Spring Practice Report Four

Despite Iowa State's overall youth and inexperience on defense, John Skladany's unit gained some momentum in the second day in pads. But in addition to some big plays from the usual suspects, Jason Berryman and Brandon Brown, the defense got a pair of turnovers from a spring newcomer that Cyclone fans have heard plenty about in the past two years.

Working with the second- and third-team as a backup to starting strong safety Nik Moser, hard-hitting redshirt freshman Caleb Berg made a remarkable interception and forced a fumble during team pass and team run drills. Although it may still be too soon to move Berg up with the ones, his effort on Monday didn't hurt his chances for increased playing time.

"He made a couple of plays with the twos and threes, so that's nice to see," said Skladany. "We'll have to see how he does throughout the spring (before moving him up with the ones)."

But it wasn't just Berg's effort that had Cyclone coaches talking afterwards. Dan McCarney said he was pleased with the tempo at which his defense performed.

"Tonight the defense had a little bit of an edge," said ISU's head coach. "But I wouldn't necessarily say overall this spring it's been that way. But the defense did a good job of going after the ball and our defense got some turnovers. They were real aggressive stripping the ball and forcing it out. We want to get back to being one of the leaders in this league at forcing turnovers and we didn't do that last year."

Some pulled muscles on a pair of two-deep players, Cephus Johnson and Dominique Flower, have forced Skladany to make a few adjustments this spring. Johnson had been slated to start at strong-side defensive end, but spent much of the first three practices on the sidelines. To account for his loss, Skladany moved Brent Curvey outside and inserted Matt Scherbring at defensive tackle along the first-team defensive line.

"Cephus Johnson had a pulled muscle and he went a little bit today," Skladany said. "We (made the move) just to keep Brent Curvey ready in case we need him there. That also gives Matt Scherbring a chance to get some extra work. We're moving a couple of them to some different spots just to make sure we get the best guys out there."

ISU had wanted to get more of a look at Flower as a SAM linebacker this spring, but a pulled muscle has given Erik Anderson more reps with the ones.

"We're waiting to get a look at Dominique Flower and see how he does," Skladany said. "He did some work today and is out there doing more work."

Skladany continues to be pleased with move of Tyson Smith and Jamar Buchanan to WILL linebacker.

"Tyson showed some aptitude for the spot and I'm happy with that," Skladany said. "He and Buchanan moving inside is good."

Although the defense gained the upper hand on Monday, running back Stevie Hicks broke off another big run in a team run drill. The sophomore rolled left behind a flowing offensive line before cutting back left to the middle of the field and going 60 yards.

The Cyclones continued to use a three-quarterback rotation (Bret Meyer, Austin Flynn and Cris Love) Monday, but that might not be the case by week's end. McCarney said he would like to narrow that list down to at least two after Wednesday's partial scrimmage.

"We'll stay in the same rotation," ISU's head coach said. "We've been rolling three guys in there with the ones and twos. We're trying to find a starter among Bret Meyer, Cris Love and Austin Flynn. Hopefully we can get out of that after Wednesday. I'd like to get into Friday and Saturday without a three-man rotation, and at least get it down to two guys.

"They're solid right now. We'll know a lot more after Wednesday and Saturday. I'm going to go about an hour and fifteen minutes of fundamentals on Wednesday, then a scrimmage after that. Saturday will be completely devoted to a scrimmage, so we'll have a lot better feel."

Since four of the five starting offensive line positions are set, the biggest news along that front is an ensuing three-way battle at guard. Bastian Schober and Johannes Egbers continue on an even line at left guard, but the emergence of Kory Pence at right guard has made things interesting. If Pence gives Cotton his best option at guard, Luke Vander Sanden could get more of a look on the left side.

"Kory Pence is improving as a right guard and has shown more than he has in the last couple of years," McCarney said. "Bastian Schober and Johannes Egbers are going after it. The other four guys have a pretty good grasp on number one right now."

Spring practice continues Wednesday afternoon at 3:45 with a partial scrimmage. It will be the Cyclones' first officiated scrimmage of the spring and will set the table for Saturday's full scrimmage.

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