SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Iowa St. Cyclones

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Dan McCarney (9th year, 36-57)
2002 record: 7-7 (Lost to Boise State 34-16 in Humanitarian Bowl)
Big 12 finish: 3rd (North)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 145.0 ypg
(7th in Big 12, 61st in nation)
Pass: 236.3 ypg (5th, 43rd)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 174.6 ypg (11th, 88th )
Pass: 184.3 ypg (3rd, 24th)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
SE   26   Jack Whitver   Sr.  
FL  83  Jamaul Montgomery  Sr. 
WR   82   Lane Danielsen   Sr.  
LT   71   Casey Shelton   Sr.  
LG   65   Bob Montgomery   Sr.  
67  Luke Vander Sanden  Jr. 
RG  58  Seth Zehr  Fr. 
RT   53   Cale Stubbe   Jr.  
TE  85  Kenny Segin  Jr. 
QB  16  Cris Love Jr.  Jr. 
TB  12  Hiawatha Rutland  Sr. 
FB  31  Ryan Kock  Fr. 
Defense (6)
DE   1   Tyson Smith   Sr.  
DT   92   Jordan Carstens   Sr.  
NG   66   Nick Leaders   So.  
DE  91  Tim TeBrink  Jr. 
SLB  58  Erik Anderson  Jr. 
MLB   33   Brandon Brown   Jr.  
WLB  45  Joe Woodley  Sr. 
CB  17  Anthony Forrest  Jr. 
CB   11   Ellis Hobbs III   Jr.  
SS   6   JaMaine Billups   Sr.  
FS  Steve Paris  So. 
Special Teams
K   49   Adam Benike   Sr.  
P   14   Tony Yelk   Jr.  
KR  80  Lance Young  Sr. 
PR  Todd Miller  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  Northern Iowa 
Sept. 6  Ohio 
Sept. 13  Iowa 
Sept. 27  at Northern Illinois 
Oct. 4  Oklahoma 
Oct. 11  at Texas Tech 
Oct. 18  Texas 
Oct. 25  at Nebraska 
Nov. 1  at Missouri 
Nov. 8  Kansas State 
Nov. 15  Colorado 
Nov. 22  at Kansas 
There were no complaints last December when Iowa State accepted an invitation to its school-record third straight bowl game. But after starting 6-1 and entering the Top 10, the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, wasn't exactly the trip the Cyclones had in mind.

With another difficult schedule to deal with this year -- although most of the toughies are at home -- it won't be easy for Iowa State to make it four postseasons in a row.

Coach Dan McCarney must replace sensational quarterback Seneca Wallace and a handful of other senior leaders, but he welcomes back the core of his team.

At the forefront of the minds of many players and coaches is putting 2002's disappointing 1-6 finish behind them. "We didn't like the way we finished, obviously," McCarney said. "We accomplished a lot of good things last year, but we want to finish strong. We want to start fast this year and finish strong and hopefully have some choices of some places to go at the end of the season."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

For the first time in a decade, Iowa State finds itself without a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback to start the season. Three players without a Division I-A start among them -- juniors Cris Love and Waye Terry and freshman Austin Flynn -- are competing for the starting job. Love played in four games last season behind Wallace, while Terry, a talented junior college transfer, and Flynn, a top Texas high school quarterback, both redshirted in 2002.

The starting tailback spot is also up for grabs. Incumbents Hiawatha Rutland (614 yards), Michael Wagner (542) and Brian Thompson (305) had their moments last season but struggled behind a young and undersized offensive line. Redshirt freshman Stevie Hicks turned heads as the Scout Team Player of the Year in 2002 and could be a contributor in goal-line situations.

The Cylcones will have take the field without both Love and Rutland in their Aug. 30 home opener -- both players were suspended as a result of drunk driving charges.

Whoever is at quarterback will have plenty of capable targets. The Cyclones' top six pass catchers return, led by Lane Danielsen, who is on track to set school records for career receptions and yards.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

The Cyclones are strongest up front and in the secondary. Jordan Carstens is an NFL prospect at defensive tackle. He will get some help from noseguard Nick Leaders, who started last year as a true freshman, and Tyson Smith, a pass-rushing specialist. Smith helped ISU nearly double its sack output from 2001 (up to 31 from 17), but like his linemates, he has trouble against the run.

Linebackers Matt Word and Jeremy Loyd are gone, leaving a big hole in the middle. Injury and inexperience could catch up with ISU here.

Offenses were able to throw the ball over the top of the Cyclones' pint-sized cornerbacks last season; in many cases, the receiver simply outjumped the defender. Safety Anthony Forrest was moved to left corner to help solve the problem and find a spot for the talented junior, ISU's MVP in the Humanitarian Bowl. Though still not huge in the secondary, the Cyclones make up for it with brawn.

"There's no slight-built, little midgets out there. All those guys, regardless of their height, are built pretty good," McCarney said.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Placekicker Adam Benike was possibly the team's biggest surprise, earning first-team all-Big 12 honors and bringing some much-needed stability to ISU's kicking game. Benike was 17-of-23 on field goals and hit all but two of his 48 extra-point attempts. Talented but inconsistent Tony Yelk (42.3 yards per punt) and sophomore Troy Blankenship (40.8) will battle in preseason practice for the punting duties.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

McCarney successfully turned around Iowa State after inheriting a team that was winless the year before he arrived. After 23 victories the past three years, he was rewarded with a hefty $910,000 contract that runs through 2010. There's some doubt whether he'll fulfill the deal if he continues to win.

ISU gets a break from the schedule-maker this fall -- and it's well deserved after last year's brutal slate. Five of the Cyclones' seven opponents who played in bowl games a year ago will visit Jack Trice Stadium.

The Cyclones could start out 4-0 but will need to pull off an upset or two in the league to guarantee another bowl bid. Finding a quarterback who can lead what could be a potent offense will go a long way toward determining whether Iowa State can do what was once unthinkable and make its fourth bowl game in a row.

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