NOTEBOOK: 25 recruits sign with Cyclones, coaching positions added

ISU coach Paul Rhoads jokes with the media about the power of JUCO recruit Jordan Harris to “knock people’s fillings loose” during the National Signing Day press conference Feb. 5.

Alex Gookin

The biggest story surrounding the 2014 Iowa State football recruiting class was Allen Lazard, and for good reason. The four-star receiver out of Urbandale, Iowa, chose the Cyclones over some of the nation’s elite football schools.

Coach Paul Rhoads started his press conference with a fiery statement about the intense recruitment of Lazard, but went on to highlight the other 24 players that signed their national letters of intent. He believes there are about nine players that currently have good shots at immediate playing time.

Rhoads emphasized the importance of the seven junior college transfers in the 2014 class. Six of them will be lining up on the defensive side of the ball, led by linebacker Jordan Harris, who led the nation in tackles last season playing at the junior college level.

“We needed depth and experience there,” Rhoads said of the defensive recruits. “All six of those guys will have an opportunity to compete.”

Two incoming freshmen Rhoads said would compete for immediate playing time are Lazard and punter Colin Downing. Downing, a Whitefish Bay, Wis. native, was also looked at by Penn State and Toledo before deciding on Iowa State.

Rhoads said Downing was recruited with filling the starting position in mind as senior Kirby Van Der Kamp graduates. Van Der Kamp was a Ray Guy Award watch list member and was famous for converting on fake punt attempts, going 7-for-7 in his career at Iowa State.

“I said to him in the process, ‘Are you athletic enough if we call some fakes with you?’ and he said, ‘Coach, I’m a hockey player,'” Rhoads said of Downing.

Rhoads also spoke highly of running backs Martinez Syria and Mike Warren. Both players were regarded as top-100 recruits at their position nationally, but went largely unnoticed by BCS-level schools.

“[Syria] is bigger and more physical, yet has good speed, the other back [Warren] has great speed and game-breaking ability,” Rhoads said. “He had eleven 40-plus yard runs called back and still ran for 2,500 yards on the season. On some peoples’ radar they are underneath, but on ours we see them as clear as can be.”

Rhoads noted this recruiting season has been hectic with NCAA rule changes and the passing of defensive line coach Curtis Bray. He said his final 13 days of recruiting were non-stop while traveling from state-to-state.

The result, however, was a class with no late decommitments and a diverse field of high school and junior college signees.

Coaching staff almost complete

Rhoads also announced the additions of Brandon Blaney as offensive line coach and Tommy Mangino as wide receivers coach. Todd Sturdy will move from wide receivers to quarterbacks coach, and offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will also serve as the tight ends coach.

Blaney comes to the Cyclones staff after serving as defensive quality control assistant for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 before serving as defensive assistant coach for the past two seasons.

Blaney spent 15 years coaching at the collegiate level, 10 of which were spent coaching alongside ISU offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. He served as offensive line coach at Oklahoma in 2000 when Mangino was offensive coordinator for the Sooners and was hired as recruiting coordinator by Mangino while he was head coach at Kansas from 2002-09.

Tommy Mangino joins the staff after serving as a graduate assistant at the University of Arkansas and is the son of offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. Mark is excited to work with family after often being busy while they were in school.

“Most of the time I was out taking care of other people’s kids while my wife was taking care of our kids,” Mark Mangino said. “You always try to be the best father you can be but there’s no doubt that with my hours of work, this is an exciting time for me because I get to be with him every day.”

He also said the decision to hire both Blaney and Tommy Mangino were solely up to Rhoads. He attributed their work with their former organizations as the key factors to their hirings.

Rhoads added it was not Mark Mangino that determined who would be hired, although his relationships with the both his son and Blaney played a role in determining who would make the best fit.

“I told him in the process that I was holding back a job to get his input once he arrived,” Rhoads said. “For Mark to have a right-hand-man, I thought that was important for his implementation of the offense. In the end, he happened to get two that would fit that description.”

With four new offensive coaches and some position changes, the offseason will be a learning experience. Rhoads said one more coaching position will be filled in the coming weeks at defensive ends.

With both Blaney and Tommy Mangino expected to be in Ames this week, the ISU football office will look much different than it has in years past. Rhoads is hoping that the new look is a good one.

“We’re going to have to get to know each other a little bit,” Rhoads said. “Getting comfortable will take place over the next couple months.”