5 Key Questions for Spring Football

The 2005 football campaign should be one of the most anticipated in several years. Iowa State will get it all started with its first of 15 spring practices on Wednesday. Here are five key questions the Cyclones would like to get answered by the Spring Game.

Can Austin Flynn remain at wide receiver?

One of the headlines going into spring is Flynn's switching positions with Terrance Highsmith on offense. Coaches have made it abundantly clear that Flynn is one of the top 15 athletes on this side of the ball, and that his skills weren't being utilized as the #2 to Bret Meyer at quarterback.

Flynn's proving ground will be the practice fields this spring, where he will be given every opportunity to earn the starting spot vacated by Todd Miller. Offensive coordinator Barney Cotton envisions Flynn as a wideout that can work against opposing zone defenses and make tough catches over the middle. The loss of Todd Blythe to a knee injury should afford Flynn even more reps this spring.

However, Flynn must hope that Highsmith catches back on at quarterback. Otherwise, Flynn could be headed back to his old position as a backup. Highsmith was a signal caller at North Carolina and Fort Scott Community College before making an unsuccessful switch to receiver last fall. Highsmith will need to prove he is a viable enough backup to make the experiment work.

What did they get in return?

Although the Cyclones will have plenty of candidates this spring, they are without any proven punt or kickoff return men. Todd Miller and Ellis Hobbs are gone, leaving a gaping hole at both spots. Highsmith got some time as a return man last season, but had more downs than ups. One has to wonder if his new position of quarterback will take away from his special teams work this spring.

Tyease Thompson also was in the two-deep on kickoff returns last season, but his status is in doubt because of some legal issues. A cast of redshirts will be given opportunities to earn the jobs this spring, but you should also watch out for returning players like Jason Scales, Jon Davis, and Milan Moses.

Will eight be enough for Cotton?

Having eight capable offensive linemen to use on game day is the goal of any offensive line coach, regardless of the level of football. The Cyclones' Barney Cotton is no different. But that could be wishful thinking this spring, especially since veteran starters Luke Vander Sanden and Cale Stubbe have graduated and transfer guard Scott Stephenson is questionable after shoulder surgery.

But there is always a chance ISU could wrap up spring ball April 16th with eight viable big men. JUCO transfer Scott Fisher will provide an immediate shot in the arm at left tackle. Returning starters Aaron Brant, Seth Zehr, and Kory Pence were all playing their best at the end of last season.

Johannes Egbers, Trent Claussen, Fabian Dodd, Anthony Walker, and Bastian Schober all find themselves on the outside looking in, but have an opportunity to impact an eight-man rotation. But the bottom line is that there is plenty of dead weight in the corps of the offensive line, and head coach Dan McCarney hasn't been shy expressing that this offseason. And with 18 scholarship offensive linemen on the field this spring, Mac and his coaches aren't asking too much in wanting an eight-man rotation.

Has the leadership picked up where seniors left it?

Those outside the program wouldn't realize it until the Cyclones were going on a late-season run, but a lot of the leadership on last year's team was developed in the offseason and spring. Thanks to seniors like Ellis Hobbs, Erik Anderson, Stubbe, and Vander Sanden, a good example has been left for the ISU players that will hit the field on Wednesday.

But the bottom line is that this will be an even smaller senior class than last year's. Spring will be an opportunity for more future leaders to be groomed. They'll have to come from all different classes, not just the group of seniors. It will be interesting to see who emerges over the next four weeks.

Can the Cyclone kicking game become more of a weapon?

It goes without saying that ISU will be better in the kicking game as a result of Tony Yelk earning a sixth year of eligibility. Yelk will almost certainly return to his role as kickoff, long field goal specialist, and perhaps even starting punter.

But coaches would like for the kicking game to get even more efficient this spring. Walk-on Bret Culbertson returns after a near-flawless rookie season. Troy Blankenship was serviceable in his first year as the number one punter. But McCarney's staff is looking for improvement in many areas.

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