Cyclone Notebook: Northern Iowa

Questions have surrounded the Iowa State offensive front after the recent injury of Bob Montgomery, and when the coaching staff went searching for a replacement in the form of reserve defensive linemen, those concerns spread to the opposite side of the ball. At least a few of those questions had answers after head coach Dan McCarney's Tuesday press conference in Ames.

With the release of the Cyclones' depth chart for this Saturday night's season opener came some surprises on defense. Five of the top nine players listed for the defensive line are freshman, including a trio of first-year players that will make their debut against the Panthers.

McCarney hasn't shied away from comments on the rapid progress of defensive end Jason Berryman and defensive tackle, and hinted they might see action this fall. But one surprise came with the naming of Matt Scherbring as Nick Leaders' backup at nose guard. The 6-foot-3, 325-pounder didn't spend much time in Ames this summer and looked to be a long shot heading into training camp.

"Matt Scherbring is a young man we had here in (padded) camp and thought he was very physical," said McCarney during the Tuesday press conference. "He's got a lot to learn and is still just a green, young freshman. But he's a 322-pound freshman that's been very physical in camp. We're going to give him the go ahead to play this year and feel very good about him.

"He's just come on. That's a tough position in there. He was here for a little bit of the summer. He has gotten in better practice condition and game condition as two-a-days rolled on. I really like the way that he's worked. Nick Leaders played in there at 270 pounds last year. I'm not going to say Matt Scherbring is going to be a freshman All-American like Nick was last year, but he's 322 pounds and is not a big body in there trying to plug a hole. He's got good feet."

The announcements on Curvey and Scherbring as reserves along the interior line come on the heels of Tim TeBrink's move to offensive line last week. TeBrink had been counted on as the top reserve to Jordan Carstens and Leaders, and will now see time at right guard behind another true freshman, Aaron Brant.

"We moved Tim TeBrink from defensive line to offensive guard for two reasons," McCarney said. "Obviously, number one was the injury to All-Big 12 Bob Montgomery. Number two, the emergence, improvement and performance of some freshmen defensive linemen that have come in here and been a little further along than we thought they would."

Perhaps the most impressive freshman in this class, Berryman, is listed as a second-team rush end behind Tyson Smith. McCarney continued his praise for the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder that picked the Cyclones over Arizona and signed for the Class of 2003.

"Jason Berryman is the one that has had a tremendous camp," McCarney said. "He's going to back up Tyson Smith, but you'll see him get substantial playing time in his first game here Saturday night.

"He's one of the best defensive players we're recruited since we've been here. He's one of the most athletic, most relentless freshmen I've ever been around. I've never been around many freshmen that played that hard every snap. The kids nicknamed him ‘Flash,' because he's real fast and real quick. He runs all the conditioning drills with the linebackers and beats them on every sprint at the end of practice."

More depth chart news

In a move he spoke on initially during Monday's Big 12 teleconference, McCarney elaborated on the decision to start Matt Bockes at center and move Luke Vander Sanden back to guard. The moves account for the loss of all-conference left guard Bob Montgomery, who broke a foot in a scrimmage last week and will be out until at least week three.

"Matt Bockes is a fifth-year senior that has played some and started one game," the ISU coach said. "Our expectations are real high. There better not be any dropoff, and that's what we're telling our offensive line. You can cinch it up, get tighter, play together or you can sit around and complain and cry and make excuses for Bobby not being in the lineup. But I'm not accepting that or buying it. Thank God it's not a season-ending injury."

In some minor moves along the offensive line, redshirt freshman Seth Zehr has been moved to center and will back up Bockes Saturday. Zehr had been in a spring battle with Brant at right guard and will primarily focus on center for the short term.

TeBrink and Kory Pence are on an even line at second-team right guard, while Menard has moved from the right to left side and is now Vander Sanden's backup.

While Cyclone fans could have figured on Lane Danielsen, Jamaul Montgomery and Lance Young starting at wide receiver this weekend, there was some question as to who would fill the two-deep roles. At least for game one, Jack Whitver, David Banks-Bursey and Andy Kohler will be the top reserves. That leaves Jon Davis and Todd Miller, along with freshmen Todd Blythe and Milan Moses on the outside looking in.

On defense, two inside linebabckers that missed all of spring football with injuries have earned second-team roles. Chris Whitaker and Boyd Viers got the nod over redshirt freshmen Kyle Smith and Jimmy Morris. Fellow second-year backer Matt Robertson is out indefinitely with a broken bone in his foot.

Best freshman class ever?

With the emergence of three true freshman defensive linemen and right guard Aaron Brant's securing of a starting job at right guard, the question begs. Could this be the most impressive group of newcomers that McCarney and his staff have signed?

It's hard to argue it's not, especially since some of the marquee names of the Class of 2003, Caleb Berg and Todd Blythe, were two first-year players not on the list of guys set to make their career debuts Saturday.

"I don't know if it's the best, but it's a darn good one," McCarney said. "It's hard to rate and rank. We've only had three weeks with these kids. It's much better than the people around the country thought it was when we signed them in February. We've got another four to six kids that we've had to make hard decision on, whether or not we'd hold them or play them.

"We don't think there is a mistake or a miss so far from what we've seen in that bunch of freshmen we brought in. I'm real happy with them."

McCarney hinted that he might play Berg in his first season, but those plans seem to be on hold with the team's secondary depth.

"We're going to hold Caleb Berg right now," he said. "We're very pleased with him so far, playing safety and special teams. It's been a hard decision with him. But this redshirt isn't some any formal signature on some piece of paper that puts you out for the year. That can change next week or two weeks from now."

The latest on Montgomery

While offering no definitive prognosis for the injured Bob Montgomery, McCarney did offer a few thoughts on the situation.

"I really can't say, just because of the nature of the injury," McCarney said. "It's been a difference of weeks with individual players with surgery like that – putting the pin in – and how much difference there can be. I know he's not going to play the first couple of games, but beyond that I don't know.

"If toughness and want to has anything to do with it, he'll be back a lot sooner than most people are. It's very realistic he'll be back for the Big 12 season, but prior to that it's week to week."

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