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Iowa State's Rhoads embraces challenging road ahead

The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has the youngest team in the Big 12, and faces a schedule he described Tuesday as possibly the "toughest in college football."

Rhoads has only nine starters returning from his second straight 6-7 team. And yet, he found reason to put on a happy face at Big 12 Conference media days in Dallas.

"We feel we have a returning starter in quarterback Sam Richardson. Our running back position is the deepest it's ever been and has, what we feel, pretty good quality," Rhoads said at his early afternoon media press conference. "On the defensive side of the ball, we'll lean on two people our two position groups ... linebacker led by Jeremiah George, a fourth-year senior who played in between and side by side with the great A.J. Klein and Jake Knott a year ago. And our safety position, Jacques Washington, who's with me today, and Deon Broomfield, two players who were successful for us at Iowa State."

Rhoads didn't hold back his concern about the unusual schedule, which won't allow for a repeatable preparation routine. The Cyclones have 14 games between their first and second games and also breaks of nine and 12 days along with games on consecutive Thursdays before they reach the halfway point in their regular season slate.

Rhoads said he realizes the trade off for exposure that might came with a primetime game against Iowa (Sept. 14) and another on a Thursday in Ames against the Texas Longhorns (Oct. 3) is part of the give-and-take necessary for his program.

"That energy, that national exposure with a marquee opponent like Texas does nothing but upgrade every effort that we're making to improve our program," Rhoads said.

All told, he's chasing more of the kind of landmark victories Iowa State scored in 2011 against No. 2 Oklahoma State.

That 37-31 double-overtime thriller continues to bring benefits on the recruiting trail, where Rhoads likely needs to win more for his young roster to truly flourish.

"We talked about the Oklahoma State victory and what that did for us as far as national recognition. You're walking into these high schools in a whole different light with victories like that," said Rhoads. "We've had three victories in the last three years over ranked opponents. So when you start to accomplish things on the field, doors open more for you in the recruiting houses."
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