talked about going to nine game schedules and with athletic budgets needing as many home games as possible there is speculation the Hawkeye- Cyclones series could be in jeopardy.
He says it’s an exciting game for the state and there’s not a person in the state that doesn’t enjoy the game. Rhoads says the powers that be will decide what happens as the scheduling moves ahead. Rhoads says safety David Sims will only miss the season opener against Northern Illinois.
Sims pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a credit card but will be able to practice with the team to get ready for the season. Rhoads says Sims will do that and they need to ensure that he stays focused on what he needs to do and he has no doubts that Sims will do that.
Sims will be able to return for the September 11th game at Iowa.