Robertson, Poullard Shine on Day Five

Iowa State's defense is on a roll this spring, and the impressive play came from some unlikely players during practice number five on Wednesday. The absence of linebacker Joe Woodley and cornerback Johnny Smith afforded Matt Robertson and Henry Poullard extra playing time, and the two youngsters took advantage.

A redshirt freshman coming off a year of handling scout-team duties, Robertson played first-team WILL linebacker and fared well. He started the day impressively in 9-on-9 drills, then carried that over to an abbreviated scrimmage. His most memorable hit came when he stopped highly touted tailback Stevie Hicks in his tracks for a loss.

"Matt Robertson did some real good things," said Cyclone head coach Dan McCarney. "Joe Woodley was on a class trip today out of state. Matt stepped in and went with the number ones the whole time and played well. That's not easy. He's been a scout team guy looking at cards all season long and jumped in there with the ones."

Poullard showed off some rare physical play out of the cornerback position stepping in for Smith, who's been battling Anthony Forrest for a starting job. Poullard made one tackle for a loss, slipping off a blocking wide receiver to make the hit. He also deflected a pair of passes intended for David Banks-Bursey and Jon Davis.

McCarney also had good things to say about Poullard, who has been buried in the depth chart at cornerback throughout his college career and has made his mark in other areas.

"I'm proud of him," McCarney said. "He's one of the toughest guys on our team, yet one of the smallest defensive backs we have. He lettered last year on the special teams and comes ready to practice with a phenomenal attitude. He played quarterback in high school and is still making the transition, but he plays with that extra heartbeat." Some other top defensive players included Jordan Carstens and Tyson Smith, who made the quarterbacks' day a long one by recording sacks and numerous pressures.

Jamar Buchanan continues to make his mark as an outside linebacker and put one of the biggest hits of the day on a rolling out Waye Terry. Redshirt freshman defensive end Korey Smith also recorded a sack on the day. Marc Timmons maintained his solid play by picking off his second pass in as many practices.

The latter part of practice stressed goal-line offense against defense, and McCarney had to be pleased with the way his defense stepped up to the plate. Anthony Forrest made a memorable tackle on Michael Wagner to save a touchdown and force a field goal. The offense, even with the battering Hicks in the backfield, found it hard to run around the goal-line.

"I was real proud of them," McCarney said. "They came ready to practice and flew to the ball. We got a lot of good physical plays by our defense. We got some good stops on third down and a goal-line stand, which is an area we really need to improve. We were horrible at best in goal-line defense last year, so that's an area we're targeting. It was really nice to see them get a stand."

Offensively, the Cyclones made some big plays and their running backs got some running lanes at times. But success was very sporadic. Hicks, Hiawatha Rutland and Brian Thompson all rushed for touchdowns in the scrimmage. Thompson's came from 40 yards out when he dashed upfield to the end zone. Rutland scored on a nine-yard run, while Hicks battered his way in from four yards.

Unofficially, Thompson led all rushers with five carries for 56 yards. Rutland added six carries for 31 yards, while Hicks netted just six yards on four carries. Wagner also struggled to find much running room on three carries.

The quarterbacks probably had their least productive day in pads this spring, as both Cris Love and Terry threw interceptions. Love was nearly picked off again in a situational drill prior to scrimmage, but the ball bounced off the hands of Carstens. Love completed 2-of-4 passes for 19 yards, while Terry completed one pass to Banks-Bursey for seven yards. Flynn completed on 3-of-4 short passes and rushed four times for 16 yards.

On the offensive line, Seth Zehr and Aaron Brant continued to alternate at first-team right guard. The other four starters have remained constant, with Bob Montgomery, Casey Shelton, Cale Stubbe and Luke Vander Sanden holding down the fort.

Although Wednesday's practice marked the second straight day the defense has had a clear edge, McCarney said there's no cause for concern.

"I want more out of both sides right now, but we've only had three days in pads with new quarterbacks and feeding in a new tailback, tight end and right guards," he said. "Normally your defense is going to be a little bit ahead right now, but I'm not all shook up and in the tank about our offense. When you go best against best, somebody is going to win. The defense got the edge overall today."

More practice notes

Tony Yelk had a punt blocked while working with the second-team. The Cyclones stressed special teams extensively in practice Wednesday. Todd Miller and Banks-Bursey took the field as first-team punt returners, but Banks-Bursey hurt his cause by dropping one ball and Miller shined with a return that went for a touchdown.

Brandon Brown came to the sideline late in practice with ice on his shoulder, but it was only a precaution since the starting linebacker had surgery in the off-season. Brown did make a nice pass deflection in situational drills.

"We've gotten a lot done and no major injuries, which is the best news of the whole thing," McCarney said. "Overall, this is a real competitive team. Brandon had surgery on his shoulder after the season and he's fine. We're not going to overdo it out here coming off of shoulder surgery."

Other than the punt block, Tony Yelk continued his spring onslaught by booming a number of punts and remaining perfect on his field goals.

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