Spring Football Wrapup (Part 2)

Iowa State wrapped up spring practice with Saturday's annual intrasquad game. Here is the second in a five-part series analyzing every Cyclone position coming out of the spring.

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS:

Overview: Even without top playmaker Todd Blythe, this group proved to be very strong this spring thanks to a couple of big additions. Ex-quarterback Austin Flynn emerged as the Cyclones' top wide receiver in Blythe's absence, while JUCO transfer tight end Walter Nickel gave Bret Meyer a nice look over the middle. The wide receiving corps should not only be the best in history this fall, but also the deepest.

Strengths: Flynn's consistency. The rising junior caught every ball thrown to him and did an admirable job working zone coverage. His knowledge of defensive schemes also gives ISU an edge. Again, the depth of this unit was another strength. Yes, even without Blythe. Milan Moses and Ryan Baum put together nice springs. Tight end Ben Barkema is a different player than he was last fall.

Weaknesses: Davis' consistency. Coaches wanted more of it early in the spring and didn't really get it until the final week and a half. Although he led the Cyclones in receptions last season, Davis still needs to be more consistent and improve as an all-around receiver. Nickel did everything he was expected to down the field, but has to become more physical at the point of attack.

Rising players: Sumrall is the future at wide receiver. A late addition to the 2004 recruiting class, he spent all of last fall with the active offense. Instead of putting in time on the scout team, he learned the entire offensive package, a move that benefited him greatly this spring.

Lingering needs/Questions: Todd Blythe tore the ACL in his left knee during winter workouts. Will he be 100 percent for the season opener? Incoming freshman recruit Marquis Hamilton is an imposing specimen, but will he be ready for Division I football?

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN:

Overview: After losing veteran seniors Cale Stubbe and Luke Vander Sanden, it took this group a while to gel this spring. Injuries to Scott Stephenson and Scott Fisher also stunted the growth of the offensive line. However, this unit became a strength on offense during the final week of spring ball. I saw enough improvement to believe ISU will have an eight-man rotation (three tackles, three guards, three centers) that's up to Big 12 standards.

Strengths: Returning starters Aaron Brant, Seth Zehr, and Kory Pence upped their level of play this spring. I also like the versatility of Zehr and Scott Stephenson, who have learned different positions along the offensive line. Zehr can play all five positions, while Stephenson could be utilized at guard or center. This gives line coach Barney Cotton more options when filling out the lineup.

Weaknesses: It seems like a broken record by now, but this unit still needs to become more physical, particularly in the red zone. The offensive line is one of the main culprits for the Cyclones' lack of production inside the 20.

Rising players: Although they're both seniors, first-teamers Johannes Egbers and Fabian Dodd put themselves in position for playing time.

Lingering needs/Questions: It looks like a large cast of second- and third-year redshirt players are still another year away, which is not what Cyclone fans wanted to hear going into the summer. JUCO transfer Paul Fisher was signed to impact the offensive line, but can he get ready in four weeks of camp and preseason practice?


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