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Iowa St. opens spring with QB questions

AMES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads is signed through the 2021 season at a place that understands the challenges of fielding a winner in the Big 12.

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But 3-9 won't cut it at anywhere.

Rhoads and the Cyclones began the process of erasing the worst season of his five-year tenure on Monday with the start of spring practice.

Iowa State has plenty of questions to answer, most notably at quarterback, and a revamped coaching staff will get its first chance to work with the Cyclones outside of the film room.

The Cyclones, who finished 3-9 in 2013 despite closing with a two-game winning streak, hold their annual spring game on April 12.

''I think this team is very hungry,'' Rhoads said. ''There isn't anything about the gains we've made that's disappointing.''

Much of the offseason buzz surrounding the Cyclones will be about their latest quarterback competition.

Incoming sophomore Grant Rohach appears to be the favorite after closing 2013 with a relative flourish. Rohach started in late wins over Kansas and West Virginia, and he threw for 331 yards and four touchdowns in rallying the Cyclones from a 24-point deficit at West Virginia in poor weather.

Richardson, who will be a junior next season, entered 2013 as a likely three-year starter. But Richardson's season unraveled in the opener, as thumb, ankle and leg injuries and a shaky offensive line derailed his first extended shot at the starting job.

''He was hurt a lot more than I ever got across during the fall,'' Rhoads said. ''Getting him back, getting him healthy and getting him competing, there, there's no question that he's still our best runner.''

With Courtney Messingham out and former Kansas coach Mark Mangino in as the new offensive coordinator, Rohach and Richardson will each get a shot to prove themselves all over again. Rohach opened the spring atop the depth chart, followed by Richardson and redshirt freshmen Joel Lanning and Trevor Hodge.

The decision on who earns the job will fall to Mangino, the biggest name in the program's massive staff overhaul.

Brandon Blaney will be tasked with fixing an offensive line that had all kinds of issues with injuries and inexperience in 2013, while new running backs coach Lou Ayeni takes over a unit headlined by senior Aaron Wimberly.

Wide receivers coach Tommy Mangino has the luxury of working with perhaps Iowa State's deepest position group. Stan Eggen joined Iowa State following the death of Curtis Bray, the program's longtime defensive line coach, and he'll be without presumptive starters Rodney Coe and David Irving for the spring following shoulder surgeries.

Rhoads said he wanted the new hires to settle in without having to worry about him hovering over their shoulder. That will change once practices get rolling.

''I want guys to feel comfortable with coaching their kids and coaching their side of the ball,'' Rhoads said. ''Mark knew exactly what I wanted as he came in. So did the rest of the coaches. That's when the time was spent, when they were hired. What my expectations were - both collectively with that side of the ball and with position groups - and they've been working diligently on that ever since.''

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