Cyclone Spring Practice Report 1

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State kicked off its highly anticipated 2005 season Wednesday afternoon with its first official spring practice. The Cyclones opened with a light workout in shorts in the Bergstrom Indoor Practice Facility, and will go without pads the first two days. For the die-hard fans on hand, there was a lot more studying of the rosters and not so much of practice. New faces hit the field en masse on Wednesday.

"I thought the first day was good," said head coach Dan McCarney. "The tempo, energy, effort, and retention from the guys that have played is real good. We knocked a lot of rust off. It was a combination of some guys we know we can win with, along with some new ones. There are a dozen players that changed positions. There are some newcomers that got here at semester. There are some new walk-ons. Twenty-five are redshirt freshmen. It's a blend of a lot of guys."

Two of the new faces on hand were JUCO transfers Walter Nickel and Scott Fisher from Utah's Dixie State College.

Nickel debuted at number one on the newly-created H-Back position, which in essence is the second starting tight end. Fisher, meanwhile, is the second-team left tackle behind returning backup Johannes Egbers.

From what he's seen so far, McCarney believes the two are as solid as advertised.

"It's all new and their heads are spinning right now," Iowa State's head coach said. "Nickel is a real good athlete and has good hands. I could see that much out there today, even though he's not real sure where to line up yet. Fisher is a giant that's got to learn to play at this level. He needs to bend his knees, but has the big long arms which is what you want in your offensive tackles."

Austin Flynn's move to wide receiver is the headline position change this spring, but there were some other new ones that were revealed in the pre-spring depth chart.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Gunn has lined up as a second-team SAM linebacker, but is primarily being used as a nickel back. Sophomore Greg Coleman is now a full-time running back, and it appears the fullback experiment is over with.

McCarney evaluated the moves.

"We lined (Gunn) up to SAM linebacker," McCarney said. "You saw what LaMarcus Hicks did for our defense last year – it was a SAM backer but really a nickel back. We're going to see if Brandon can play that spot. You're in coverage a lot, but also have to be a good tackler. We're not going to put him out there for 50 snaps and line him up against the tight ends, but we want to give him a shot at nickel back.

"Coleman is three right now. He's learned fullback and running back all along, but our intention is to put him at running back and leave him there the rest of his career. Now he's got to show us he can be a Big 12 running back."

Apparently the challenge has been issued to a cast of under-achieving offensive linemen. Eighteen scholarship players hit the field on Wednesday, and McCarney estimates that 14 of those have yet to make much of an impact as offensive linemen.

"You've got 14 guys on scholarship there that have really never played in the offensive line, for whatever reasons," he said. "Barney (Cotton) and the offensive guys will keep pushing them and keep the accelerator down. We have to find out who our best five are right now, and then let's get some depth.

"If you look at us out there now in a uniform, we've got some guys that look the part. But that's before the ball is snapped. We've got to have some guys that start looking the part while the ball is snapped to the end of the play."

Transfer offensive guard Scott Stephenson, who had shoulder surgery last December, opened practice doing some light work on the side. The former Minnesota player is expected to compete for a starting job this spring, but he might not make much of an impact until next month.

"He's doing individual stuff right now and we're going to break him in slowly coming off that shoulder surgery," McCarney said. "He won't scrimmage next week, but we're going to get him some work every day and slowly work him into it. Hopefully by the second half of spring ball he can start doing everything. But we won't go any faster than the doctors, trainers, and Scott say we can go."

The Cyclones have gained one healthy player back this spring, however. Kicker Tony Yelk earned a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA this offseason, and was back in full force on Wednesday. However, incumbents Bret Culbertson and Troy Blankenship were still listed as the starters.

"He's fully healthy and has been sprinting real good," ISU's head coach said. "When you have a hip flexor, the best test you can probably have is running the pro agility. He's been running those and doing all of our out-of-season work. Now it's up to him."

The Cyclones hit the practice field again on Friday, and are expected run through an extended seven-on-seven session.

"It will be all shorts again and some more installation," McCarney said. "We'll get some real good work in on our kicking game. We know that we made some real strides there, and need to pick up where we left off. Plus, we're doing more individual work in these first two practices than any of the other ones."

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