FIFTH in Frogs o' War's series about each of TCU's 2012 opponents are the Cyclones of Iowa State. These little come-from-behinds are impossible to hate; their fire-ball of a coach is a native of Ames and has brought the team back to occasional bowl-eligibility (which is where they were when TCU met them in 2005, under Dan McCarney.)
These little engines that could, and sometimes do, look like USC, and every once in awhile, play like USC, and throw a cyclone-sized monkey wrench into the works. Last season it was Oklahoma State; in 2010 it was Texas and very nearly Nebraska; it was Nebraska in 2009. Who'll be the victim in 2012? While we certainly hope it ain't TCU, one has to approach the Cyclones with caution. And emotion.
WR coach last year, Courtney Messingham, now coaches the team's no-huddle up-tempo spread. Filling in with the receivers is former Washington State coordinator Todd Sturdy. On defensive, former North Carolina defensive backs coach Troy Douglas now coaches the defensive backs.
The biggest question facing the offense-- and the whole team, really, is at quarterback. The two-man race between Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett has been going on for over a year; Rhoads just won't stick with one over the other. Jantz was the starter in the first half of last season; Barnett the second half. Neither ousted the other this offseason. Both are turnover-prone; both got a tremendous upset last season (Jantz over Iowa in triple-overtime, Barnett over Oklahoma State, in double-overtime). Jantz is a senior this season (he JUCO transferred to Ames for
last season); Barnett is a redshirt sophomore and more a dual-threat (he was second on the team for ground yards, 530 on 104 carries). It reminds me a little of Utah with Terrence Cain (JUCO transfer, big arm) and Jordan Wynn (freshman, dual threat) in 2009. In retrospect, it's still uncertain coach Whittingham made the right call trying to redshirt Wynne until about the eighth game, and then going with Wynn. Who's to say playing both Jantz and Barnett in Ames, a lot, is the wrong choice?
Until one of them stops making bad decisions, it appears the starting role will be up for grabs. Redshirt freshman Sam Richardson may be in the mix in '12 as well.
The Cyclones have to replace two very productive linemen on offense, LT Kelechi Osemele and RG Hayworth Hicks. The new star of the line is going to be sophomore center Tom Farniok, if it will be anyone at all. Fellow returners are Ethan Tuftee at LG and Brayden Burris at right tackle. Burris is a tough dude-- he played last year with a broken leg patched with a metal plate. That's the Paul Rhodes way. The newbies appear to be senior Carter Bykowski at LT (or Kyle Lichtenberg) and RG Jacob Gannon (or Shaban Dika). Of these new players, only Dika did not play last year (he redshirted, and then was injured in the spring). So experience is not necessary the issue; experience together is.
The backs and receivers are more or less clear. All of the runningbacks return-- probably. Junior James White led the team last season as a sophomore (743 yards, 8 TDs) after junior Shontrelle Johnson was hurt and out for the season after four games (247 yards). Both were sophomores, and undersized. Johnson is not yet playing at 100%, and still may not be playing when the Cyclones come to Fort Worth. Jeff Woody is the team's big goal-line back.
The go-to receiver, Darius Reynolds, graduated, taking a 43 catch, 695 yard, 7 touchdown season with him. But the next three pass catchers for the team return: seniors Josh Lenz (39 catches for 510 yards) and Aaron Horne (38 for 431, and the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year), and sophomore Jarvis West (25 for 141). Behind these proven (more or less) commodities are junior Albert Gary (23 for 287), senior Chris Young, redshirt freshmen Quenton Bundrage, Ja’Quarius Daniels and Tad Ecby, and ex-quarterback Jerome Tiller. There're lots of options, but no known homerun threats.
The defensive line is a work in progress. Senior Jake McDonough (35 tackles, 4.5 TFL) is the returner, but he'll move from DT to NT; the DT this season is senior Cleyon Laing. These gents must stuff the run, which hasn't been stuffed in many years. Maybe Roosevelt Maggitt returns from injury at end, either to start or be a solid backup for junior Willie Scott or sophomore David Irving, the ends. When healthy, Magitt may be the best of the group; but that's not saying much. ISU hasn't held a team under 4 ypc since 2005 (the year it last tangled with TCU). Any improvement in that direction up front will only highlight how good the linebackers behind them are.
Senior A.J. Klein is the hoss. He's 6-2, 244, had 116 tackles his junior year, and won co-DPOY honors. Klein is among the best middle linebackers in the nation. At weakside is Jake Knott who's almost as good. He's also a senior, and had 115 tackles last season, winning 2nd team all-Big12 honors. One new starter is on the field this year, at strong side-- either sophomore C.J. Morgan or junior Deon Broomfield.
Last year's Cyclone secondary was actually pretty good. It melted down only once, against Oklahoma State-- a game ISU still one-- but otherwise was decent. Half of the quartet of defensive backs graduated, including cornerback Leonard Johnson, twice a second-team Big12 selection. Johnson's backup, junior Jansen Watson, very experienced. Across the field senior Jeremy Reeves (70 tackles, 2 interceptions) returns as starter. Senior Durrell Givens is new as a starter, but very experienced at safety, where he'll play beside Jacques Washington (90 tackles), who started last year. This season will probably be another pretty good one in the secondary.