Dallas The first time Iowa State defensive end Cory Morrissey saw Mark Mangino, the former Kansas coach and current ISU offensive coordinator stopped him in his tracks.
“He didn’t know who I was, he didn’t know where I came from but he was very personable and he just came up and started talking to me,” Morrissey said Tuesday during Day 2 of Big 12 media days at the Omni Hotel. “I thought that was great. For someone that’s had so much success like him to come into a program and do that, my first impression was really, really good.”
Since that day last spring, most of Morrissey’s interactions with Mangino have come from trying to stop the seemingly endless number of formations and plays Mangino has thrown at the Cyclones’ defense in practices. Although such a challenge has proven exhausting at times, both Morrissey and ISU linebacker Jevohn Miller are dreaming big about what a more high-powered offense could mean for ISU this fall.
“For three years, we’ve kind of been seeing the same offense in practice,” Miller said. “But it was nice getting him in there and seeing new plays and kind of reacting and going back to playing football instead of knowing what’s coming. We kind of talk to him a little bit and say, ‘Come on, give us something else.’ He gets into it.”
Getting into it with his players was the very thing that led to Mangino’s departure from KU, as former Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins’ investigation into improper treatment of KU players led to Mangino’s forced resignation following the 2009 season. Every ISU player present Tuesday said they found it hard to believe that Mangino, who spent eight seasons at Kansas and was the consensus national coach of the year in 2007, could take things too far. Few said it better than offensive lineman Tom Farniok.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh man, I hope the rumors aren’t true,’” Farniok recalled upon hearing the news of Mangino’s hiring. “And then I met him and thought, ‘There’s no way this guy is like that.’ He’s just demanding. He wants to get the best out of you, and if he can’t do it by talking, he’s gonna jump ya. To me, that’s football. That’s how it works.”
Although he has yet to join the Cyclones on gameday, Mangino already has made his energetic presence felt. The Cyclones said Mangino brought maximum effort each time, whether it was in the film room going over mistakes, in the meeting room planning or on the practice field working on execution.
“He’s phenomenal,” said ISU tight end E.J. Bibbs, who plays the position Mangino coaches in addition to his O.C. duties. “I love being around him. He’s goofy. I like being in the meeting room with him and talking to him. He’s really smart when it comes to X’s and O’s and you can tell he knows his stuff.”
That was the idea behind ISU coach Paul Rhoads’ decision to hire Mangino, who most recently coached as an assistant at Youngstown State after spending a few years away from football.
“I think he was anxious to get back to this level,” Rhoads said of Mangino, who is now working with his fourth Big 12 program. “He wasn’t going to just jump back in at any job. I think he saw the opportunity for success at our place. He liked the way that the program was being run. He knew that we’re full of toughness from playing us in 2009 and talking to other people that had been playing us since then.”
Mangino’s toughness and passion for the game have been contagious early on during his time at Iowa State. Offensive and defensive players alike have become enamored by what Mangino brings to their facility and they’re eager to learn what more he can do.
“I think he can teach everyone in the program a lot,” Farniok said. “He took Kansas to an Orange Bowl and I think all of our players and coaches can learn about building a program from him. He just brings a lot of wisdom and experience that, really, no one else has.”
Added Miller: “I knew he wasn’t gonna hurt us, that’s for sure. He’s definitely going to help us. I think it’s a huge advantage for us because he’s a great coach who has produced in the Big 12 and knows the competition and what it takes to win.”