Loading up on running backs
The class features five running backs, all with somewhat different styles and physical attributes. The Cyclones concentrated on versatility in this year's class and the group of running backs exemplifies that, as a couple of them could possibly see action on the defensive side of the ball. Greg Coleman, a 6 foot 212 pound back out of Iowa City West and Brandon Gunn, a five foot ten 190 pounder from Omaha Central High School have both shown skills on defense as well as offense.
Valley West Des Moines' Jason Scales (5-9, 205) is already enrolled in classes at Iowa State and took the podium at the press conference. Scales rushed for over 2,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons at Valley and was rated by recruiting services as one of the top backs in the country. McCarney said that Scales is "one of the classiest kids we've ever brought into this program."
Rounding out the group are speedster Webster Patrick (5-8, 200) out of Spring, Texas, and Tyease Thompson (5-10, 180) from Lakeland, Florida, both of whom garnered numerous national accolades. The Cyclones beat out National Champion contender LSU for Thompson's services.
Running backs coach Tony Alford was all smiles at the press conference, admitting afterwards that one of his main tasks next year will be to keep all the talent at his disposal content with whatever roles they may assume.
Things are going South
Iowa State has a long history of recruits from the states of Florida and Texas, but broke new ground this year by bringing in a player each from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Those three, safety Jerry Gair (6-0, 200), cornerback LaMarcus Hicks (6-0, 190), and linebacker Tim Dobbins (6-1, 245), are all expected to challenge for two-deep spots. "That's why we brought them in," defensive coordinator John Skladany said.
"We mailed down there and made some calls, but really didn't do much of anything down there (the deep south)," McCarney said. "What we did was waste some time there in the past. We didn't invest down there. But DeMontie Cross got down there and did an excellent job. He built some relationships and let them know we're going to be down there. There is talent, ability, exposure and awareness of the Big 12 and with our program. We'd be crazy not to go back."
The Cyclones certainly didn't shy away from their favorite recruiting haunts in Florida and Texas, however. Five players from Texas and three from Florida also signed on to play for the Cardinal and Gold on Wednesday.
Cotten has an impact
Even though new offensive coordinator/line coach Barney Cotten has been on staff just a short time, he had an impact on recruiting as the Cyclones signed Nebraska lineman Brandon Johnson (6-3, 285). Cotten had seen Johnson in Nebraska's summer camp and put a late move on the Rushville, Nebraska native during the final two weeks of recruiting. Cotten was also instrumental in keeping the previously committed linemen in the fold and even helped with the running back situation as the Cyclones' vow to return to the power running of the Davis/Haywood eras was key in convincing the talented backs to come on board.
"We have a real opportunity to play in a well-balanced offense and get back to where we were for seven years," McCarney said. "Under Barney's leadership I know we're going to get back to that."
Athleticism on defense
According to defensive coordinator John Skladany, the group of defensive players signed Wednesday is probably the most athletic ever to sign with Iowa State. He was particularly pleased with the group of defensive backs that feature more height than the Cyclones have seen in the past in the secondary. Five of the group are six foot or over and several have the potential to play either safety or corner or perhaps even move to linebacker in the future.
In JUCO transfer Dobbins, Skladany will have a "big, fast, physical, experienced linebacker," to work with. Defensive lineman Fabian Dodd, who was at Iowa his first year, brings size and experience to the table.
Facilities and player updates
Work on the new indoor practice facility is progressing nicely, according to McCarney. Installation of the turf will begin next week, which is the final step in the project.
"Hopefully by the end of February or early March we'll be in that building," McCarney said. "Without question it really helped our recruiting this year. It's going to be an unbelievable facility and there won't be any professional or college facility better than that in America."
Linebacker Jimmy Morris, who had a severe knee injury and surgery will not be ready in time for spring ball.
Waye Terry is going to have to give up his football career at Iowa State.
"It was a problem that was detected in the Missouri game, and went way back long before his career began at Iowa State," McCarney said. "Thank God that happened before any serious damage was done. He's planning on staying here and we want him to get his degree, but his playing days are over."
Spring football practice begins on March 24th and the annual spring game will be held on April 17th. Spring practice is open to the public.