Spring Football Wrapup (Part 5)

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


Overview: Without any punt or kickoff returns to focus on during the spring game, spectators were forced to watch a dismal performance out of the placekickers. But don't worry the sky isn't falling quite yet, because Bret Culbertson and company weren't that bad over the previous 14 practices. ISU's blocking game picked up where it left off last season.

Strengths: The return of Tony Yelk – assuming he stays healthy – will pay huge dividends. On kickoffs, his strong leg will change the field position in favor of ISU. He's also capable of averaging more yardage on punts than returning senior Troy Blankenship. After watching Bret Culbertson shank a pair of 40-yard field goals in the spring game, it may be wise to give him a shot booting long 3-pointers as well. On the other side of the ball, the Cyclones have continued their proficiency of blocking kicks.

Weaknesses: Head coach Dan McCarney says he will go into the summer without a clear-cut number one field goal kicker. Culbertson won the job halfway through last season and held it throughout the spring, but failed to distance himself from the pack on the final day of spring. After losing Ellis Hobbs and Todd Miller, ISU is without much experience on punt and kick returns.

Rising players: DeAndre Jackson and Ryan Baum as return men. Both figure to start the season opener in these areas. Much like Hobbs was a year ago, Jackson combines excellent speed with great instincts on kick returns. Baum's sure hands on punt returns have earned him the top spot.

Lingering needs/Questions: Since the Cyclones are likely to cut some kickers between now and fall camp, how will the competition be this fall? It would be nice if scholarship recruit Chris Mahoski is ready to push Culbertson and Yelk.

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