Spring Practice Report Nine

After seeing their defensive counterparts gain an upper hand throughout the first eight practices of the spring, Iowa State's offense was due for a big outing. That outburst would turn out to be Wednesday afternoon during the Cyclones' third scrimmage, as Barney Cotton's group made big plays through the air and on the ground.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Bret Meyer entered the fray with a slight edge over Austin Flynn, but ISU's returning starter at the position certainly could have helped his cause. Flynn opened the scrimmage with the second team and spearheaded a nice drive against the starters, which led to a 30-yard field goal from walk-on Scott Krava.

Working with the ones for a drive, Flynn followed up his earlier effort with a long scoring pass to Jon Davis, who had his biggest day of the spring. One of Flynn's only blemishes on the day was a forced pass to the sideline under pressure, which was intercepted by Dominique Flower. The pickoff ended a two-minute drive, and the scrimmage.

While Flynn made an impression on coaches with his play, Meyer was no slouch himself. He hooked up with Davis on a touchdown pass early in the scrimmage, then capped off a goal-line drive with a pass to tight end Brett Kellogg.

"It was their best practice and best scrimmage so far," said McCarney of his offense. "It was day number nine out of 15, and I thought we executed better and ran the ball better. Both of the top quarterbacks made more plays. They're getting a little bit better, but still have a long ways to go. It's a good race. I'm not inventing anything out here, those are two quality athletes and good players. It's a good battle for number one.

"It was a bad decision on the last play of the scrimmage with Austin. We were going down trying to kick a field goal to win, and Dominique went up, skied and made a one-handed interception. But I like both of them. The neat thing about it is you've got seven years combined eligibility remaining at quarterback."

While Flynn's pass into double coverage was not what the offensive coaches were looking for, it was exactly what John Skladany was looking for in the oft-injured Flower. The backup SAM linebacker has been in and out of practices this spring, but when in uniform he has shown the ability to be an impact player this fall.

"It was a great play and you see the athleticism that he has on that last play," McCarney said. "He's got to stay on the practice field. He's been like an egg that gets cracked, and this thing hurts and that thing hurts. If he stays on the field and gets coached, he's going to be a good player.

"He's got talent and ability, but you can't improve if you're not out here practicing. I'm not saying he's faking any injuries, but some guys have some nicks and injuries. He's got to get that out of his system."

Wide receiver Ryan Baum continued his spring assault on the defensive secondary by making some nice catches in traffic and even scoring a few times in seven-on-seven and team pass drills. Davis and Milan Moses put together some of their best performances of the spring.

"I thought Jon Davis stepped up and did some good things," McCarney said. "Milan is still learning. He's still a freshman and it's a learning process, but you can see he's got talent and can leap, catch and run." McCarney was pleased with the progress his team showed in the passing game.

"We've added a couple things and got some misdirection from the throwing game today," he said. "It was good to test your defense, and our offense really executed some of that stuff. It starts with protection and giving your quarterbacks a chance, and then I thought we ran some good routes and made some plays. We got more big plays in the scrimmage than we've had so far. We'll build on that."

Wednesday's scrimmage was not just an aerial show for the fans and media in attendance, however. Stevie Hicks made a nice move and broke free to the left side for a long touchdown run early, then got into a fight with defensive back DeAndre Jackson later. The skirmish drew the wrath of McCarney, who forced the entire team to run a lap around the football field.

"Let's just do it smart," McCarney said. "We're not coaching our guys to be passive, but let's do it from the snap to the whistle and not afterwards. This is a tough man's game, but it's also a disciplined man's game. I want tough disciplined guys. When you're not, we'll get a little jog in."

A pair of ISU's top offensive freshmen sat out Wednesday's practice with minor injuries. Wide receiver Todd Blythe bruised a knee on Monday and missed the ninth workout of the spring. True freshman Jason Scales bruised his right shoulder in position drills Wednesday, and missed the entire scrimmage.

With Scales out for the scrimmage, a walk-on from Texas stepped into a bigger role. Longview native David Brown, a transfer from East Texas Baptist College, made his presence known with a 13-yard scoring run with the third-teamers.

"Blythe had a bruised knee and didn't practice, but it's not serious at all," McCarney said. "He'll be back Friday at practice. Jason (Scales) just had a bruise. He got dinged up in the first hour of practice. It was preventative and we held him out. He'll be ready to go Friday."

On a special teams note, Krava, a walk-on kicker from Dallas Center-Grimes, has passed Josh Griebahn on the depth chart. The freshman showed he was up for the challenge Wednesday, hitting field goals of 30 and 37 yards during the scrimmage. He also was perfect on PAT attempts.

Wednesday's practice was the last time for media and fans to view the Cyclones before next Saturday's spring game. McCarney has indicated that he would be closing the next four practices.

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