Newcomers: Chris Brown, 5-11, 175, FR, Gainesville (Texas) HS Mack Kimble, 5-11, 185, FR, New Madrid (Mo.) New Madrid County HS Michael Main, 5-11, 175, FR, Muscatine HS R.J. Sumrall, 6-1, 186, FR, Winter Park (Fla.) HS * Terrance Highsmith, 6-1, 175, JR, Fort Scott (Kan.) C.C. (will begin career at QB)
Iowa State's offense took hits from graduation at numerous positions, but the area most hit was wide receiver where its top four receivers have departed. That left little two little used backups from last season, a pair of heralded redshirt freshmen, a senior returning from reconstructive knee surgery, and a rising walk-on.
The spot had some great moments during the 15 practices, and was led by Blythe, who emerged as the go-to receiver for first-year quarterback Bret Meyer. That was no more evident than in the spring game when Blythe hauled in six passes for 72 yards, including a long of 25. A huge target at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, he also has deceptive speed for a player with that frame.
Davis and Moses certainly looked to be future standouts at wide receiver for the Cyclones, and have reaped the praise that goes with it. But it was Kohler and Baum who stole most of the headlines this spring.
After sitting out much of the 2003 season after surgery on a torn ACL, Kohler made an immediate impact and pushed Davis in practice every day. The 6-foot-5 Kohler capped it off with a 60-yard touchdown pass in the spring game, in which he outran cornerback DeAndre Jackson to the end zone.
Despite his lack of size and speed, Baum showed up on tape during every practice by making play after play. The sophomore has emerged as the next in a long line of walk-ons who go on to earn scholarships at ISU under Dan McCarney. Even if he doesn't hit the field as a wide receiver, Baum has all but locked up a role on special teams.
But even with some of the success stories of this spring, the wide receiver position also had its bouts with inconsistency. Offensive coaches waited for Davis to break out of his doldrums through the first half of spring ball, and he would bounce between the first- and second-teams throughout all of the practices. But coaches were encouraged by his play during the last week-and-a-half.
Moses battled the injury bug late in spring ball, but still managed to return for the spring game and catch four passes for 35 yards. Although Blythe is firmly entrenched as a starter ahead of Moses, it will be hard for Barney Cotton to keep the Waterloo native off the field on gameday.
Fall outlook: Cyclone coaches are hoping Davis and Moses will continue to improve this summer, and become viable targets in 2004. Blythe, Davis, and Moses all look like Big 12 receivers, and will need to be on the field for this new offense to click.
Another story to watch in training camp is how long it takes offensive coaches to move Highsmith from quarterback to receiver. The former North Carolina and Fort Scott quarterback will get a shot at the position in camp, but could be moved early if he's not able to impact the two-deep. Adding Highsmith to the mix would certainly provide an immediate upgrade.
Highsmith is likely to be the only newcomer to receive playing time as a pass catcher, as ISU's other four wideouts appear to be redshirt candidates at this time.
Highsmith might not be the only player switching positions in training camp. As an option quarterback in the state of Texas, Brown led his Gainesville team to a Class 3A championship, but is being projected as a wideout at the next level.
Another of the newcomers has the best pedigree in McCarney's class of 2004. Sumrall has two cousins playing wide receiver in the NFL. Reggie Wayne is a starter for the Indianapolis Colts, and Robert Ferguson, a Texas A&M product, plays for the Green Bay Packers.