As July draws to a close, we say a disgruntled goodbye to the offseason and bid an inappropriately affectionate hello to the preseason. It's not football, not quite, but it'll do. Summer workouts are at their peak, fall schematics are being drawn up, and months of looking back in delight or disgust give way to pure anticipatory glee.
Notable wallflowers in this square dance, even in a week devoted to their conference: Iowa State, where the players are still so chafed at the unexpected departure of coach Gene Chizik for the vacant Auburn job that they'll go on the record to tear strips off him -- though only with perfect Midwestern manners, of course:
"I've played for three different coaches since I've been at Iowa State," said [defensive lineman Nate] Frere, a senior who started his career under Dan McCarney. "Coach Rhoads is a people person, just like coach McCarney was. You can tell he cares -- he puts the effort forward to get to know you and your family."
How did Chizik, now the head coach at Auburn after two seasons at Iowa State, compare?
"No comment," Frere said. "Between workouts, coach Rhoads will come into the locker room and hang out with us, watch TV and sometimes talk about things other than football. This is the first time I can remember a coach doing that since coach McCarney left."
There's nothing quite like a brusque "no comment" that clearly means the precise opposite of "no comment," is there? Frere goes on to admit the Cyclones felt "burned" by Chizik's abrupt exit -- apparently after assuring players he wasn't going anywhere -- and "there was a lot of anger," but after Rhoads' initial impression this week, it sounds like things are working out just fine in the wake of 5-19 Gene.
And since we are talking about Iowa State, frankly, we'd suggest holding onto as much of that impotent rage as possible -- with a weakened division, a more personal, enthusiastic new coach who at least sounds very competent and a draw from the South that dodges Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, this could be a fine year to make some better memories.