ISU vs. KU Notebook

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State's two-quarterback system is now a thing of the past, but another platoon could be surfacing at a key position on the offensive side. In hopes of sparking more production in the ground game, the Cyclones have plans to start rotating tailbacks Stevie Hicks and Jason Scales.

Hicks, a third-year sophomore who has started all seven games at the position, leads the team with 521 yards and 137 carries. But he got a big push from Scales during Saturday's 26-25 win over Baylor. In the first significant playing time of his career, the freshman Scales rushed for 54 yards and a score on 12 carries.

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney says a platoon between the two backs could become the norm.

"We'll play them both and like them both," he said. "There isn't any one certain play or things that Stevie does better than Jason. I like them both and can see them really coming on. I could see them sharing the load these next few games like they did on Saturday.

"Jason is really improving, and it's not anything with Stevie getting worse because he's improving too. But Jason has improved his blocking and gave our offense a spark when he was in there Saturday. That competition is really going and that will help our team. He's a true freshman just learning the game, but he's going to be fun."

Much of Scales' improvement comes from the fact that he's 100 percent after battling a leg injury early in the season. Scales had seen his place in the depth chart drop from two – after spring football concluded – to four after the additions of Tyease Thompson and Greg Coleman this preseason.

But the former West Des Moines Valley standout is starting to show flashes of the high school runner that amassed 6,050 rushing yards and scored 78 touchdowns in three years.

A lot of Scales' improvement, however, is behind the scenes.

"There were a lot of things, but protection was a main thing," McCarney said. "Every running back now in college football is involved in protection. Some high school running backs don't do much of that. When they do it, sometimes they're cutting and cutting. You've got to stand up and take them on in the chest and jaw. You've got to do it both ways.

"Jason reminds me of both the Davis brothers, in that he is not that big but is powerful, explosive, and is really taking pride in blocking. Stevie Hicks has been clearly our best blocker as a running back, but the gap is getting closed these last few weeks because Jason is really learning how to do it too."

Multi-tasking

First-year Cyclone Terrance Highsmith continues to appear in different places on the depth chart. After taking over as the starting punt returner for Todd Miller going into last week's game, the JUCO transfer is now listed as the backup punter to Troy Blankenship.

While it's unlikely he will ever attempt a punt as ISU's starter, it still should give an idea of just how versatile the athletic Highsmith is.

"He's been doing our punting for us in practice, and is not bad," McCarney said. "I've never seen a guy punt it and then run down to the other end and catch it. We won't ask him to do that, but his mechanics are pretty good. Hopefully it's strictly an emergency. But he's got a strong leg and has hit some strong punts in the last couple few weeks."

A lot of Highsmith's role as a punter could be determined by senior Tony Yelk's week-to-week availability. The kicker/punter remains on the shelf with a hip flexor injury and is not expected to play against Kansas.

The former North Carolina signee and Fort Scott (Kan.) JUCO product has returned six punts for 59 yards this season, including a 25-yarder in his first game of action at Colorado.

George Who?

The Cyclones' newest addition to the place-kicking race already has a nickname from ISU's head coach. Former Des Moines Lincoln standout Bret Culbertson came on to boot three extra points against Baylor and has now converted on all four of his career attempts.

Now, the walk-on that joined the team as a walk-on after fall classes began is being compared to a late writer that composed a best-selling book called ‘Paper Lion' about his experiences trying out for the Detroit Lions in the early 1960s.

"He's got a good look in his eye," McCarney said of Culbertson. "I nicknamed him George Plimpton a long time ago when I first saw him. He's done a good job and is another one of those freshmen that's contributing right now. If he keeps kicking them good, we're going to leave him out there. We had been looking at him all season long, but his consistency has really improved in recent weeks."

Culbertson had been a first-team all-conference performer as a senior at Lincoln. He hit all 19 of his PATs as a senior, while making five field goals. His 52-yarder tied for the season-long in Iowa, and is a conference record.


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