ISU's JUCO Fortunes Improving

The list of Iowa State's recent junior-college busts doesn't need repeating. Cyclone coaches and fans have already suffered enough. It seems that for every Seneca Wallace and Jeremy Loyd, there have been the Emmanuel Valcourts, Mike Hmouds, and Tyrone Tuckers.

"It's always an inexact science, hit or miss," said ISU head coach Dan McCarney. "You want to hit and don't try to miss. I don't like missing on high school or junior college players. It's not fair to them or us to bring guys into the program that can't play in the Big 12. But I have yet to see a team that's not made some mistakes in their program."

Recruiting two-year players certainly never comes without some degree of risk, and ISU's batting average was lower than many would have liked, but it seems the Cyclones are finally getting the breaks they needed.

In baseball terms, McCarney's staff is at the beginning of what it hopes is an extensive hitting streak. In fact, ISU could be batting a thousand when its season-opener against Northern Iowa rolls around. For those of you keeping tally, that's 6-for-6.

Through one week of training camp, each of the Cyclones' six JUCO recruits has received some kind of positive mention from McCarney.

"So far I'm pleased with those guys," said ISU's head coach. "They're not ready to jump out there and be All-Big 12 football players right now, but they're showing signs that they have a chance to help us. We'll know a lot more in the next two weeks."

The star of the Cyclones' first week of training camp is Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) linebacker Tim Dobbins, who has the opportunity to start at one of two inside linebacker positions. The 6-foot-1, 245-pounder gives ISU the mix of size, speed, and athletic ability it hasn't had at linebacker in recent years.

"There is no doubt Dobbins is going to play, and he could be a starter," McCarney said after ISU's Sunday practice. "Based on what I've seen in the first week, there isn't any doubt he's going to help our football team. He's at linebacker all the way. We talked about putting him with his hand down, but he will definitely be a linebacker here at Iowa State."

Dobbins' emergence could also afford defensive coaches the opportunity to move Tyson Smith from WILL linebacker to the position where he's most experienced – rush end.

Dobbins' five JUCO classmates are no slouches, either. Defensive backs Josh Hargis, LaMarcus Hicks, and Jerry Gair all have the chance to impact the two-deep.

Hargis and Hicks will likely challenge DeAndre Jackson for one of the starting positions opposite Ellis Hobbs. Gair walked into a relatively solid safety position that had three of four established players returning to the two-deep (Nik Moser, Steve Paris, and Caleb Berg), but he should be the fourth.

Iowa Central transfer Fabian Dodd moved from the defensive line to offensive left guard prior to camp, and is now locked in a three-man battle for the starting position.

Former North Carolina signee and Fort Scott (Kan.) transfer Terrance Highsmith is getting time at both quarterback and wide receiver. His situation at quarterback will likely be resolved in the next week. McCarney will need to decide whether to pull him out of a battle with Bret Meyer and Austin Flynn or add him to a group of inexperienced, but talented, wide receivers.

Either way, the prognosis is good for all of the Cyclones' six two-year additions.

"You don't want to redshirt and you don't want to see a bust," McCarney said. "You really want to bring them in and have them factor into the two-deep. If they continue to grasp the system, work hard, play physical, and keep improving I think all of them will have a chance to do that."


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