Countdown to National Signing Day: Offense

With signing day just under a week away and Iowa State being pretty close to done filling the spots in its recruiting class of 2005, now is a great time to take a step back and analyze this year's group of newcomers. We'll start with the offense, where linemen and tight ends are a focal point.

The nucleus of the Cyclones' skill players on offense return for years to come, and that made filling holes with impact players was key. Coaches set out trying to put the right pieces around Bret Meyer, Todd Blythe, Jon Davis, and Stevie Hicks.

With two senior offensive linemen departing and a trio of tight ends graduating, that meant bringing in immediate contributors at those positions.

The coaching staff received a nice gift just a few days before Christmas when Dixie State (Utah) College twins Scott (6-8, 320, 5.2) and Paul Fisher (6-7, 330, 5.2) gave verbal commitments. Scott has since signed a letter-of-intent, is enrolled in classes at ISU, and will be eligible for spring football. Paul is finishing his classes at Dixie State this semester and will join his brother in the summer.

Both players spent time in the BYU program and have experience in a Division I program. Scott is projected to take over a starting role at left tackle going into the spring, while his brother Paul will challenge Aaron Brant at right tackle upon his arrival.

But the Cyclones didn't just go after the quick fix in this class. They also added a pair of accomplished high school offensive linemen, Jason Fiacco (6-2, 305, 5.1) and Reggie Stephens (6-3, 285, 5.3).

Fiacco, of Hartland (Wisc.) Arrowhead High School, committed last August after taking numerous unofficial visits and going to summer camp in Ames. Stephens, of Dallas Jesuit, waited a little while longer and turned down offers from Kansas State and Utah in choosing the Cyclones the day after Christmas.

The addition of those four players give ISU a nice mix of players that can contribute right away and ones that should provide a nice base for the future.

Many Cyclone fans were surprised with the number of tight ends brought in for this class. But keep this in mind: at least two of the five commitments will probably end up on the defensive side.

Among those likely to remain at their original positions are JUCO transfer Walter Nickel (6-4, 240, 4.55) of Dixie State, Trent Flander (6-4, 235, 4.7) of West Des Moines Dowling, and Derrick Catlett (6-4, 220, 4.9) of Fort Collins (Colo.).

Nickel was one of the top pass catching tight ends nationally over the last two years, and appears to be making great strides as a blocker. He comes into a favorable position for early playing time, since Brett Kellogg, James Wright, and Kenny Segin are all moving on.

Look for Flander to make a push for early playing time as well. Even though the in-stater didn't get many opportunities on offense, he proved his worth in summer camp and on tape. Nickel and Flander are both four-star recruits by, and Flander himself was the 21st-ranked player nationally at his position.

At least two other tight end recruits have the ability to play multiple positions. Beaver Dam (Wisc.) standout Eric Schultz (6-5, 235, 4.8) will be evaluated at outside linebacker and possibly defensive end. Bonne Terre (Mo.) North County prep A.J. Haase (6-4, 225, 4.6), who originally committed as a junior, could also be given a look on defense.

Even though offensive line and tight end were the two primary positions addressed in this class, ISU continued to build its depth chart with skill players. Quarterback Brice Beck put up some impressive numbers as a high school senior at Blytheville (Ark.). The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder threw for 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns, and added 10 more rushing scores.

Although Beck is a capable rusher, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Northeast standout Houston Jones is truly a dual-threat quarterback. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder has 4.5 speed and accounted for more than 2,600 total yards as a senior. Of those yards, 1,800 came by way of air. All signs are that Jones will get a shot to play quarterback in Ames, but he's another candidate for a position change.

The Cyclones will also add at least one running back and wide receiver in this class. Tavares (Fla.) running back Dominique Rocker put up solid numbers throughout his high school career. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder is the bruising rusher that ISU has coveted in recent years, and has many of the same characteristics as current starter Stevie Hicks.

Rocker might not be the only running back the Cyclones sign, however. Another Florida rusher, Clearwater's Jason Harris, is expected to make his decision this weekend. Harris is one of the last known uncommitted prospects ISU is recruiting.

With Blythe, Davis, Milan Moses, and Terrance Highsmith all returning as wideouts, that position wasn't a focal point this year. But ISU did get the player it wanted in Edmond (Okla.) North pass catcher Marquis Hamilton. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder does not have great speed, but has excellent hands and will be a nice possession receiver in Ames.

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