"Terrance Highsmith came in from a junior college and we're going to take a look at him at (wide receiver and quarterback) this week," said McCarney. "But (Monday morning) wide receiver looked to be his home. Now, (Tuesday) at quarterback he may look like that's another home. For right now, it looks like wide receiver may be his future.
"I like his skill and ability. He's in phenomenal athletic shape, but who knows. I've had one morning to evaluate and that's it. We'll know a lot more in the next couple of weeks."
McCarney isn't the only coach signing Highsmith's praises. An unnamed assistant coach said Monday afternoon that had Highsmith been available for spring drills, ISU's quarterback battle could have been a three-man race heading into camp.
Weighing in on JUCO defenders
How many defensive newcomers contribute right away remained a mystery Monday. But one comment McCarney made about the three JUCO defensive backs' prospects of starting could be viewed as a positive and a negative. It may also be a way of McCarney deflecting attention away from Josh Hargis, Jerry Gair, and LaMarcus Hicks.
"I think they look good but we're sure not going to turn our backs on the guys that were number one in the spring," ISU's head coach said. "It's going to take great camps by any of those newcomers to break into the starting position. I think it's realistic for them to break in and be back-ups. I have to see a lot more to see if those guys could beat out Ellis Hobbs, good luck. I think it's going to be hard to beat any of those number ones out."
Fellow JUCO transfer Tim Dobbins has begun his Cyclone career at MIKE linebacker, and it appears he'll remain at that spot to challenge veteran starter Brandon Brown for playing time. Returning backup Matt Robertson gives ISU three solid linebacker to man the MIKE position.
The fifth JUCO player to sign on the defensive side of the ball, Iowa Central's Fabian Dodd could be headed for a position change, however. McCarney indicated that Dodd opened training camp at offensive left guard, and is battling Kory Pence and Johannes Egbers for ISU's fifth and final starting job on the line.
No loss of ‘pride' in program
McCarney can't say enough how anxious he is to put last season behind and begin a new slate in 2004. He's also happy to report that the fans who enjoyed three consecutive bowl seasons haven't lost their excitement for Cyclone football, either.
"We want to do a lot of things on and off the field to make our fans proud, starting Sept. 4," McCarney said. "I haven't seen a mass exodus of our fans and I think that goes back to the program that we have. Even though we were all sick and disappointed and hated last season, I think the fans understand we have a good program.
"I really love the desire and hunger of this football team and the staff right now. Anybody that keeps writing or talking about how the program is in a downward spiral, please keep doing that. Do me a favor and please keep doing that."
That feeling of pride from McCarney has filtered down to his team. After hearing more stories of selfish attitudes instead of team play in 2003, this Cyclone team appears to be more together.
"If you can get a football team, coaches and players alike, and nobody cares who gets the credit but you just find a way to get it done and win, you really have a chance to succeed," McCarney said. "It's one of the great things about football because it's a true team sport.
'Forget yourself and others so that others will never forget you' is the epitome of being unselfish. If you don't care who got the tackle or who threw the touchdown pass, don't worry about who did but just get it done is a measure of a great team. That's what we have to try to do as a team. We're going to be young at many of our positions and we're going to be the underdog in many of our games, but I think we have a lot of kids on our team that really understand that attitude."
The recent incident involving last season's team MVP and Big 12 defensive freshman of the year Jason Berryman has also served to bring the team closer.
Berryman remains suspended indefinitely from the team after a second-degree roberry charge was filed last week, and it's unlikely he'll play for the Cyclones this season.
"This could be a classic example of there isn't any one player more important than the team," McCarney said. "We all have to overcome obstacles, some things you can control, some things you can't control. How you handle that adversity is one of the great measures of a head coach, of a program, of a staff and of players that I've learned. I feel real good about the chemistry of the team. I feel that this team is going to rally no matter who is here or who isn't here."