Sunday, October 30, 2011

Paul Rhoads Performance Review

A lot of people are raving about the job that Paul Rhoads is doing at Iowa State.  I decided to create my own performance review of Paul Rhoads.

Record: 16-17

To the naked eye this doesn't look too sexy.  However, his sixteen wins through a little over two and a half seasons is two more than the previous four years combinedOf these sixteen wins, eight of them of come in non-conference games.  Iowa State has lost three non-conference games in his tenure and two of those losses were to top 10 teams (Iowa and Utah in 2010) and the other loss came to the 2009 Iowa team that ended up playing in the Orange Bowl.  His conference record at this point sits at 8-14.  Once again, to the naked eye this number does not look to be very impressive.  Iowa State, by my calculations, has only been favored to win four conference games in Rhoads' tenure and 11 games overall.  This translates into his team winning four conference games they were not supposed to as well as an additional two non-conference games they were not supposed win.  Six upsets in 22 chances is a pretty good ratio.

Signature Wins: Nebraska 2009, Texas 2010, Iowa 2011, Texas Tech 2011

A mark of a good coach is the appearance of signature wins on his resume.  Paul Rhoads is running out of room.  These type of wins put a program like Iowa State back on the map.  These were all games Iowa State was clearly not supposed to win.

Nebraska 2009: Coming into the game as an 18.5 point underdog the Cyclones shocked Husker Nation with a 9-7 victory.  What makes this even more impressive is that it was done without their starting quarterback and starting running back--announced just before game time.  This spread would have been much larger had this been know when the spread was made.  It was Iowa State's first victory in Lincoln since 1977. 

Texas 2010: Iowa State strolled into this game as only (sarcasm) a 20.5 underdog.  They walked out with the program's first EVER victory over Texas and their first road win over a ranked opponent since 1990.  This victory seems less impressive after watching Texas struggle to a 5-7 season however you cannot put into words the monumental step this program took that October day.

Iowa 2011: In what is maybe the most exciting football game I have ever been at (ISU vs Florida State is right up there too), the Cyclones notched their first victory over Iowa under Paul Rhoads.  It was a big step in helping with in-state recruiting as well as helping ISU to a perfect non-conference slate.  The Cyclones were only a 6.5 point underdog and I don't expect this win will look as good at the end of the season however a victory over Iowa is always an important step to success at Iowa State.

Texas Tech 2011: This may be THE biggest win of the Paul Rhoads era.  Texas Tech doesn't have that sexy name when you look at it.  Consider that Texas Tech just put a whooping on Oklahoma the week before IN Norman and ISU had NEVER won in Lubbock and this win sounds much better.  A couple of things I forgot to mention include the point spread (14.5 points) and the POINT SPREAD (34 points).  The most complete game this team has put together in a long, long time.

Bad Losses: Kansas State 2009

What tells you most about this is that there is only one.  I would also like to point out that this is the ONLY game ISU has lost in which they were favored and they were only favored by a field goal in this game.  Why does this loss sting?  Grant Mahoney's blocked extra point with :32 seconds left that would have tied the game.  If they win this game, Paul Rhoads would still be without a loss in a game in which his team was favored.  It is important to note I do not consider margin of loss into the equation for this.  A loss is a loss and they will happen especially when you are the underdog.  Avoiding losing games in which you were favored to win is the key to program success.


This is a harder aspect to judge than the others because the only quantitative data available is recruiting rankings which is only a predictor of how good these athletes will be and really means absolutely nothing.    I will attempt to assess Rhoads' ability to recruit.

2010 Class:  Iowa State was ranked 9th out of the current 10 teams in the Big XII.  Only Kansas State was lower.  The bright spot of this class is the quantity.  Rhoads signed 28 athletes to this class.  Being able to fill out recruiting classes is sometimes a struggle for below average programs.  Once again, those are just rankings.  Looking at the players signed in that class it seems to look a little more impressive.  Players in this class include: Jared Barnett, Shontrelle Johnson, Tom Farniok, Durell Givens, Duran Hollis, Kirby Van Der Kamp and Jarvis West.  All of these players have at least two years of eligibility left and are already major contributors.;_ylt=AqUg0yxde2ONv4OKkfipLLdJPZB4

2011 Class: In 2011 Iowa State once again ranked 9th of 10 teams in front of only Kansas State (who is often penalized in these rankings for recruiting JC players).  Rhoads signed 23 recruits in this class included JC teammates Steele Jantz and Aaron Horne.  Many of these players were able to redshirt this season and many of them should be major contributors down the road.  What I have noticed about this class is the formation of pipelines in California, Florida and Texas.  Developing connections in these talent rich states is huge and should pay dividends down the road.  I genuinely get excited looking at the pieces Rhoads has in place with this recruiting class.;_ylt=AqUg0yxde2ONv4OKkfipLLdJPZB4

2012 Class (so far):  Keep in mind this class has not yet signed and is still a work in progress.  At this point ISU sits at 8 out of 10.  An improvement!  They have already received commitments from 14 athletes included 10 3-star athletes.  What excites me about this class is that already five Iowa players have committed.  ISU will never be able to build their program on Iowa talent but getting the best players in the state to commit to ISU is a great foundation for recruiting.  At this point the University of Iowa has only received a commitment from one Iowa player.  Rhoads has also received a commitment from a kicker and three HS quarterbacks.  I really believe simply adding as many great athletes to a roster and not necessarily a great tight end or a guard is a great start.  Get great athletes and speed adn turn them into outstanding football players.

Recruiting Trends:
*4 IA kids in 2010, 5 IA kids in 2011 and already 5 IA kids in 2012
*6 OL in 2010, 3 in 2011, 2 so far for 2012
*6 FLA athletes in 2010, 5 in 2011
*1 QB in 2010, 2 QB in 2011 and 3 in 2012 

This could be a rather large portion of this review, but I will attempt to keep it concise.  Rhoads is clearly a great motivator.  He is getting his teams to overachieve which is the sign of a great coach.  His ability to pull off the huge upsets he already has is an indicator of his ability to motivate.
Rhoads also has ignited a fire in the fan base.  He is passionate and charismatic.  Season ticket sales are at an all-time high and even the most skeptical ISU fans find themselves in moments of optimism.  Another strength of his is his aggressiveness.  Rhoads has proven he is not afraid to go for it on fourth down, run a fake punt or even run a fake extra point in overtime.  To me strings like this have to be pulled every once in awhile when the talent doesn't match up on paper.  Finally, his greatest strength to me is the respect he has from his players.  As much as we want this to be about football, I truly believe these students will be better people because of their relationship with Paul Rhoads.  If you have any questions about the mutual respect between his players and him watch below...

Weaknesses:  We have to take a step back and realize that this is just Rhoads' third year of head coaching experience.  Tricks of the trade such as in-game management, practice plans and travel arrangements will come with time.  There have been a few instances where Rhoads' teams do seem to be unprepared and unorganized.  This is to be expected with a fresh coach.  At times some fans have been critical of Rhoads being overly emotional.  I am not one of those select few, but I do believe his emotion and motivation to play with passion can result in stupid personal fouls.  I also believe it to be at least part of the struggles the offense seems to have early in the game.  Being able to help his players harness the emotion will be instrumental in moving this program forward.  I kind of hit on this earlier but Rhoads' teams seem to be undisciplined at times.  Too many times do his teams shoot themselves in the foot Plaxico Burress style with false starts, holds and sometimes illegal formations.  Rhoads needs to take a chapter out of the Bill Snyder book and let the other teams make the mistakes.  Easier said than done.

Reasons for skepticism:  ISU at times appears severely over matched.  Will they ever be able to get the talent to Ames to compete consistently with the Oklahoma and Texas' of the world?  I'm not sure what a realistic ceiling is for a program like Iowa State, but is it high enough to keep Rhoads around long-term.

Reason for optimism:  Just when you give up on his team Rhoads will prove you wrong.  He appears to have found a composed quarterback that limits turnovers and runs the zone read effectively.  He is just two wins away from bowl eligibility against a conference schedule that includes 8 teams that have been ranked at some point this season.

Final verdict:  Along with the rest of Cyclone Nation I am proud to have Coach Rhoads lead this program.  I think his "improve and plateau" strategy seems to be working.  I cannot wait for Rhoads to continue to improve this program and finding a way to keep him around is a must.

Go 'Clones!

1 comment:

  1. A .500 record isn't bad considering where this program came from. The last coach with a better record was Earle Bruce in the mid '70s. It's an important point you make with the record when favored. The goal for Iowa State every year should be to win the games they're supposed to and pick one off each year that they shouldn't. So far under Rhoads, they've been doing both.

    I don't think it's reasonable to think ISU can be a consistent top 25 team. Considering the goals outlined above, the ceiling would be a second quartile team (think 25-50th), on the outskirts of the top 25, consistently playing in low to mid-level bowl games). That would create plenty of excitement for the team and the fans. The Texas game was a good example, until it started.

    Recruiting is important. I like hearing that ISU is moving up in the rankings. Because they're college kids, I'd think that Iowa kids would play harder for ISU than kids from out of state. Iowa recruits used to want to play for UofI by default, maybe now you're seeing kids that WANT to play for Rhoads.

    I'm excited too. Just when you think the season is shot, ISU pulls out a big one like this weekend. Need to take care of business against Kansas, then they have 3 games for a little more magic.