Doing a wrapup of the 2008 ISU football season is overdue. Actually, some may argue this could've been written up after the Baylor game, and in some ways they are absolutely correct. The wait was due to processing this past season and to try to look at the big picture. I want to write 10% emotion, 90% facts, instead of vice-versa.
With Chizik making noise with the coaching staff, it's clear the offseason for the Cyclones is in full force.
I'm going to talk about the major problem areas from this season, pick team MVPs, and to talk about what to expect this offseason.
There's no way to really candy coat this past season: it was really rough for all of us, including those directly involved with the team. In some ways we were so close, yet so far away.
As fans, we need to continue to move forward. We can go back and do shoulda, woulda, couldas, till the cows come home. The facts are that it didn't happen. Instead of ramming our heads into the brick wall, lets progress.
The way I do this is to talk (or write) it out. Hopefully in reading some of this, we can move forward, put our energy on winter ISU athletics and on the future (rather than the past) in regards to football.
Some were expecting bowl game this year, others were just hoping for improvement from last year. Sadly, we experienced a painful 10 game losing streak, and took a step backwards as a program.
The major problems this past season were:
- Offensive Line - There was some progress as the season went on, but we couldn't consistently protect the QB and we couldn't consistently open up holes for the running game.
- Defensive Line - We couldn't get a consistent pass rush, giving the very talented Big XII QBs too much time to find the open receivers. Yes there were problems in the secondary. The main problem is when you're running so much zone, giving the QB a lot of time, gives the receivers to find holes in the secondary. We do have some secondary issues, but a good defensive line hurrying the QB limits these problems.
- Linebackers - Our Linebackers could cover when needed and couldn't stop the run. There needs to be some serious development, which is part of the reason why I believe Bolt was demoted. We need to have a quality coach develop our linebacking core, and I am hoping this much needed attention will go a long way.
- I would say that the bigger of the problems is on our defense. Our OL isn't where we want it to be, but we were ranked almost last in defense, while we were 67th in the nation in rushing and 30th in the nation in passing yards. There's always room for improvement, but the defense has the biggest way to go.
Ok, so by now you're probably thinking "mplscyclone = Captain Obvious", but bear with me. All of this goes back to what all of us who played football at some level kept hearing from our coaches. If you dominate the line of scrimmage, you have a good chance at winning the game.
Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball all season. Yes the teams beat each other, and the winning team in each of those games won the battle at the line of scrimmage.
So what do we do?
Based on everything I've been hearing and reading, there's not a whole lot on the recruiting front to improve our line for next season. Our DLine has some good looking prospects, which I will elaborate more on later in the offseason.
Our Oline was relativley young this year. A lot of our guys are going to be back next year. The main thing about OLine is experience and consistency. As these guys work together more, get to know each other better, go through another year in the weight room, I'd expect our guys to make some big strides by next season.
Let me explain more about the OLine. Teams with the best OLines typically have the best chemistry and communication amongst each other. For example, I played Tackle in High School. Throughout the season, I got to know the Guard next to me. If there was a pass play, but the guard was having problems all game, I'd try to get a shoulder on his guy to slow the Defensive tackle down, while I was trying to push the Defensive End futher outside to create the pocket.
The point I am trying to make is that there are little facts like my above example that a casual football fan doesn't notice. A season of working together as a unit is very beneficial to the development of an offensive line.
I'm 100% confident that both our offensive and defensive line along with our linebackers will improve drastically this next season. We'll get a better idea at the Spring Game, but I'm pretty positive about this. To the nay-sayers, do you think it will get worse? At the very least, you have to believe this past year was a learning experience that our guys returning will improve from a year of development.
- Offensive: Austen Arnaud- 2792 yards passing, 61.6% Completion Percentage, 15 TDs, 10 INTs, 127.44 QB Rating. Put up similar to Bretty Meyers in 2004 and has a bright future ahead. Is a great leader, and at times put the offense on his back (UNLV game for example).
- Defensive: Kurtis Taylor- 37 tackles, 5 of the teams 17 sacks, 1 INT, and 1 FF. This was hard to pick, but the Senior represented ISU well during his career and I think he was a good leader.
- Special Teams: Leonard Johnson - 1081 kick return yards, averaging 26.4 yards per return. Most teams feared him as they started to kick linedrive kicks, and pooch kicks. Leonard Johnson is a true playmaker, and I'd expect him to be in the conversation of Defensive MVP for years to come.
- Most Improved Player: ISU Offensive Line - They started off poorly, but improved throughout the season. During the last 3 games, we had 470 rushing yards, and they allowed only 4 of the 19 sacks on the season.
Stories Of the Offseason:
- Big XII is the Place to Be - I keep hearing this online, on the radio, and on TV from crazy fans. It would be IDIOTIC to switch to a mid-major conference, and it's a slap in the face to the University. Most of these arguments come from football, but it's not our only sport. Our Women's Basketball team and our Wresling Team are nationally ranked. We can compete in those sports. Our Men's Basketball team has had success in the past. Our Volleyball program is on the up as we've made another NCAA tournament. It's clear we can compete in all the sports we have in the Big XII other than football. I think that we're putting so many more resources into football that it's just a matter of time before we're going to bowl games and being respected again in the conferece. I know football is king, but I hope fans can see there are other athletes, other sports, and staying in the Big XII just makes pefect sense..
- Who's calling the plays? It was a big move to change up both the offensive and defensive coordinators at the same time. In a way, it's admitting that this offense and defense you were trying to build hasn't worked and you need to go in a new direction. While it's somewhat exciting, Please, Please, PLEASE temper expectations! I want us to get some good people, but don't get dissapointed if we aren't able to get names speculated. No matter who we get, it will be a reflection of how much respect the coaching circles have in Chizik. No matter who we get, realize there is going to be an adjustment with our players. The new coordinators are going to have their own twists to the offense and defense, and it will take some time and hardwork for our players to learn it all.
- Don't believe the hype! (Recruiting). Recruiting like a cheesy love story: the drama is stressful but you can't live without it. As guys are signing their LOIs and all of that, just realize that these are mostly 18 year olds. They need time to develop. People wanted Sed Johnson to be Randy Moss. Nothing against Sed at all.Big XII football is tough, and it takes some time (even for gifted athletes) to get the hang of it. It probably wasn't fair to try to put him up there without letting him develop into the player he needs to be. It's exciting to see who's coming into the program, and I enthusiastically welcome all future Cyclones! We as fans need to realize that recruiting the right players is a multiyear process that includes some patience. If we end up signing non-JUCO gamebreakers, then good for us. I'd just take it as a bonus rather than an expectation at this point. I don't try to put too much stock in rumors and ratings. I think most of you probably know where I stand on this. I will promise that we will continue to update this site with players who commit. It's just too much drama and speculation to try to gather who will and won't. I want to focus on what we have more so than what we MIGHT have.
- Offseason Issues/Development. Nothing here the fans can do. I just hope our players continue to do well in the classroom, and don't make the mistake of getting themselves into academic issues. I also hope they continue to be respectful citizens of Ames and of ISU. I am proud of the program in these areas, and hope to continue to be. This long season was enough. Having off-field issues, would just compound all of our problems more, and it's a horrible thing to talk about. As fans, we want to talk about the games and positive things the players are doing off the field. I also hope that our guys are able to learn from this season, and work hard with conditioning and strength training to be ready for another tough season.
Next Season Prediction: 12-0 - I'm JOKING! Don't grill me! I see people wanting to talk about next year and our record for the next season. There are just too many unsolved variables (for all the math geeks out there), to even try to guess what will happen next year.
All I know is that I will be rooting on for the Cyclones! I hope all of you do! If you survived this horrible season, you can survive ANY season! It CAN NOT get worse than this!
I truley believe our program will get to where we want it to be. We had some setbacks, but I am confident we'll be there! It doesn't do any harm to be positive!
Instead of sulk about the season, lets focus our energy on rooting for our awesome Women's Basketball Team, Men's Basketball Team, The National- Title Contending Wrestling Team, and all other ISU sports this winter and spring! I want to see us dominate every sport possible!
If you want to vent about how you feel about this season please post in the comments. I really enjoy hearing about what the readers are concerend with!