One position that Cyclone fans feel pretty comfortable about—and they should—is wide receiver. I can't remember Iowa State ever having this much talent and production returning at wideout.
Consider the following statistics: The top four receivers totaled 194 receptions for 2,947 yards in 2002. That's an average of 49 catches for 737 yards per man! And an average of 15 yards per reception. Talk about DEPTH.
There are some great receivers coming back this year in the Big 12 Conference in 2003. Roy Williams of Texas had 64 catches for 1,142 yards last season. Rashaun Woods of Oklahoma State made 107 receptions for 1,695 yards in 2002. Jamaar Taylor of Texas A&M had 44 catches for 760 yards last fall.
However, no team in the league boasts the returning production that the Cyclones have at this position. Here are the 2002 numbers for each of the top four ISU receivers…
Lane Danielsen: As a junior, the former walk-on from Dike hauled in 63 passes for 1,073 yards. The yardage mark broke Tracy Henderson's old ISU record, which stood for 20 years. Danielsen averaged 17 yards per catch to lead the team. In addition, he used his speed as a ball carrier on occasion, finishing with 148 rushing yards on 15 carries, including three touchdowns.
Jack Whitver: In 2002, the Grinnell native totaled 52 receptions for 685 yards, an average of 13.2 yards per catch. Although he's only 5-10 and 183 pounds, Whitver is as sure-handed as they get. You can always look for #26 to make a tough third-down grab.
Lance Young: He had a very productive junior year in 2002, with 43 catches for 704 yards and a team-leading six touchdown receptions. Young averaged 16.4 yards per catch.
Jamaul Montgomery: Last season, Montgomery had 36 receptions for 485 yards and reached the end zone five times. He averaged 13.5 yards per catch.
Can these guys possibly improve on these numbers? My guess is that they could…but Iowa State will be better off if they don't.
For the Cyclones to put together another bowl season and contend in the Big 12 North, they are going to need to be able to run the football more successfully than they did last season. Obviously, there are a few big keys to getting that done…
The offensive line has to perform at a higher level.
Stevie Hicks must be somewhere close to as good as advertised.
Most football coaches will tell you that they would prefer to build their offense from the inside out. In other words, the priority is to have a strong offensive line, a good quarterback, a good running back and then some good receivers…in that order.
At ISU this fall, it may be a different story. If the four senior receivers can make enough plays, it will take pressure off the rookie QB (Flynn or Terry) and it will open things up for a rookie tailback (Hicks).
I bet that Coach Dan McCarney will do everything in his power to establish a strong running game in the first two weeks against UNI and Ohio. He knows that he'll need to be able to run the ball consistently in the next two games against Iowa and Northern Illinois…and throughout the Big 12 season…to be successful.
If the Cyclones can establish the run against their opponents, there will be some big-play opportunities for the receiving corps. However, the rushing attack will probably still be the priority. So, it might not be such a bad sign if the production is down in 2003 for the likes of Danielsen, Whitver, Young and Montgomery.
However, when it's third-and-six, it's nice to know that those guys are there…and that they've made the plays many times before.
Bobby G.: How good do you think Stevie Hicks is going to be this season? Will we have another 1,000 yard runner or will we have to wait another year or 2 for that?
I think Hicks is going to be a good one for the Cyclones. Obviously, he's gotten a TON of attention already for someone who hasn't had a single carry for ISU. The last college football player in Iowa who received this much praise before he played a down was a fella named Willie Guy, who played for the Hawkeyes a decade ago. And that didn't exactly work out as planned.
But, every time I read Coach McCarney's comments about the redshirt freshman from Omaha, I'm more optimistic than I was before. For example, take a look at yesterday's Big 12 Teleconference recap that Bill Seals put together. McCarney uses phrases like "clearly our best running back" to describe Hicks.
However, the big key for ISU—and the production of Hicks—is the offensive line. If the Cyclones can win the battles up front, everything else will fall into place. Including another 1,000-yard season for an ISU tailback.
Geoffrey D.: Marty, Thanks for the column on Fred Hoiberg. I live in the suburbs of Chicago and really have appreciated his hustle and his character while he has been a Bull, especially in light of current athletes(?) in the news. The NBA and media outlets would do well to feature more guys like Hoiberg and fewer of the more "newsworthy" athletes. I want my son (10 yrs old) to have the qualities of a guy like Fred and not the qualities of a guy like Kobe or pretty much any marquis player in the NBA.
Thanks for the kind words, Geoffrey D. I totally agree with you that it's too bad that more attention isn't paid to great role models like Hoiberg. Throughout his career, "The Mayor" has represented himself, his family, Iowa State University and the state of Iowa in a first-class manner…and has always been a player his teams could count on. As a big Bulls fan, I was very sorry to see him go. Not surprisingly, Hoiberg left Chicago with nothing but positive comments and an optimistic outlook.
Wouldn't it be great if every 10-year old were trying to emulate Hoiberg? Instead, so many of today's kids are already taunting, strutting and trash-talking when they're that age. Ugh.
Josh M.: Marty, After hearing of the taped conversations involving former Baylor men's basketball coach Dave Bliss attempting a cover-up of the scandals with the program, do you feel that the basketball team should be given the death penalty? I think when you look at the big picture the sum of these major violations could prompt such a ruling. Also, if I were the Big XII, I would give serious consideration to removing Baylor from the conference. It's about time somebody stands up and says that this type of behavior from "student-athletes" and despicable self-serving programs will not be tolerated. What do you think?
I think that when I heard the comments made by Dave Bliss, I was about ready to vomit. While it's always disgusting when million-dollar, professional athletes do ridiculously stupid, reckless and illegal things, it's almost become so commonplace that I'm not all that affected anymore. But when I saw the comments made by a man who was in charge of a college basketball program—a coach who has always been portrayed a one of the "good guys"—I was stunned.
I would have a hard time disagreeing with any punishment that is thrown in the direction of the Baylor basketball program. And while I am positive that guys like Mike Price and Larry Eustachy will find college coaching jobs in the near future, I will be shocked if Bliss ever has a similar position again.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. His columns for CN online are published each Tuesday and Friday. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)