Half of 2003 Class Gets Head Start

A few high-profile members of Dan McCarney's signing class of 2003 aren't wasting much time proving their worth at the Division I level in Iowa State's summer strength and conditioning drills. And it should speak volumes for the Cyclones' depth if both don't hit the field as true freshmen.

Indianola's Todd Blythe and Nebraska prep Caleb Berg have gotten off to incredible starts and are training at a similar level of their older, more experienced teammates. Yet, both are at positions where their services might not be needed this fall. Blythe will compete with a legitimate two-deep of receivers, while Berg has JaMaine Billups, Marc Timmons and Steve Paris to contend with.

If Blythe and Berg take redshirts this fall, it won't be for lack of effort.

"Caleb Berg was in here the whole time and just left for the Shrine Game in Nebraska," said ISU strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan. "He has been great to have. The kid jumped right into it and worked at a high level. He's an intense kid. What saw in football camp is the same thing with everything he's done. He works hard, lifts hard and runs. We're going to enjoy having him here.

"Todd Blythe came in from day one and has competed. His ability to compete and get after it is excellent. From a workload standpoint, he stepped right into it. He came in at 194 pounds, is now at 203 and is going to be a good-sized man when he gets done."

The two Midwesterners are getting the highest marks out of the crop of incoming freshmen. McGettigan estimates half of the class McCarney signed in February has been in workouts at one time or another this summer.

Some other youngsters ahead of schedule include Jason Berryman, Brandon Cook and Bret Meyer, who have been mainstays in his intensive workout sessions.

"Jason Berryman has been good," McGettigan said. "The guy can really run and now he needs to get bigger and stronger. Brandon Cook is 339 pounds. He's a man-child and has worked real hard, but has to get a lot stronger for his body size and develop his (agility). But he'll compete and fight through stuff. Bret Meyer jumped in from day one and did a great job. He's a 190-pound kid that's got some tools athletically."

Expect all three to take redshirts this fall, with Berryman being the only player with a remote chance of hitting the field. But with defensive coordinator John Skladany gradually developing depth at defensive end, Berryman will probably need some injuries for a chance to play.

A pair of in-state offensive linemen, John Tjaden and Tom Schmeling, have a head start in the program. However, both are a ways away from contributing. Tjaden is steadily building muscle onto his 6-foot-7 frame and is approaching 295 pounds. Schmeling, meanwhile, needs the most work but has tested out well.

"John Tjaden has been real impressive and is looking pretty good," McGettigan said. "Athletically, he's got the chance to be a big man that can move and run. Tom Schmeling has been good."

Some players that still need some work are Florida linebacker Ron Prelow and Texas defensive lineman Brent Curvey, who have both struggled with the amount of work.

"Ron Prelow is 221 pounds, has some athleticism and can run," McGettigan said. "He has to get used to the workload and capacity, but he has some ability. He has to get stronger."

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