Ferguson Takes Quantum Leap in Ames

Attending Iowa State's padded camps has become a routine for Waterloo East's Travis Ferguson, who made yet another June trip to Ames for this week's workouts. But the Ferguson that took to the field Thursday afternoon was an entirely different player than a year ago.

For one, Travis Ferguson is proud of the verbal commitment he gave the Cyclones last summer. At the same time, he hasn't lost the edge that landed him an offer from Dan McCarney, as evidenced by the 20 extra pounds of muscle he's added to his 6-foot-5 frame.

It's too bad McCarney won't be able to put an ISU jersey on Ferguson this fall, because the Waterloo East standout that strapped on the pads Thursday looked like a Division I player.

"It's a little different, but I try not to let that get in the way," said Ferguson when asked if this year's camp feels different from last. "I want to stay focused, humbled and keep working hard like I did when I first came in here.

"I love this camp. It's always a great experience to come out here and get a lot of reps and not a lot of standing around. The coaches are real enthusiastic and like to get in your face and tell you what you're doing wrong. You learn from it. I'm picking up some pretty good habits here."

Another difference between summers is Ferguson's full-time move to defensive end. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he already looks the part of rush end.

"The only difference I can see from last year to this year is I was playing a little bit more outside linebacker last year," he said. "They have put my hand down at defensive end this year. I'm trying to make that adjustment. I still don't know if they want me for tight end or defense, so I'm trying to stay sharp on both sides of the ball."

While he appears headed for the role of pass-rusher at the next level, Ferguson was a jack of all trades for Waterloo East last fall. He recorded 96 tackles and four sacks playing outside linebacker and defensive end, while averaging 15 yards per catch as a tight end. Ferguson also indicated he played some fullback.

Coaches can't be disappointed in how Ferguson has latched onto his newer position. In timing drills Wednesday night, Ferguson showed his ability to run at a new weight.

"I made a big improvement," he said. "I didn't even know my 40 time was that low, but they told me it was a 4.7. The last time I checked it was a 4.82. I'm real proud of that."

Ferguson is clearly a different player physically, but have his thoughts about ISU changed in 12 months? Not one bit, he said.

"The coaches up here are real energetic," he said. "Sometimes I wonder when they get to sleep, because they're always thinking football. I like them because they always let you know what you're doing wrong and correct that mistake. I can't wait to get up here and start playing."

News and Notes

The second padded camp opened Wednesday evening when the group of 230-plus went through timing drills. Camp newcomer Ryan Kelley, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound tailback who traveled from the Los Angeles area, ran a 40 time of 4.46. Kelley is one of two legitimate Division I tailbacks in camp, joining prolific West Des Moines Valley runner Jason Scales.

Both are similar in stature, but have different styles of rushing and put those on display. Kelley tends to be more in the scat-back mold and has the breakaway speed coaches covet. While Scales certainly can break away from defenders, he showed the toughness and grit that helped the Tigers to a state title in 2002. However, both will need some work in the pass-blocking area, as they were abused by blitzing defenders in one-on-one drills.

Kelley is one of two big-time athletes to make the trip from warm weather states. Dallas area defensive end Chris Okanafua is an impressive looking specimen at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds. He received much of his afternoon work at wide receiver, but is no doubt regarded as a defensive player at the next level.

Last year's padded camp produced a majority of the offensive linemen that would sign in February. While the Cyclones likely won't sign as many player at that position in 2004, a few top prospects are on display. Treynor's Jordan Goos and Manson-Northwest Webster's Landon Streit are considered the best of the bunch, but some other dark horses are emerging.

Among those is Omaha (Neb.) Skutt giant Jeff Finochiaro, who is similar in build to '03 signee John Tjaden. Finochiaro came to camp standing at 6-foot-7 and only 265 pounds, but, like Tjaden, will easily grow into a 300-plus pounder in time.

Two top in-state quarterbacks have made their way to Ames -- Cedar Rapids Washington's Warren Suess and Eddyville-Blakesburg's Tyler Lorenzen.


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