Will the Tight End be a Weapon for the Cyclones?

I'm certain I'm not the only Cyclone fan that has been caught yelling "no" in Jack Trice or even at the television set. The reason for my negativity is Iowa State's short yardage formation; we've gone into a two tight end formation.

In past years, that generally meant a running play up the gut that unfortunately more times than not, resulted not in a first down, but in a pile up behind the line of scrimmage.


Media Day dispelled some of those fears of that formation and actually provided me with optimism that our red zone offense will produce more touchdowns this season.


I am a Cyclone fan, so my optimism is "guarded", for it hinges on the play of an experienced sophomore and a rookie junior.


Ben Barkema is a big guy at 6-foot- 3 and 245 pounds, and played in every Cyclone game last season as a red shirt freshman. There were times last year he found himself wide open due to defenses keying on Stevie Hicks or our talented receivers.


If Barkema can find some of those seams this year and then finish the play, an under utilized weapon in the red zone, the tight end, could buoy Iowa State's scoring opportunities.


Barkema said he made "moderate gains" on his strength and speed in the off season. Along with playing experience, the biggest difference from last season is "I'm not fourth on the depth chart," Barkema laughed.


In fact, he is number one coming into fall practice, ahead of JUCO Walter Nickel out of Dixie State College. The 6-foot-3, 235 speedster didn't come to Iowa State due to a long time love for the cardinal and gold. It was the best situation for him due to the young offense.


"A chance to go right in and play right away," Nickel said.


Nickel said his strength is his receiving skills, but his speed will help the passing attack.


"Being able to get down field and hold the safeties so guys like [Todd] Blythe and Jon Davis can run the edges one on one with the corners," Nickel said.


Coach Terry Allen is responsible for the tight ends.


"We've traditionally played quite a bit with two tight ends and Barney [Cotton, Offensive Coordinator] is a believer in that," Allen said.


If Nickel can play with the skills that made him a sought after recruit, the two tight end look for the 2005 Cyclones could be a different look than previous years.


While the one tight end lines up in a traditional 3-point stance on the line, the H-Back is a flexible tight end position.


"He will be a guy that can move around a bit," Allen said. "[The H-Back] has the athleticism to play as a third wide receiver, not always as a true tight end."


He will also occasionally line up in the full back position in short yardage situations.


The development on the practice field in the next four weeks of Barkema and Nickel in both blocking and receiving will go a long way in realizing scoring consistency in the red zone on game days for the Cyclones this fall.

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