Iowa State hands offense to Messingham
By LUKE MEREDITH
AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State went through its first major staff change under fourth-year coach Paul Rhoads when offensive coordinator Tom Herman left for Ohio State.
The Cyclones stayed in-house by promoting Courtney Messingham to replace Herman, and they've kept the offense as simple and recognizable as possible this spring.
Iowa State wraps up its first spring with Messingham running the offense on Saturday with its annual scrimmage. Rhoads said Tuesday that Messingham, who previously coached the tight ends and receivers, has done well handling the increased responsibility that comes with running Iowa State's spread offense.
"It certainly hasn't been seamless, but it's been a very smooth transition nonetheless. There's familiarity with (Messingham)," Rhoads said. "There's been tweaks to our package, but there's not been wholesale changes. There's a different approach to coaching our quarterbacks. He's been very positive with our kids. The change has been embraced by both staff and players, and I think it's been really positive."
Messingham, who wasn't available to reporters Tuesday, has two pressing issues to solve before the season opens Sept. 1 against Tulsa: find a starting quarterback and rebuild the offensive line.
Senior Steele Jantz and sophomore Jared Barnett have split time at quarterback this spring and the race for the starting job won't be decided until August at the earliest. According to Rhoads, Barnett and Jantz have both improved their decision-making and are more comfortable with the offense.
Jantz has shown the same attributes this spring that earned him the starting job last fall, when he led the Cyclones to a 3-0 start before a foot injury precipitated a downturn that landed him on the bench behind Barnett.
It's clear the coaching staff sees more raw talent from Jantz. That means Barnett must manage the game as well as he possibly can, and he apparently did just that in a scrimmage last Saturday.
"(Barnett) is not a flashy guy. He doesn't have the biggest arm. But his football teams were productive," Rhoads said. "(Jantz) was a little flashy. He showed us the same guy that we saw in the first 2 1/2 games with his escapability, with his ability to make people miss. He does have great velocity on his ball."
Rhoads said both quarterbacks have benefited from the switch to Messingham, including improved mechanics and foot work. Third-string quarterback Sam Richardson, a redshirt freshman, said Messingham is also more "understanding" than Herman, who he said could be demanding and less willing to explain things.
"I think (Messingham) does a much better job trying to teaching you exactly what you need to do on everything," Richardson said.
The Cyclones lost tackle Kelechi Osemele, a potential high pick in the NFL draft later this month, and two-year starting guard Hayworth Hicks is gone as well. But Rhoads said he believes the unit has progressed to the point where it has enough talent and depth to survive the departures of senior starters.
"The offensive line is a group that really, year by year has grown and developed and leaving us in a position where we're excited about them and what they're capable of," Rhoads said.
Iowa State has depth at running back and wide receiver, so whoever Messingham decides to start at quarterback should have plenty of options. There certainly will be plenty of other issues to solve for the Cyclones, considering they averaged 22.7 points per game, but Rhoads is clearly comfortable letting Messingham take a crack at fixing them.
"By the time we get to September, you'll clearly see (Messingham's) fingerprints all over every bit of the offense," Rhoads said.
Updated April 11, 2012