Last season ISU head coach Dan McCarney had a simple goal for his football team: be one of the most improved teams in college football. Mission accomplished. After all was said and done Iowa State was the second most improved team in college football, co-champions of the Big 12 North and one of 28 bowl champions.
This year the expectations will be quite a bit different for Iowa State as the Cyclones will enter the season with a target on their backs. The Sporting News has already tabbed the Cyclones a top 25 team, ranking them 22nd in the preseason. The magazine also named Iowa State the team to beat in the North division, picking them to win the North again this season.
So how do the Cyclones approach this season – the same way as the last according to associate head coach Terry Allen.
"Last year we did a good job of taking it one game at a time and I think that will be key again this year," he said.
Aided by the maturation of being another year older and the confidence found in last seasons' successes the young Cyclones look like a force to be reckoned with. Here's a scary fact for opposing defenses – nearly 95 percent of Iowa State's offense will return to the field in 2006.
Highlighting that list are:
- Todd Blythe, wide receiver, second team freshman All-America and first team all-Big 12
- Bret Meyer, quarterback, third team freshman All-America
- Stevie Hicks, tailback, honorable mention all-Big 12
Defensively Iowa State will retain the services of linebacker Tim Dobbins, the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, Independence Bowl Defensive MVP safety Nik Moser and Honorable Mention all-Big 12 tackle Brent Curvey.
There's another wild card in that mix – former ISU MVP and 2003 Big 12 Freshman of the Year – Jason Berryman, whose return to the field should do nothing but improve the Big 12's fourth best defensive team in 2004.
The special teams will also be solid with the return of deep snapper Landon Schrage, punter Troy Blankenship and place kicker Tony Yelk. Last February the NCAA granted Yelk a sixth year of eligibility after he sat out last year because of a hip injury sustained in the preseason.
Every year there's always a couple of players who come to the forefront as the season progresses and Allen said it could be one of many players this season.
"It will be interesting to see," he said. "It's wide open."