Iowa State football media day will be held Wednesday at Jack Trice Stadium, and both Bill Seals and I will both be there to cover it. In fact, just like I have the past two years, I'll be doing my entire radio program live from the event on 1460-KXNO in Des Moines.
Last year, after a troubling offseason in Iowa City, there was a sense of reaching the finish line at the University of Iowa's football media day. You're likely going to sense the same sort of relief in Ames this year because one thing is abundantly clear about the Cyclone Nation after the tragedy and turmoil that has engulfed the year 2003 thus far:
Everybody is ready for some football.
I love media day. It's a great opportunity to talk football with the players and coaches before the pressure of a season kicks in. It's also the final nail in the coffin to summertime.
This week at media day there are 10 things that I'd like to see and/or hear from the Cyclones as they head into another challenging schedule.
1. Some remorse and humility.
This is really directed at two players in particular – Cris Love and Hiawatha Rutland – who have disappointed their teammates, fans, coaches, and university by getting busted for drunk driving in the final days leading up to two-a-days. If they haven't been humbled from the embarrassment already, or the suspensions they'll both serve for the season-opener against Northern Iowa, they're sure to realize the impact of their folly when they see they're man #104 and #105 on the roster at the start of fall camp.
2. Visibly larger offensive lineman.
The participation and enthusiasm in ISU's offseason conditioning program is drawing rave reviews from our Bill Seals as well as the Cyclone coaching staff. Let's hope Bob Montgomery isn't the only block of granite with thick ankles this fall and that ISU no longer tries to control the line of scrimmage with guys who look like power forwards.
3. A promise from Luke Vander Sanden that he will not get hurt this year.
Vander Sanden had to battle not one, but two, broken legs last year and ISU's running game suffered as a result. Granted, one player does not an offensive line make, but it's no coincidence that ISU's most dominant rushing performance against a quality foe came against Nebraska. Which just so happens to be the one game he started before getting hurt again. Vander Sanden has moved from guard to center this fall, taking over for the departed Zach Butler.
4. A defiant Dan McCarney.
If you attended last week's "Meet the Coaches Night" hosted by the Greater Des Moines Cyclone Club, then you saw Dan McCarney at his best; defying the odds, a lack of expectations, and challenging his players to bring some respect to Cyclone football.
Two years ago, Mac opened his media day press conference by reading the preseason rankings – or lack thereof – for his Cyclones by the various preseason publications. Mac is at his best in these situations, and his players have certainly responded to the lack of respect they've received the past three years. Considering the schedule that awaits, the Cyclone Nation could use an extra chip on Mac's shoulder.
5. A confident Waye Terry.
Terry got hurt in the spring before I had the chance to get up to Ames for practice, so this will be my first opportunity to talk to him. The whispers – and when you read between the lines of McCarney has been saying this summer – seem to indicate he's the man to beat for the starting quarterback job even before Love's suspension.
His mobility is said to be good, but that he's not quite as athletic as redshirt freshman Austin Flynn. He has good size and reportedly a cannon for an arm. Physically, he's supposed to have the package. However, there's more to being a quality starting quarterback in the Big 12 Conference besides talent.
Does he have "it?" I don't know what "it" is specifically, but I think Flynn has it. He just needs experience and to improve his pocket presence. You can tell by the way Flynn carries himself he expects to be a team's quarterback. He's confident and cocksure, and plays with chutzpah.
It will be interesting to see if Terry has "it." All good teams have leadership at quarterback, not wide receiver or guard.
6. A stupid question from Andy Fales of WHO TV-13 in Des Moines.
This is a given.
Old meets new in the ISU backfield as the torch passes. Wagner has been a quality and productive player for the Cyclones these past four years, and is still probably the most punishing blocker at the squad despite his diminutiveness. However, the insertion of the highly touted redshirt freshman from Omaha closes the door on the era of the ISU scatback.
8. That James Wright improved enough over the summer to challenge for a starting spot at tight end.
Wright clearly has the athletic advantage or Brett Kellogg and Kenny Segin, but word out of spring ball is that his progression as a pass receiver was not as rapid as was hoped. Wright was primarily the blocking tight end in a two-tight end scheme in junior college, so here's hoping his improved his pass catching ability over the course of the summer.
9. That Nik Moser has borrowed some weight from Aaron Brant.
Brant, the prized true freshman offensive lineman, is already over 300 pounds. Moser, the athletic former safety, is currently slated to start at linebacker for the Cyclones despite weighing barely 200 pounds. Yikes!
10. The new uniforms meet expectations.
I have been sworn to secrecy about the new duds supplied by Nike, but I can tell you unequivocally they are indeed an improvement from the "Attack of the killer tomatoes" look of the past few seasons.
- ISU is working on finalizing a deal with Army for a home-and-home football series that would begin in 2005 and conclude with the Cyclones visiting West Point in 2006. Both teams would also bring their bands on the road with them.
- The men's basketball schedule is almost complete. There are still two dates left to fill and there also hasn't been a final determination about whether or not to take advantage of the court ruling overturning the NCAA on preseason tournaments last week. So far, the non-conference highlights include Iowa, San Diego State, and Xavier coming to Hilton Coliseum.
- The men's basketball schedule could've also included the likes of Arizona State, Providence, or St. John's but each school backed out of home-and-home agreements.
- It looks as if the men's basketball team will play in the Rainbow Classic in 2004.
- Word from the just-concluded summer camp circuit is that new men's basketball coach Wayne Morgan's favorite clothing attire is oversized ISU football jerseys. I've got to believe that made Morgan stand out like no other coach in a sea of golf and polo shirts.
- There is a chance – albeit slight – that the October 4th Iowa State-Oklahoma game will not air at 6 p.m. on TBS after all. Apparently ABC has called the Big 12 and expressed an interest in carrying the game, particularly if the Cyclones are 3-1 or 4-0 and the Sooners are still the nation's top-ranked team.
- In case you missed it on Friday, we reported that three class of 2003 recruits did not gain eligibility and thus won't play football for ISU this year. They are running back Mike West, linebacker Steve Allen, and linebacker Phillip Stursberg. Allen's family is looking at the financial feasibility of placing him at Iowa Central for two years, while Stursberg just couldn't overcome geography and the differing academic standards from his native Germany. West's immediate plans are not known.
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Central Iowa each weekday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)