This story is part of the KU Edition, a special section that runs in the Lawrence Journal-World.
Cyclones at a glance
Coach: Paul Rhoads
Coach Year at school: 3rd
2010 Record: 5-7, 3-5 Big 12
Last Year vs. KU: Iowa State scored 21 third-quarter points in a 28-16 victory over KU in Ames, Iowa; the Jayhawks actually led at halftime, 9-7.
Returning Starters: 16
Impact Newcomers: DeVondrick Nealy 5-9, 178, RB; Steele Jantz 6-3, 224, QB; Aaron Horne 5-9, 175, WR.
Key Games: Sept. 10 vs. Iowa; Oct. 1 vs. Texas; Dec. 3 at Kansas State.
Vs. Kansas: Nov. 5 in Ames, Iowa.
It’s difficult for Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott to ignore coach Paul Rhoads’ enthusiasm.
“You can hear him screaming from about 300 yards away when you’re at practice,” Knott said with a smile. “If someone does something good, you’ll know about it from the other side of the field, because he’ll be so excited.”
Knott said that kind of fire that has helped the third-year coach get the most out of his players.
The Cyclones have gone 12-13 in Rhoads’ two seasons, even though they’d been picked to finish last in the Big 12 North both times.
“He’s so passionate that it rubs off on people,” Knott said. “They go out, and they play harder than they’ve ever played before.”
Many times, Rhoads stays after practice to work on one-on-one drills with players. He’s also been known to go over film with his guys as well.
“You don’t really get that out of most head coaches,” Knott said.
Rhoads isn’t dodging reality, though. He knows that even with improvement, his team could struggle for victories against a schedule that ranks as the second-toughest in the nation, according to college football analyst Phil Steele.
“It’s a challenge that our kids embrace,” Rhoads said. “We’ve had success quickly in years one and two, and we’re going to have to meet that challenge if we’re going to have success moving forward.”
Iowa State has difficult nonconference games against Iowa and Connecticut before taking on the Big 12 slate.
“My wife likes (my) job, and I sort of do, too,” Rhoads said, “so, no, that’s not a direction I’d like to move, playing 11 BCS opponents every year. And a change is in place in 2012 and beyond to get away from that challenging of a schedule.”
The questions for Iowa State in 2011 start at the quarterback position, where the Cyclones will have to replace three-year starter Austen Arnaud.
Junior Jerome Tiller, juco transfer Steele Jantz and red-shirt freshman Jared Barnett will compete for the position.
“After a number of practices and three major scrimmages,” Rhoads said, “I’m confident that one will surface to lead us.”
ISU does return an experienced offensive line, led by left tackle Kelechi Osemele. The 6-foot-6, 347-pound Osemele was a preseason all-Big 12 selection and also a first-round pick in Todd McShay’s first 2012 mock NFL draft on ESPN.com.