Last week our Scott Visy broke down why it’s time to say farewell to Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads in Ames.
But in the span of a week, it seems that — if the athletic department breaks down the situation in pieces — Rhoads can last another season under contract considering the first big move by management: Firing offensive coordinator Mark Mangino after some “differences” in-house.
While this is speculatory, one of the differences among Mangino and Rhoads could be the announcement that sophomore Joel Lanning would be taking over for Sam B. Richardson at quarterback.
Richardson had some moderate success during Mangino’s first season in Ames, but after throwing for an equal share of eight touchdowns and interceptions this season, something had to change. The Cyclones have dabbled with Lanning under center the past three games and found much more success than Richardson, who had thrown five interceptions to just one touchdown in that span.
Lanning stepped in for just one pass against TCU, but that single pass went 74 yards for a touchdown to tie the game up 14 all.
Even the week before against Texas Tech, Lanning had a more efficient game than Richardson in his limited play.
But when Richardson connected on just 3-of-11 passes against Baylor (with two interceptions as well), Lanning stepped in to toss three touchdowns and led the Cyclones to a moral victory after escaping the 36.5 point spread against them—losing just 45-27 in a monsoon of a storm.
At this point, the 2-5 Cyclones have to take whatever moral victories they can. Going toe-to-toe with teams in the nation’s upper echelon qualifies as just that, even if it won’t get the Cyclones in a bowl game for the first time since 2012.
Who steps in for Mangino and helps shape Lanning in his new role is just (if not more) important, particularly to how the program should go about keeping Rhoads on staff (his contract lasts through the 2020 season). In steps, wide receivers coach Todd Sturdy as the new offensive coordinator.
If you’ve paid any attention to Iowa State over the past few years, you’d know that it’s become the little brother to Baylor’s “Wide Receiver U”, and that’s large in part due to Sturdy coming to campus.
Before coming to Ames, Sturdy was making his mark as the Washington State offensive coordinator. Specifically, he brought in his variant of the spread offense becoming known as the “Sturdy Spread” which, according to Wider Right & Natty Lite is an offense that “centers around a balanced run/pass spread option concept, and play calls build on each other throughout the game.”
In turn, the Cyclones offense should be able to continually keep time of possession in their favor more consistently, as exhibited in the past two games one half at a time.
With the emergence of freshman running back Mike Warren and Lanning at quarterback, moving the offense to a new look this season that favors a running attack with a passing game built off the run should bode well for next season. Lanning seems to be the natural fit for that role, and with two more seasons ahead of him, he’ll learn to make adjustments at the line quicker.
Even if things don’t start turning around for Iowa State this season, the two moving parts put in place this week need to be considered to see if next season can be salvaged to provide a point of reference.
Firing Rhoads after these two moves would just be spinning wheels in the mud and set the next coach up for a rough time.