AMES — Glimpses.
That’s all we’ve seen so far from ISU defensive end Jhauastin Thomas, but there’s enough promise backing up those brief, impactful passages in time to provoke Paul Rhoads to push for more beginning this Saturday at Toledo (7 p.m., ESPNNews).
"(He’s) shown enough that I’ve encouraged (defensive ends) coach (Stan) Eggen to get him on the field more and I think you’ll see more snaps out of him as the games move forward,” Rhoads said. “But it’s been glimpses. The more he does things in a disciplined way, the more trust you have in him, the more opportunities you give him, and hopefully the more glimpses we’ll see.”
Let’s not forget Thomas, a 6-6, 265-pound mountain of a man padded up for the first time in almost a year on August 9. The former South Carolina recruit spent the winter of 2014-15 playing the role of Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College power forward.
"That’s a lot of rust and when you’re in hand-to-hand combat, so to speak, every snap, even moreso,” Rhoads said. “I think he’s getting there. I think we’ve got to get firmly entrenched in him that he needs a football mentality. Being a two-sport guy — two vastly different sports when it comes to contact and collisions and the physical piece, so we’ll get him there.”
Thomas has posted two tackles in each of the first two games. On one play, he chased down a ball carrier from behind and threw him to the turf.
Shades of his hardwood dominance?
"I love dunking on people," Thomas said on media day.
Now he’s into dumping tackles on their backsides. It’s a process, Rhoads acknowledged, but fully reengaging football mode must come sooner rather than later.
"He’s got enough conditioning to play the number of snaps we’re going to ask him to play and play them fast,” Rhoads said.
*** Quenton Bundrage sees what we all see in sophomore Allen Lazard: A rising star.
"He’s way more confident than he was last season and that alone has helped him elevate his game,” Bundrage said.
Bundrage tied the Cyclones’ single-season receiving touchdowns record with nine in 2013. He has one this season after missing almost all of 2014 with an ACL tear. What he sees in Lazard is not only added maturity, but explosiveness.
“When you think about it, it’s kind scary, because he’s still a young guy — a big guy, still learning a lot from his game and he’s doing a great job at it right now," Bundrage said of Lazard, who leads ISU with 11 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown this season. "If he keeps elevating his game he can be outstanding here for this program.”
*** Rhoads said the offensive line has looked strong this week — as in, better than before. Right guard Daniel Burton is expected to be back, too, for Toledo.
"We’ve had a good week of practice," Rhoads said.