It's that wonderful time of year when a Division I athletics program should have absolutely no news if they don't have a baseball program. Iowa State, of course, is not a normal Division I athletics program. That being said, something that was somewhat stable during the last year was our football team. A 7-6 record and a beautiful Insight Bowl trophy was the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of luck. That being said, the 2010 edition of the Iowa State Cyclone football team has a tough road in front of them. Check out the left side of the main page for a daunting schedule that includes at least 17 games against bowl teams from 2009 (actual number of bowl teams may vary). It seems like as good of a time as any to take a look up and down the Cyclone roster, and we can start with the man under center.
What gives us hope rolling into 2010? It should be led off by senior quarterback Austen Arnaud.
Austen Arnaud (#4, 6-3, 226*, RsSR)
*Austen is 226 in the same sense that Larry Eustachy kind of liked beer.
Arnaud has been a popular source of criticism for Cyclone and non-Cyclone fans alike, but before discussing him any further, it is important to note his injury status during his two seasons as a starter. In 2008, shortly before the loss at Baylor, Austen sprained an AC joint in his throwing shoulder. Due to Phillip Bates having left the team earlier that week, he was forced to play despite the injury. In 2009, this time during the game against Baylor, Austen broke two bones in his throwing hand and was forced to miss a few games midseason. Needless to say, this has had an effect on his throwing of the football once the conference season got going, especially in terms of touchdowns and interceptions. Of course, getting into the conference season will hurt the numbers, but not normally as much as what came to bear with Austen.
Pre-Injury 2008/2009: 12 G, 15 TD, 7 INT
Post-Injury 2008/2009: 11 G, 14 TD, 16 INT
Granted, the bulk of the pre-injury games have come against teams that suck, and the post-injury games have come against teams that suck less, it's hard to look at the game logs and think that a sprained freaking throwing shoulder and a broken freaking throwing hand during the 2008 and 2009 campaigns respectively made it difficult to be accurate with the ball. It's also interesting to note that of those seven pre-injury picks, six came against Iowa.
That being said, let's look at Austen's game. He's not afraid to sling the ball, though this is happening less under Rhoads than it did under Chizik. With no real threat at WR this past year, a lot of the passing game was done with short routes instead of the deep bomb, though the deep threat emerged at a few critical points last year (late against Kansas State, at times against Missouri and against Minnesota). Austen has improved a bit in not locking onto his receivers, though he's not without fault in that aspect of the game. He's also more than willing to tuck it and run, and was the team's second best runner this last year while getting the crap beaten out of him. While not fast, he's about as slippery as a guy his stature can be. He won't turn and burn a corner, but he can bowl over a smaller linebacker. His legs are certainly not a liability.
Any talk that Arnaud's starting job is in jeopardy is a joke. He's the vocal leader of the team, and he's played pretty damn well when healthy. While not the optimal quarterback for the system that he's in, he's reportedly the hardest working quarterback, which is what you want to see out of your starter, senior and team leader.
Jerome Tiller (#11, 6-2, 193, RsSo)
How many quarterbacks can say they started their first game as a freshman at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln and came away with a win? Without doing the research, I'm going to say the list is very short, but Tiller is on it. A commit to Iowa State over a host of other BCS schools, Tiller appears to be the heir apparent behind Arnaud. He'll remind you a bit of Seneca Wallace with the legs. His arm trails behind a bit though. He's simply not near as polished as Arnaud and will need to keep working to stay ahead of Big 12 defenses - part of which will come with playing. Tiller will probably see a chunk of playing time late in games and as a change of pace quarterback, but is the clear #2. He'll need to continue to work on his decision making. Most of the playcalling that occurred with him under center against Baylor, Nebraska and Texas A&M was intentionally conservative. The opening of the playbook will be predicated on his working to understand it.
James Capello (#12, 5-11, 200, RsFR)
Iowa State's answer to Todd Reesing, Capello may be destined to be a career backup, or could surprise people. A generous 5-11, he's not a big guy, and will face issues simply due to his size. He is regarded as somewhat slippery in space - faster than Arnaud, slower than Tiller. He'll face a strong challenge from Jared Barnett to backup Tiller next year, and it's doubtful he'll see much time as a redshirt freshman.
Brett Bueker (#8, 6-3, 234, RsSO)
Bueker is interesting insomuch as he's got the prototypical quarterback's body, and he was also regarded as good enough by the last coaching staff that they wanted to resist pulling off his redshirt when Arnaud was hurt in 2008. Bueker also looked impressive during the spring game, including a nice little run. He'll likely see time as a holder this year. From everything I've heard, we could do worse for a fourth string walkon quarterback. So take that to the bank.
Ryan Gent (#18, 6-1, 189, RsFR)
Austin McBeth (#17, 6-0, 192, RsFR)
Both played a little during the spring game. Neither one will likely ever see a meaningful snap at ISU.
Jared Barnett (6-1, 186)
Barnett, in my opinion (via what I've heard and who I've talked to) could immediately come in as the third most talented quarterback. He's a natural spread quarterback that can run a little. He's likely to be next in line as the starter after Tiller in this blogger's opinion, but, hey, I doubt anyone will remember me saying this anyways.
The position is strong with experience at first and second string. With a capable recruit in Barnett, the future looks strong as well. The team will likely go as far as Arnaud takes them. A strong year out of him will mean another bowl berth. A weak year or more injuries could mean spending December at home.