AMES - No active quarterback last fall in Division I college football had started more consecutive games or been on the field for more plays from scrimmage in his career than Iowa State's Bret Meyer.
Still the Cyclone offense suffered from a lack of production in 2007.
Enter Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates, a pair of sophomores that are in a dead heat to take over at quarterback, Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik said Saturday's during the team's media day.
Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud looks to dunk the ball over the goal post while clowning around with teammates during the Cyclones’ annual football media day Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
T-R PHOTO BY MARK PAWLAK
Iowa State head football coach Gene Chizik listens to a reporter’s question during the team’s annual media day at the Jacobson Building Saturday in Ames.
"Right now it's 50-50 and may the best man win," Chizik said.
A two-quarterback system isn't something Chizik is considering.
"I would like one guy to win the job. Period," Chizik said.
Meyer finished his Cyclone career having started 48 consecutive games. In the program's career record books, he is No. 1 in touchdown passes, passing yards, completions and total offense. Meyer is third in passing yards in Big 12 history.
Iowa State also had Todd Blythe at wide receiver - the school's career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns - but couldn't turn those numbers into wins in a 3-9 year.
The Cyclones tied for last in the Big 12 and were 111th nationally in scoring offense. In total offense, Iowa State also was last in the conference and 102nd nationally.
"We were highly disappointed with a lot of the results of our offense last year," Chizik said. "But you go back and look at it with a fine-tooth comb there were some things that we did better. We did have some 100-yard rushers. We did cut down on some sacks with our protections. We still have a million miles to go."
Arnaud saw action in six games last year, including a 5-of-7, 130-yard performance in the win over Kansas State.
Bates got on the field as a true freshman at wide receiver, making five catches on the year.
"We try to get better every day. The competition really has to take care of itself. That's all in the coaches' hands. What we try to do is get better and help our team out," Bates said. "You don't want to put so much stuff on yourself that you forget about the team. It's more about the team than about us."
The Ames native Arnaud has been the quarterback in waiting since coming to program in 2006.
He said he is light years ahead of where he was a year ago in his growth as a quarterback.
"Last year, I thought I knew what I was doing but I really only had half the idea what I was doing," Arnaud said.
Running back Alexander Robinson came on at the end of last season as a freshman and was the team's leading rusher with 465 yards. Jason Scales is also back at running back. The position is another of many where the starting spot is up for grabs.
Defensively, Iowa State has seven with starting experience back. The Cyclones moved from 102nd to 65th nationally in defense in Chizik's first year.
Defensive end Kurtis Taylor was second in the Big 12 in sacks with 6.5. Linebacker Jesse Smith and free safety James Smith tied for third on the team with 79 tackles last year to lead the Cyclones' group returning.
Wins over Kansas State and Colorado late in 2007 gave Iowa State reason for optimism this fall.
Still the final 3-9 product is something the Cyclones want to change.
"We look at the big picture and the big picture is 3-9, That's not a good picture to paint and we know we have to get that fixed," Chizik said.
"Three-and-nine was unacceptable for us, " Arnaud added.
Iowa State starts the season Aug. 28 when it hosts South Dakota State. Both of the ranked teams in the preseason coaches poll on the Cyclones' schedule come to Ames in No. 13 Kansas (Big 12 opener, Oct. 4) and No. 7 Missouri (Nov. 15).
"We got new jerseys, new faces, new everything, we're trying to make a change," Bates said.