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Official Husker Locker Blog

2010 May 07

SPRING OPPONENT REPORT: Iowa State

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By HuskerLocker

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As Nebraska’s 2010 spring football season is over, Husker Locker takes a glance at what NU’s opponents – as well as the Big 12 and the nation as a whole - are doing this spring.

Team: Iowa State (7-6 in 2009, beat Nebraska 9-7)
Coach: Paul Rhoads (7-6 overall)
Plays Nebraska: Nov. 6, 2010
Spring Game: April 17

Summary: Iowa State exceeded all reasonable expectations in 2009, upsetting NU and winning a bowl game.

Here comes the hangover.

ISU’s schedule turns brutal in 2010, with Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech rotating onto the Big 12 Conference slate, and Iowa and Utah showing up on the non-conference schedule. Throw in Nebraska, and the Cyclones are staring at five preseason top 20 teams - the Utes should be favored to win the Mountain West - before a single kickoff.

Rhoads knew it, and sat his team down before spring practice to explain it. It’s about to get a lot tougher in Ames.

Fortunately, ISU has one of the Big 12’s most experienced offenses - and one of the best defensive minds in Rhoads - to combat it. Iowa State’s no-huddle, spread offense has two experienced quarterback options - Austen Arnaud and Jerome Tiller - to choose from, a solid running back in Alexander Robinson, and a sleeper group of wide receivers - Darius Darks, Darius Reynolds and Sedrick Johnson - who, if healthy, could be the most athletic bunch in the Big 12 North.

As Nebraska can attest, ISU’s defense likes to force turnovers, and makes up for its relative lack of strength and size in the front seven with a gritty secondary.

Iowa State could have a better team in 2010 - and have a worse record. In fact, count on it. But NU better not take the Cyclones lightly.

Progress so far: Typical of Arnaud’s career, he looked excellent in spring practice, causing Rhoads to call him ISU’s most improved player, before getting outplayed by Tiller in the Cardinal/Gold Spring Game. Tiller threw for 220 yards, and Arnaud 154, as both offenses combined for 735 total yards. Arnaud is more accurate on the short/intermediate routes that spread teams thrive on, while Tiller is a better runner and more instinctive. Frankly, if Arnaud isn’t replaced, again, by midseason, color me surprised.

The defense has work to do along its defensive line and in the linebacking corps. It’s vulnerable both ways until the Cyclones can consistently stop the run. The secondary, featuring safety David Sims, is actually pretty good, but too often has to commit itself to stopping the run.

Breakout player: Backup running back James White had 94 yards in the spring game, including a 50-yard touchdown. Starter Robinson has been injury-prone for two years, so expect White to see plenty of playing time.

What You May Not Know: Kicker Grant Mahoney is probably the Big 12’s second-best behind Alex Henery in terms of length - he hit three field goals over 50 yards last year - but he struggled with blocks last year. Sims could be one of the Big 12’s best punt and kick returner.

Keep an eye on: The ISU quarterback race. It’s not over. Arnaud consistently gets the nod for his smarts and game management skills. But he rarely plays well against good defenses.

Spring Opponent Reports: Texas, Kansas State, Kansas, Western Kentucky, Colorado

Tags: spring opponent report 2010, isu, paul rhoads

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