"It's a major blow," said ISU head coach Dan McCarney. "You lose 20 pounds, all those starts and that experience. Tyson has been out there starting against Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and played real good football. Jason's never started in a game and played one the other night. He did some good things, but he's never started a game."
Berryman's upside is what has coaches raving about the 6-foot-2, 230-pound defensive end from Houston (Texas) Kashmere High School. The stories began during training camp and continued through his debut against the Panthers Saturday night.
"He's one of the fastest kids on the team and even faster than Tyson," McCarney said. "His athleticism and quickness would rival Tyson. He's real good that way. He's just so green and inexperienced, but he's relentless from an effort standpoint and has the maturity level of a young man beyond 18 years old. He plays older and we hope he'll continue doing that."
The defensive player of the year in District 22-4A, Berryman wrapped up an outstanding high school career with 140 tackles and 31 sacks. Although several big-time schools expressed interest in Berryman, ISU would end up beating out Arizona and Pittsburgh for his services.
His decision to attend most of summer workouts became a good one for Berryman, who laid the foundation for a breakout training camp in Ames.
The career paths of Berryman and Smith are comparable in a lot of ways, as both played huge roles as under-sized first-year players.
"I'd say they're pretty similar when they came in as freshmen," McCarney said. "Jason is just faster and hasn't had anybody beat him in a sprint since we reported to camp. He runs with the linebackers. He has linebacker speed and maybe safety speed, and we have him playing with his hand down at rush end."
Wagner makes another comeback
He labored as a third-team tailback in crowded backfields, as Ennis Haywood made headlines, and found himself as the odd one out at times last season with Hiawatha Rutland and Brian Thompson in the mix. This spring was more of the same, as Rutland and redshirt freshman Stevie Hicks emerged as the top two runners.
Now the fifth-year senior can say his career has come full circle, as he'll be the one starting against Ohio Saturday, McCarney announced Tuesday morning. Wagner surpassed Stevie Hicks in the depth chart after rushing for 87 yards in a reserve role last weekend.
"He's just a team guy all the way," McCarney said. "He's the epitome of a team player, an unselfish player. He had a great attitude all through camp. Hiawatha was on suspension, and Stevie (Hicks) was scrimmaging a little bit better in the spring and two-a-days and earned that number one spot.
"But when the lights came on and it came to gametime, Wags was more effective and did a better job. But we're not about to desert Stevie Hicks and still know he's going to have a great career here."
What ISU's offensive coaches had hoped to avoid this season was a repeat of last season's tailback carousel. With Wagner's promotion, Hicks' demotion and Rutland's return, McCarney hopes to settle on one go-to back in the near future.
"I don't want to get into musical chairs at running back," the ISU coach said. "We did that last year a little bit because of Hiawatha's ankle injury and because we weren't as effective as we normally are running the football. But I'd rather find out here just as soon as we can who our gamer is and our best back and starter, then we know we're going to have real quality backups."
Fourth quarter woes not unnoticed
The Cyclone offense's final 15 minutes of play against UNI is not a script offensive coordinator Steve Brickey wants to read again anytime soon. A ground-oriented attack sputtered down the stretch to the tune of five total yards over 10 plays, as two of three possessions end after just three plays.
"That was disappointing," McCarney said. "We had seven three-and-outs in that game and some of that came in the fourth quarter. We just kept missing on some things. There would be a mental breakdown, a missed assignment or we just missed making a play. We won the game, won the fourth quarter, but it wasn't because of a great offensive performance. We played great defense, the special teams were strong and we won the field position. We've got to finish stronger than that offensively."
What were the reasons for some of those offensive breakdowns?
"Looking at the tape, it was a combination of things," McCarney said. "There wasn't any one person, Austin or Stevie, but we've got to execute a lot better than that. Seventeen points is not what we're looking for when we line up to play on any given Saturday. We definitely need to improve."