Cyclones Look to get a Kick out of Special Teams

In looking back to last years special team's play, the first aspect that pops into Cyclone Nation's memory is the missed field goals that cost chances for wins against Iowa, Colorado and Missouri. What is often forgotten is just how solid other aspects were.

Iowa State blocked nine kicks and punts, which directly helped Iowa State beat Northern Illinois and Kansas. Conversely, after a disastrous 2003 with blocked punts, opponents last season never laid a hand on a Cyclone kick.


"One of the biggest momentum changing plays in a game is a blocked punt," Assistant DeMontie Cross said. Along with Terry Allen, Cross is the Co-Special Teams Coordinator.


The Cyclones put a special emphasis on punt protection before last fall.


"We got some bigger bodies on the unit and those guys stayed together," Cross said. "There was a lot of cohesion on the unit."


An area Iowa State hopes to improve is punt and kick returns. Whose responsibility it is will be determined in the fall practices.


"With the loss of Ellis Hobbs and [Todd] Miller returning punts, there's a big void," Cross said.


"We've opened it up to all the newcomers, but its wide open," Cross said.


Some of the returning Cyclones vying for time on the return unit include senior Terrance Highsmith, junior Ryan Baum and sophomores Greg Coleman and Jason Scales.


The coaches will be looking not only for speed and elusiveness, but a confidence in the ability to make plays. But those attributes are secondary according to Coach Cross.


"The number one priority is ball security; we've got to hang on to the ball," Cross said.


Both the punting and place kicking jobs are once again wide open less than a month prior to opening kickoff. The "x-factor" for both positions is the health of 6th year senior Tony Yelk. Camp is young, but so far, so good, regarding Yelk's hip injury that sidelined him all of last year.


Yelk will challenge senior Troy Blankenship at punter. Blankenship was solid last season, averaging 38.4 yards a punt and pinning the opponents inside the 20 nineteen times.


Yelk, along with sophomore Bret Culbertson and sophomore Corey Paetznick [a transfer from Northwest Missouri State] will battle throughout summer camp to prove their consistency to the team and coaching staff.


After converting on 8-of-10 field goals and perfect on extra points last season, it appeared to be solidly Culbertson's job, until an erratic spring put Iowa State in an all too familiar position; searching for a consistent kicker.


Coach Terry Allen would of course prefer there isn't a revolving door of kickers this fall.

"In a perfect world, Bret Culbertson picks up where he left off last year," Allen said. "It's all predicated on how Bret handles the situation."


Allen said he hopes Yelk can avoid injuries so that at the least he can handle kickoffs, some punts and long field goals.


"Tony without a doubt has the strongest leg," Allen said.


There are at least two positions on special teams lacking a playing time controversy; holder and deep snapper.


Junior Austin Flynn and long snapper senior Landon Schrage earned their playing time last year with flawless play.


"[Schrage] is one of the best in the conference; a great asset to have," Flynn said.


His speed and pin point accuracy on snaps keeps the holder alert.


"Your seven yards away and he fires that thing," Flynn said. "If you're not ready to go, it'll go right through your hands."


Cyclone fans hope there will be numerous high fives between snapper, holder and the yet to be determined kicker throughout the season.



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