Spring Practice Report Five

The ups and downs of working through your first spring practice can take a toll on many freshmen. But for a first-year player who should be getting fitted for a tuxedo and making plans to attend his high school prom, the road can be even rougher. So which way did former West Des Moines Valley standout Jason Scales go when adversity struck Wednesday afternoon?

Scales' fumble during a 54-play scrimmage led to a defensive score when Henry Poullard scooped the ball up and scampered into the end zone. But when the Cyclones called on Scales again, he responded with a 50-yard touchdown run through the heart of the defense.

"Scales is a very talented young guy, but he should be a high school senior right now," said offensive coordinator Barney Cotton. "The best thing I saw about him today is that he made a mistake by dropping a pitch where the defense scored, but on the very next play he takes one for about 50 yards. He didn't spend any time pouting or feeling sorry about himself. He went back out there and made something happen."

Wednesday's outing was par for Scales' first run with the Cyclones. His initial five practices have been more of a rollercoaster ride than when he was slashing defenses with ease during a prolific high school career.

"I've been getting adjusted to the system and the speed of the game," said Scales after Wednesday's workout. "Everybody is a lot faster and bigger. The speed picks up a lot during the plays, and making your reads at the line of scrimmage. I'm learning slowly but surely. Hopefully in time I'll pick everything up.

"There are a lot of down times, and you need to make sure you can work through them and learn from your mistakes." Scales' recovery also caught the eye of his head coach.

"I've got all the faith in the world he'll make the adjustment," said Dan McCarney. "There's no doubt. He made a mistake and fumbled today, but on the next play broke a long run. That's the kind of competitor he is and the kind of pride that he has. If you make a mistake, don't make two in a row and do a better job on the next play. That's exactly what he did."

Wednesday's partial scrimmage capped off ISU's fifth spring practice. After a great start in positional and seven-on-seven drills on both sides of the ball, the Cyclones struggled during their first intra-squad competition.

"It was normal for a first scrimmage," McCarney said. "We played too high and our fundamentals were pretty sloppy. We only had two turnovers in the 54-play scrimmage, so we want to strive for more defensively and on offense it's two too many. We've got a lot of work to do."

Cotton shared McCarney's sentiments and said his unit needed to get tougher in the coming weeks.

"We were average offensively," ISU's first-year offensive coordinator said. "I think we had a good start to practice, and our one-on-ones, inside run period and seven-on-seven went well. We needed to finish practice better, but this is the first time we've scrimmaged. We'll evaluate personnel and see if we can get the right mix out there. Our guys are playing hard, but we need to play lower and be a bit more physical. I'd also like to see fewer mental mistakes.

"We're just trying to become more physical up front. That's our buzz word this spring. We're trying to screw the pad level down a little bit, and are still playing a little bit high. We want to play with better pad level and do a better job with our hands."

The two-man race at left guard could soon turn into a three-person battle, as Kory Pence continued his early-spring surge. Bastian Schober and Johannes Egbers have been on an even line at left guard, while Pence has worked well with the second-team.

"He's Luke's backup at right guard, and we've got a work in progress at left guard," Cotton said. "Kory's a guy that we'll also consider at left guard with Schober and Egbers. That left guard spot is pretty wide open right now."

Despite the feeling that the Cyclones could be down to three quarterbacks going into Friday's practice, it appears Bret Meyer, Austin Flynn and Cris Love could still get some reps with the first team.

"Right now we're still at three," Cotton said. "We'll evaluate this scrimmage to see where we take it from there. We'll see if that equals a three-man rotation."

McCarney added this assessment: "We've got to evaluate it. It's hard to come out here after a 54-play scrimmage and say ‘this is our starter and that's our guy.' It's going to be a work in progress and a constant evaluation, but we'll know more after we watch this tape. We'll know more after Saturday's scrimmage. Hopefully by the end of spring ball we'll know who our starter is."

ISU will conduct its sixth practice of the spring session on Friday afternoon at 3:45. That workout will get the team prepared for its first full scrimmage on Saturday.

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