• June 3, 2015

Iowa State Daily

Positive offensive changes leave ISU football players happy, fans guessing

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Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 12:37 am, Tue Apr 15, 2014.

ISU quarterback Grant Rohach stood in the pocket looking for an open receiver on Saturday during the Iowa State football team's spring game. One, two, three, four seconds went by with a stable pocket.

Rohach shuffled his feet looking for an open receiver, but still stood behind the wall of linemen in the pocket for another four seconds before deciding to scramble. 

The play resulted in a small gain, but it told a bigger story. The same offensive line that finished last in the Big 12 in sacks allowed last season gave Rohach more time than he knew what to do with.

There is no question the offensive line is better now because it is healthier and more experienced, but some offseason coaching changes have also left their mark. With a new offensive coordinator in Mark Mangino and his heavily-recommended offensive line coach Brandon Blaney, players have seen a difference.

"With Mangino and them, there is a lot more unity than I've felt around here since [former offensive coordinator, Tom] Herman," said center Tom Farniok "It felt like it was an 'Us versus him' thing in the past whereas his [Blaney's] biggest thing is stressing that we're in this thing together."

The improved play of the offensive line in the spring game was not limited to the passing game, but the running the ball as well. After averaging less than 4.0 yards per rush last season, first-team running backs Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy averaged 5.5 yards per carry and added Nealy and Rohach rushing touchdowns.

Strategy and blocking schemes will not change completely from last season, but the way the line has been coached has made a difference, Farniok said.

"It's going to look the same but it's a lot simpler," Farniok said. "It's a lot less calls and it makes more sense to me, personally."

With 79 rushes and 74 passes, it was a balanced playbook. Only a handful of plays exceeded 15 yards and most passes were short passes out in the flat or screens.

For the most part, the offense looked unchanged from last season, but coach Paul Rhoads said that much of the spring game was used to get the ball in people's hands. He said the offense used a "limited playbook" but wouldn't say what he and Mangino have planned for the season ahead.

"We'll leave you guessing on that," Rhoads said.

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