2004 Iowa State Cyclones Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> <A HREF=[PlayerNode:1422348]>Dan McCarney</A> (38-67) <br><br> <b>Last Season's Record:</b> 2-10 (6th place in Big 12 North Division) <br><br> <b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2002 Humanitarian Bowl (34-16 loss to <A HREF=http://boisestate.TheInsiders.com>Boise State</A>) <br><br> <b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 11 <A HREF=http://iowa.TheInsiders.com>Iowa</A>; Oct. 9 <A HREF=http://tamu.TheInsiders.com>Texas A&M</A>; Oct. 23 @<A HREF=http://baylor.TheInsiders.com>Baylor</A>

Star Power: Jason Berryman, DE, 6-2, 225, SO; Brandon Brown, LB, 6-0, 230, SR; Stevie Hicks, RB, 6-2, 215, R-SO; Ellis Hobbs, CB, 5-9, 190, SR; Cale Stubbe, OL, 6-4, 300, R-SR; Tony Yelk, P/PK, 6-1, 200, R-SR.

Notable Additions: Tim Dobbins, LB, 6-1, 245, Copiah-Lincoln (MS) C.C.; Jerry Gair, S, 6-0, 200, West Hills (Calif.) College; Josh Hargis, CB, 6-2, 170, Palomar (Calif.) College; Terrance Highsmith, WR, 6-1, 175, Fort Scott (KS) C.C.; Webster Patrick, RB, 5-8, 200, Spring (TX) Westfield HS; Jason Scales, RB, 5-9, 200, West Des Moines (IA) Valley HS; Tyease Thompson, RB, 5-10, 180, Lakeland (FL) George Jenkins HS.

Notable Subtractions: K Adam Benike, S JaMaine Billups, DT Jordan Carstens, WR Lane Danielsen, OL Bob Montgomery, OL Casey Shelton.

Notable Returnees: SLB Erik Anderson, OL Aaron Brant, DT Brent Curvey, QB Austin Flynn, NG Nick Leaders, WLB Tyson Smith, OL Luke Vander Sanden, TE James Wright III, OL Seth Zehr.

09/04/04Northern Iowa
09/18/04Northern Illinois
10/02/04@Oklahoma State
10/09/04Texas A&M
11/20/04@Kansas State
Offensive Overview: McCarney started the offseason by firing two offensive coaches, coordinator Steve Brickey and line coach Marty Fine, then replaced them with Nebraska's Barney Cotton and South Carolina's Todd Fitch, who also found themselves out of jobs for various reasons. The verdict is out on exactly what type of offense Cotton will employ this season, but he has said it will be a combination of what Kansas State and Missouri have run in recent years. Although Cotton is new in town, look for the Cyclones to return to the floor plan that made them successful in past seasons – a ground-based offense run by an athletic quarterback that can make plays in and out of the pocket. A strength of this offense figures to be the athleticism and play-making ability of quarterbacks Bret Meyer and Austin Flynn, who will battle for the starting job in camp. Returning tailback Stevie Hicks will get a majority of the carries in a run-based attack, but true freshman Jason Scales will also make an impact after arriving in time for spring ball. Inexperience could again be a weakness of this unit, as quarterback is not the only area where the Cyclones will be young. The offensive line and wide receiver positions will have an abundance of youth this fall as well. ISU will be successful on offense if it can make a huge turnaround up front, which will in turn give Cotton's offense a chance to move the ball and find success.

Defensive Overview: Coordinator John Skladany will continue to employ a 4-3 attacking defense, which relies heavily on speed, athleticism, and playmaking linebackers. The Cyclones have liked to blitz in past seasons and drop back into zone defenses. Fans have criticized ISU for being too much of a ‘bend but don't break' defense, but that approach has been to mask weaknesses. Although this unit lost veterans like Jordan Carstens, JaMaine Billups and Marc Timmons, it could actually be even stronger this fall. Skladany is steadily upgrading his defensive speed through recent recruiting classes, and will have Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year Jason Berryman back at rush end. Plus, McCarney has said his defensive line could be the best since 2000 when the Cyclones won nine games. Brandon Brown has been a steady linebacker for Skladany since contributing as a true freshman, but now the coach hopes improved depth at linebacker will keep him healthy throughout an entire season. The return of Tyson Smith from a broken leg will bolster the Cyclone defense. The fifth-year senior has been moved from defensive end to linebacker. In the back end, coaches enter fall camp with some uncertainty. Although JUCO transfers Josh Hargis, Jerry Gair and LaMarcus Hicks come to Ames with impressive credentials, they also have yet to play Big 12 football and will be needed to step into the fray immediately. ISU will be successful on defense if it can… Do two things: Get all of its questions answered in the secondary, and, unlike last fall when impact players dropped like flies, remain healthy all season.

Special Teams Overview: Senior Tony Yelk will attempt to handle the duties of punter, place-kicker, and kickoff man this season. He originally signed with the Cyclones as a kicker, but has found most of his success punting the ball in Ames. But the loss of kicker Adam Benike has given Yelk one more chance at kicking. ISU must upgrade its overall special teams play this fall. A pool of redshirt freshmen and first-year running backs should bolster ISU's punt and kick return game. Coaches Terry Allen and DeMontie Cross are now co-special teams coordinators, and the two have already made some adjustments in how the Cyclones coach the unit.

The Cyclones will return to their winning ways if... the offensive line can make huge strides under Cotton, which will pave the way for Hicks to rush for 1,000 yards; ISU can settle on either Meyer or Flynn as its quarterback for the entire season; and three JUCO newcomers to the secondary pan out and play big roles in what will be an inexperienced secondary.

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