Iowa State Cyclones
Head Coach: Dan McCarney:
2005 Record: 7-5 (4-4)
2006 Schedule with Projected Wins and Losses:
(Projected Wins in Bold)
9.@ Kansas State
2005 Review: How frustrating was last season for Iowa State? Three of their five losses came in overtime (they took Nebraska to a second overtime in Lincoln), of their two non-overtime losses, one was a three-point loss to highly-touted TCU in the Houston Bowl. Strangely, their worst loss of the season was their only loss at home -- by 10-points to lowly Baylor. For the second year in a row, ISU's road to the North Division championship ended on a field goal in the final minute of the final game of the season. In 2004, it was a field goal missed; last season, it was a 34-yard field goal made by KU's Scott Webb in overtime.
Player Ready to Shine: Defensive tackle Brent Curvey (6' 305)
Team MVP: Quarterback Bret Meyer (6'3", 208)
Quarterback: Quietly, Meyer has become a legitimate all-star candidate for the Cyclones. He is already a preseason Maxwell Award candidate and most publications have chosen him 1st-team, All Big 12. He already ranks second in Iowa State school history in passing yards and finished 2005 with 19 touchdowns, only 10 interceptions and 2,876 yards off of 227-368 passing (61.7%). For depth chart purposes, it is instructive that he threw, literally, every pass for the Cyclones last season. That means nobody else gained any experience of note last season. Still, while he has not thrown a pass at Iowa State, backup Kyle Van Winkle (6'6" 217) had a great spring and should be a reliable back-up should his services be required this season.
Running Back/Fullbacks: Running back Stevie Hicks (6'1" 212) is a workhorse. Running backs coach, Tony Alford, was a gritty do-everything tailback at Colorado State and he has created a substantial likeness of himself in the manner in which Hicks plays the game. Hicks' value is not limited to the running game -- he is an invaluable part of the Cyclones' pass-protection scheme. Hicks was injured last season and played in only nine games. The Cyclones were simply a winning team when he was part of the lineup and his presence will continue to bolster offensive performance this season. Fullback Ryan Kock (6'1" 239) ran the ball only 54 times last season – four and a half times a game. Yet, he scored 13 touchdowns – more than one per game. Like last year, when yards become tough for Iowa State, there is no question who will get the ball.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Loaded. Loaded. Loaded. Besides Texas Tech, there may not be another team in the country with as many weapons at receiver and/or tight end. Junior wideout Todd Blythe (6'5" 210) gained 1,000 yards receiving and scored nine touchdowns off of only 51 catches (19.6 ypc). He's the most dangerous threat. But his danger is a function of the fact that he is not the only threat. Austin Flynn (6'1" 200) had more catches last year (56) and Jon Davis (6'4" 203) added 41 more. Davis is recuperating from an Achilles injury and will be replaced in the starting lineup by R.J. Sumrall (6'1" 195), who had 20 catches last year and brings the athleticism he honed as a high school track star (hurdles, long-jump and triple jump) to the field. Tight ends Walter Nickel and Ben Barkema combined for another 38 catches, 507 yards and four touchdowns last year. Without question, they add additional threats to every coverage scheme.
Offensive Line: Four starters return to the line for Iowa State, including C Scott Stephenson (a transfer from Minnesota) (6'4" 305). Stephenson injured his shoulder and underwent surgery this spring but is expected back by the time fall practices begin. Right tackle Aaron Brant (6'7" 320) will start for his fourth consecutive season this year. Twins Scott (LT 6'7" 335) and Paul Fisher (RG 6'7" 325) are 25-year old transfers from BYU and should each start this season. Scott started in 2005. Seth Zehr (6'6" 300) rounds out the mammoth projected starting line. In fact, at a "mere" 300 pounds, Zehr is the runt of the litter. JUCO transfer Lee Tibbs (6'3" 325) could challenge for a starting position after having been named All-Southwest Conference at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M last season.
Defensive Line: Without question, this unit took a hit with the loss of nose tackle Nick Leaders to graduation. What he brought to the entire defensive unit last year cannot be replaced. Worse, defensive end Jason Berryman was suspended after a long-bout with his own inner-demons. He was an impact player on the perimeter. However, the development of defensive tackle Brent Curvey (6' 295) last season and throughout the spring means all is not lost on the line. In fact, since Berryman was suspended before spring started, the Cyclones were able to work different players into his vacant position to try to find the right fit. JUCO transfer Collins Eboh (6'4" 250) was once a Cyclone and has returned for his second stint. Coach McCarney stated unequivocally that he expects Eboh to start this season. In the meantime, Kurtis Taylor (6'3" 250) carries with him the experience gained from numerous springtime reps to the position as fall camp opens. The other end spot is in good hands with the return of Shawn Moorehead (6'4" 250).
Linebackers: Middle linebacker Matt Robinson was suspended almost immediately upon the close of spring practices. "Robo's" loss not only struck a blow for the absence of another of 2005's starters (only four return now) but because he took so many reps with the #1 defense in the spring so whoever takes his place must start from scratch with that unit this fall. Michigan State transfer Tyrone McKenzie (6'2" 230) is a terrific athlete who is hungry to get back on the field after sitting out last season because of transfer rules. McKenzie has been penciled in to play in place of Robinson when fall practices begin. Sophomore Adam Carper (6'3" 225) missed many of the snaps with the starting unit this spring (he even took some reps at defensive end) but he started a few games last season as a redshirt freshman. He is expected to start at one of the outside spots along with junior Alvin Bowen (6'4" 220). True freshman Kris Means (Rocky Mountain News' Defensive POY in 2005) is the most highly-touted of the incoming linebackers and has the size (6'1" 235) to contribute right away for the Cyclones.
Secondary: While the safety spots were emptied by graduation (seniors Steve Paris and Nik Moser were senior leaders and multi-year starters), the Cyclones rejoice at the return of senior DeAndre Jackson (6' 192) at cornerback. Jackson has great size and athleticism and is generally capable of being left alone in coverage when necessary. He had five picks last year. Jon Banks (6'3" 217) will take over at free safety and at least brings with him experience gained as last year's nickel back. True freshman Justin Robertson (6'4" 200) made the Port Arthur News Super Team in Texas in 2005 after recording five interceptions. His tall frame could fit in well with this backfield.
Special Teams: Bad news for Iowa State as they lose their long-snapper and punter (Troy Blankenship and Landon Schrage, respectively) to graduation, along with last year's kickoff returner, Tony Yelk. Fortunately, they return kicker Bret Culberson, who was 20 of 26 in field goal attempts last season.
Final Thoughts: Dan McCarney has gotten more out of little than most coaches and has gotten very little credit for his accomplishments. This year, he has the keys to a potential hot rod on offense. Bret Meyer is a leader with outstanding poise and athleticism. Assuming everyone remains healthy, there are simply too many dangerous weapons for most defenses to keep this offense in check. An opener against Illinois State at least gives new starters a chance to gel with their units before the Cyclones travel to Iowa City to answer for last year's 23-3 upset win at home over the Hawkeyes. Needless to say, the Black and Gold have that one marked on their calendars and the Cyclones better come ready to play if they want to see two consecutive wins to start out their season. The North Division is, again, a crapshoot. By most measures, Nebraska is the cream of the crop and Iowa State gets to host them this year (October 1). It will be strength on strength when the Black Shirts take the field to try to contain what will surely become a very potent Iowa State offense. That will be a game very much worth watching.
Brock Murphy is a Senior NCAA Analyst for Football.com. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"An opener against Illinois State"
Brock didn't look very closely at the schedule, did he? I like his optimism. 7 wins would constitute a successful season in my book with the 2nd toughest sched in the country.
Let's hope is offense is as good as he thinks it will be. Come on o-line!
Tony Yelk was last years kickoff returner?
Sure, luck means a lot in football. Not having a good quarterback is bad luck
- Don Schula.