As always, Cyclones Scoop is a weekly scatter-shooting of program and recruiting information, exclusive to AllCyclones.com subscribers.
I asked a good source this week who the surprise player of the summer had been for the Cyclones.
The answer? Oft-beleaguered senior linebacker Jevohn Miller.
"Honestly," the source said. "He's taken initiative, being a leader for the linebackers and hitting great numbers in the weight room. Rhoads even personally selected him to go with [Tom] Farniok and [Cory] Morrissey to Big 12 media days. The guy deserves this. He has surprised me. He wants it bad this year."
There's no telling where Miller fits into Wally Burnham's defensive plans. Last time we saw him, in the Spring Game, he was starting at weakside linebacker, but it's not likely he usurps Luke Knott there now that Knott's healthy. Jordan Harris and Alton Meeks are the front-runners for first snaps at middle linebacker, a position Miller also profiles at.
Miller was benched after a poor showing versus UNI in last season's opener then made his return to the starting lineup at WLB once Knott went down. The first few games were rocky, but Miller adjusted well, tallying 10 tackles against Oklahoma and eight in the finale against West Virginia.
The coaching staff was disappointed with Miller last fall, because he didn't seem ready for the spotlight. A starting job was his after years of waiting and he didn't take advantage. That doesn't appear to be the case heading into the 2014 campaign.
This weekend is shaping up to be the biggest one yet on Iowa State's recruiting calendar. The Cyclones hold a camp Friday night, set to run until around 10 p.m., and the talent figures to be very good. For the first time since June 7, when Seth Nerness went through drills, Iowa State will host and camp a player with a prior offer. Denver Johnson, the three-star wide receiver presently committed to Tulsa, will be there. So will Jeff Smith of Clearwater Central Catholic, Florida, who the staff has offered as a cornerback but would like to see throw. Josh Little, a two-star defensive end from Oklahoma with an offer, will either be at Friday's camp or Saturday's Junior Day. He's driving up with friend Bryce Balous, a three-star safety from Texas with a Hawkeyes offer.
Jake Heinrich, the 2016 Urbandale offensive lineman and a top-300 player in his class, is expected to be in Ames for both events.
Just for clarification, an elite Junior Day will take place Saturday, almost exclusively for players with offers.
A few notable, future D-I players I've been able to confirm for Friday camp:
Expected big-name visitors for Saturday's J-Day
I think Johnson, Smith, Little & Company will be double-dippers and stay in Ames for the Saturday J-Day.
Spears is not sure of the plans for Josh Moore, an Olathe North tight end who could grow into an offensive tackle. Moore said a while ago he'd be in Ames for this weekend but that hasn't been confirmed.
- You thought I'd just leave that Demond Tucker nugget up there and not re-address it? Tucker is supposed to be driving up with a few buddies from Mississippi to Iowa this weekend, though nobody is banking on anything until Tucker gets in the car and steers it north for the 10-hour drive.
Multiple sources tell AllCyclones.com that Tucker, last year's NJCAA defensive player of the year, is a strong Iowa State lean and would like to make an official commitment soon, but his father would like him to see the facilities first.
So, if a drive is so much trouble, why can't Tucker use one of his five official visits, which he's eligible to do as a JUCO player, and get an expenses-paid trip to Ames? He's saving that ISU official visit in his back-pocket with plans to catch a football game this fall — and it's a nice safety-net for the Cyclones, who'll use the visit to either firm up his commitment, if he should pledge this weekend, or obtain a commitment, should Tucker be unable to visit this weekend.
Tucker is a 6-foot-1 defensive tackle with offers from Texas A&M, Oklahoma and others who recorded 13.5 sacks as a freshman at Co-Lin. He's good friends with ISU linebacker Jordan Harris.
- More on Jeff Smith, the Florida surprise (I alluded to a surprise the other day, didn't I?): Smith told AllCyclones.com on Wednesday he has an offer from ISU as an "athlete" but wants to work out at QB this weekend. He has offers from Boston College and Indiana as a quarterback. Wisconsin has offered as a defensive back.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Smith is on a Midwest swing and has been tough to pin down for a phone interview. He visited Purdue on Wednesday and Indiana on Thursday.
- I'm paying attention to Seth Nerness this weekend, and whether he commits. A decision could be on the horizon.
- The nation's No. 84 running back, Devine Ozigbo of Sachse High in Texas, has the Cyclones in his top eight. They have the chance to get in better position this weekend. Ozigbo told AllCyclones.com the plan is to visit Iowa (a long-time offer) over the first part of the weekend and then see Ames on Sunday. Ozigbo is perhaps the No. 1 running back target for ISU and Louis Ayeni at the moment.
- Nazareth (IL) offensive tackle Jack Shutack will be trying to get to Ames for Friday or Saturday, depending on his mother's work schedule. The Cyclones offered not too long ago. Shutack lists N.C. State as his favorites but there's time left: He told Scout.com he'd like to wait to make a decision until after his senior season.
- Coffeyville (KS) JUCO defensive lineman Timmy Hamilton has set an Iowa State official visit for the weekend of July 24-26.
- Port Charlotte (FL) safety Malik Vaccaro-Dixon has not set any out-of-state visits for this summer. The Cyclones are in his top four.
- Milton (GA) safety Obe Fortune on getting up to Ames this summer: "I would love to but there is just no way … I'm probably going to do an official visit [in the fall] because they were my first offer."
- ISU has shown interest in Dowling Catholic (IA) linebacker Nick Wilson, who camped in Ames last weekend. Wilson has an offer from Western Illinois and is receiving other interest from UNI, Illinois State, NDSU, Iowa and Northwest Missouri State.
- Spoke with the aforementioned Marcel Spears, who'll make his second trip to Ames this spring: "I love it, I appreciate everything they do for me and this helps the relationship-building process so I can't wait.
Spears was recently offered by Missouri but his recruitment remains level. He enjoys the staff-wide attention the Cyclones give him.
"Everybody is in the same spot right now," he said. "I'm trying to build a relationship with every school that's offered me. I'm blessed and thankful for every offer I've gotten so far.
"(Graduate assistant, Pete) Brown is my main contact, the head coach gave me the offer, and everybody's sending me hand-written letters. I can't wait to meet them all."
Spears got a glance of the ISU facilities during a Junior Day in March and is looking forward to a second look.
"Hopefully I get a bigger tour of the whole complex and get to talk one-one-one with the coaches personally, now that I have the offer," he said.
- From the land of offered-and-committed-elsewhere this week: Kraig Howe (Pitt), David Edwards (Wisconsin).
For a more comprehensive take on Iowa State's quarterback recruiting at this point, consult Wednesday's feature article: Arms Race