The spring season has reached its end for Iowa State, and the Cyclones will wrap up the five weeks worth of practices with a spring game Saturday.
Do you find yourself searching for more reasons than free admission and a new football poster to make your way to Jack Trice Stadium for the scrimmage? Here are five things (of many) to look for beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday.
1. The new man in the middle
Improvement for Iowa State’s defensive unit in 2015 will ultimately boil down to more than one of the 11 players, but there is no doubt that the strength of a defense begins up front in the trenches. Smack dab in the middle of Iowa State’s defensive line Saturday will be 6-foot, 287-pound noseguard, Demond Tucker.
Tucker arrived at Iowa State in January as a mid-year transfer facing high expectations from both coaches and fans. The JUCO transfer was the NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and was regarded as one of the top JUCO defensive line recruits. His arrival gives hope for a playmaker who can begin to transform the Cyclones’ defense.
What to look for Saturday? Despite being shorter, Tucker is said to be an explosive player up front and has evidently showed it in spring practices. This will be the first glimpse to see his talent.
2. The new look middle linebacker
This very well could have (and probably was) a thing to look for last spring, but alas, here it is again. The man in the middle of Iowa State’s defense Saturday will be Jordan Harris. The former JUCO transfer arrived at Iowa State in time for spring ball last year, but ultimately was redshirted when the coaching staff didn't feel he was ready to fully grasp the defense.
Luckily for Iowa State, coaches say Harris looks like a totally different player this spring and has surged to No. 1 at middle linebacker. Harris was already known to be a fast and athletic linebacker, but his knowledge of Iowa State’s defense and the critical grasp of making switches from his linebacker position is said to have him playing at a new speed. This will be the first chance to see it.
3. Who is that in the backfield?
OK, so maybe you won’t get a full look.
Nonetheless, the view of Iowa State’s backfield will be a good one Saturday as the faces the Cyclones run out at running back are quite unfamiliar. Tyler Brown got all of 24 carries last season, and Michael Warren redshirted. With Martinez Syria (20 carries in ’14) out for the spring after jamming his neck, expect to get a good impression of what Brown and Warren have to offer.
Warren will be one to key in on as this will truly be the first look at the powerful and quick back. He was a top-100 back out of Lawton, Okla., and coaches and players raved about him last season while he played on the scout team.
One last thing? If you see No. 22 racking up the carries, that’s walk-on Mitch Harger. With Syria out, Harger has stepped up to add depth for the Cyclones. Whether he’ll get a single carry in 2015 is unknown, but he will to be a key special teams player.
4. Look at all those news faces... Err, numbers
While Tucker and Harris might be two of the biggest players to look for, there is no shortage of new faces for Iowa State this spring. Be on the lookout for the new arrivals, as Iowa State expects them to be keys to 2015 success.
- No. 12, Jarnor Jones — Jones is a mid-year transfer from Georgia Military who has experience previously at N.C. State. The physical nickel has jumped to No. 1 at the nickel/SAM spot this spring and has shown an ability to make plays.
- No. 17, Jomal Wiltz — Said to be “quick as a cat,” Wiltz is a versatile defensive back who arrived as a mid-year transfer from Trinity Valley C.C. Wiltz is playing cornerback for the Cyclones, and as of a recent practice had 18 pass breakups this spring. He has proven to be a playmaker in five weeks time.
- No. 53, Patrick Scoggins — Scoggins, a mid-year transfer from Long Beach C.C., started the spring at center, but has since switched to his more natural guard position. This will be an opportunity to see the big lineman.
- No. 10, Brian Peavy — After redshirting last season in his first year as Iowa State, Peavy has made an impression on coaches this spring. Paul Rhoads and Maurice Linguist have raved about the young corner.
- Last, but not least… — There are so many other names. Be on the lookout for: two new receivers, No. 14 Darius Lee-Campbell (moved from QB) and No. 82 Kenneth Lynn (moved from corner); new safety, No. 3 Mike Johnson, who was a grayshirt last year; defensive linemen, No. 11 Gabe Luna and No. 52 Terry Ayeni, who both missed 2014 with injuries; new tight end, No. 87 Cole Anderson, who switched from center.
- Oh, and you won’t see… — There are several players you won’t see as they were either limited or non-participants this spring. Some of those names include receivers Quenton Bundrage, D’Vario Montgomery and Dondre Daley, offensive linemen Daniel Burton and Jacob Dunning, running back Martinez Syria, defensive linemen Mitchell Meyers and Robby Garcia and linebackers Levi Peters and Luke Knott to name a few.
5. The race for the No. 2 quarterback
Fans can take a deep sigh of relief this spring, as there will be no need to intently watch the quarterbacks during a heated battle for the No. 1 spot. Sam Richardson will be the No. 1 guy in 2015. Instead, look at Grant Rohach and Joel Lanning to see who might be No. 2 and, more importantly, what the future holds.
Paul Rhoads has said there is no clear leader for the No. 2 spot between Rohach and Lanning, adding that both have progressed well. While Iowa State is unlikely to showcase it during the scrimmage, Lanning and his bigger body could be used in different ways next season.