Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads said just one frosh is likely to play and that is at running back where the Cyclones are very inexperienced.
There are, however, eight junior college prospects (three on offense, five on defense) in the two-deep lineup who have never played in a game for the Cyclones. Health-permitting, they’ll likely all play. JC players are more seasoned than preps and ISU has put on premium on recruiting them that last couple of years.
“They’re experienced players and have a higher level of maturity as they enter the program,” Rhoads said. “We’ve needed to take advantage of that the last couple years and are (hopeful of) seeing the fruits of that right now. The plan is in place to continue to work that group and hopefully improve because of that.”
In the last two years, ISU has been bitten hard by the injury bug.
“Without a doubt, our depth as been exposed,” Rhoads said. “I don’t know comparatively speaking to other programs and numbers, but decimated is an accurate word when you look at our past in that regard.”
Rhoads has coached ISU to three bowl games. In those seasons, the Cyclones were able to keep their upper classmen healthy. Consider the number of underclassmen who earned starts each season.
- 2012 Liberty Bowl – sophomores combined to start 23 games, freshmen just five
- 2011 Pinstripe Bowl – sophomores started 44 games, freshmen 24
- 2009 Insight Bowl – sophomores started 57 games, freshmen just five
Last season, Iowa State had 83 starts by sophomores and 42 by freshmen. Too many vets had too many trips to the training room for extended time away from the field.
“There will be a lot of new faces on the field in 2015 but we’ve seen enough of that group already that we feel we’ll be better,” Rhoads said. “How competitive they can get and how far along they’ll come will depend on the confidence level that grows in August and during the season.”
With the influx of JC players in recent years, Iowa State hasn’t had this much experienced depth in a while. On paper at least, the Cyclones appear to be better equipped to deal with missed playing time this fall.
“You need a little luck (with injuries),” Rhoads said. “Health is the hand we’d like to be favorably dealt as we go into the 2015 season.”