DALLAS — Iowa State center Tom Farniok recognized and respected one consideration immediately upon learnign the news that Mark Mangino had been hired as the Cyclones’ new offensive coordinator.
“Taking Kansas to an Orange Bowl victory,” Farniok said, “you have to be a smart guy.”
It was no intended shot at KU. Heck, the Cyclones haven’t been winning Orange Bowls, either. Maybe that was the point; perhaps now they, too, can dream big with Mangino calling the shots.
There’s a similar feel at Texas, where the Longhorns have won, just not to their lofty standards, mostly because of recent benign offenses. Enter Joe Wickline, whose arrival as coordinator and offensive line coach is restoring Texas-sized expectations.
For Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Wickline and Mangino are familiar old faces in new places. And for the entire Big 12, they represent even more: a threat.
Both know the league, and each maintains a proven track record for knowing how to influence and even manipulate winning. In their fresh starts, the assumption would be that they are highly motivated, too.
Wickline’s influence at OSU was heavily noted, with offensive lines that could run or pass block equally well, causing one prominent league assistant to claim them the Big 12’s most versatile units year in and year out. The Cowboys regularly ranked among the league’s most balanced offenses and ranked in the top 20 in total offense six times in nine years.
Yet team sources say that time eroded relationships at OSU, leading Wickline to jump to Texas and new coach Charlie Strong, whom he worked with at Florida.
“Sometimes in coaching, you spend a lot of time in one place,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said Monday. “(Wickline) was with us for nine years and did a great job. At times, you just feel it’s best and time to move on and continue with your career.”
At Texas, Wickline takes over a line that has been dogged as underachieving, a root problem in the Longhorns’ struggles. Over the past four years, Texas has finished fourth, eighth, eighth and ninth in points scored in conference play.
“He’s a smart, smart man when it comes to football,” said Longhorns center Dominic Espinosa. “It’s been nice having that. He breaks down film really well, so we have lots to look forward to when it comes to breaking down game film and ready for game prep.
“I’m excited to have Wick on board. It’s going to be a good year with him.”
The situation is even more dire at Iowa State, where the Cyclones have regularly lagged offensively within the Big 12.
Last season, Iowa State finished eighth in the conference in total offense, averaging 354.8 yards a game. The seven teams ahead of ISU averaged at least 398 yards, and league-leader Baylor averaged 582.2. The Cyclones also ranked eighth in scoring at 24.3 points per game, pedestrian by Big 12 standards. Baylor scored 47.8, revealing a significant gap.
Mangino has always been known for his creativity, which showed when he was offensive coordinator for Bob Stoops at OU, and was on full display at Kansas, where he once opened a bowl game by lining his two tackles out next to wide receivers.
“He has so many plays and so many things, he can make his system match the players,” Farniok said. “So we have a really good running back, he’ll have a bunch of really good plays they run well. If they don’t run something good or they don’t read this block well, we just won’t run it.
“It’s simple, but it’s complex at the same time because it’s so diverse. He only runs stuff catered towards what’s programmed best for his players.”
Despite Iowa State’s offensive reputation, the Cyclones do have playmakers, led by All-Big 12 receiver Quenton Bundrage and speedy wideout Aaron Wimberly, as well as an elite tight end in E.J. Bibbs.
“We have a ton of talent. We’ve got some firepower on offense,” said Farniok, a four-year starter who anchors an experienced offensive line.
Quarterback has been an issue, with six different players starting during Farniok’s tenure. And it’s an issue again, with a competition of three entering fall camp.
Mangino has time to sort that out.
“That’s what we have camp for,” Bibbs said. “Camp will get us started and then it’s just going out and playing ball.
“And I think he’ll get us playing very well.”
That belief extends beyond the Cyclones’ locker room.
“You talk about track records in coaching and all that he’s done,” said Stoops, “everywhere he’s been he’s done a great job. So I know he’ll be doing a great job for Iowa State and for coach Paul Rhodes.
“Mark Mangino, I’m really excited for him and glad he’s back in it in that position. Again, it’ll be a challenge going up against him.”
At Texas, Strong is counting on Wickline’s knowledge of offense, and the Big 12, in an unfamiliar league.
“Just with him being within this conference and knowing the conference, he’s been a great asset,” Strong said. “When we get into conference play, he’ll be someone to just go lean on.”
With Wickline and Mangino, the leaning has already begun.
“I heard a lot about him even before he got to Austin,” Espinosa said, “that he’s one of the best in the nation. So I knew he had a good track record. I knew his offensive lines did a good job (at Oklahoma State). He always has the least sacks, things like that.
“It’s always nice to have a guy who can bring that down here and bring us to a new level.”