Spring Football - Running Backs & Tight Ends

Once again CN gives you the opprotunity to read spring breakdowns of the ISU football team from former players. In this piece, Luke Vander Sanden breaks down the situation at running back, fullback and tight end.

Friday marks day two of ISU's spring football practices.  Coaches are eager to get the pads on their players, but one last day in shorts and helmets as the NCAA requires the first two practices in that type of uniform.  I am going to breakdown the running back situation, as well as talk about the tight ends.

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

Stevie Hicks

 

Hicks is entering his senior year playing at the college level.  A disappointing junior year due to injuries, Stevie knows this season is his last to make his mark as a premier Iowa State running back.  Coach McCarney has called out his running backs saying that they need to get on track with the tradition of running backs in the past.  A tradition of 1,000 yard rushers.  You look at guys like Troy Davis, Daren Davis, and Ennis Haywood.  These were truly great, physical running backs.  A healthy Hicks reminds me of Haywood.  I think we can all agree that we saw glimpses of what Hicks truly can do in the season of 2004.  You look back to the Iowa State-Iowa game last year and saw a workhorse out of Hicks.  Now, we just need to Stevie to stay healthy and play consistent football at the running back spot.  I might also add how much of an asset Hicks is to the passing game.  There are numerous times that Hicks has to stay in and make checks as to what rushers to pick up.  These are not predetermined reads.  Hicks must go through his progression of checks on the run.  That being said, Coach Mac will tell you how important of a blocker Stevie is in the passing game.  Hicks is the best pass protection blocker at running back in Iowa State's program.  Look for a lot of competition at running back and a do-or-die attitude out of Hicks heading into the campaign of his senior season.

 

Jason Scales

 

 Jason Scales has been in the cupboard for what it seems like forever.  My senior season in the program, Scales saw a lot of time at the running back position.  He had a nice game in Waco, Texas, against Baylor in 2004.  Scales is one of the hardest workers in the program, and there has got to be some major determination from his game due to his absence in the offense.  Scales is a shiftier running back than that of Hicks.  Scale's play is a lot like that of Michael Wagner a few years back.  Scales isn't going to run people over or meet defenders hat-to-hat.  Scales' style is to make guys miss.  If Hicks and Scales provide some durability, what a great one-two punch they would be in the offense.  Two different running styles to keep the defense on their toes.  I look for Scales to really push Hicks during spring practices.

 

Greg Coleman (RB/FB)

 

 Coleman is going to have a huge season regarding earning back respect of his coaches and his teammates.  Plagued by off-the-field distractions in the off-season, Coleman needs to have a productive spring in order to gain respect back from his coaches and teammates.  We saw glimpses of what Coleman could do in 2004.  Coleman isn't a true running back.  He lacks the speed to hit the holes, but when he does run the pigskin, he is almost a lock for at least three yards. A healthy Hicks and Scales would provide depth at the fullback position.  Coleman would provide depth behind Kock.  Coleman is an unselfish football player.  All he does is go in and do what is asked of him.  Look for Coleman to see some time at running back and fullback this spring. 

 

Jason Harris

 

 Cyclone fans were able to see a lot of speed out of this kid last season.  Harris was thrown into the mix due to injuries at the running back position.  It is important to note that the coaches asked a lot out of Harris.  They asked a lot out of him, and he was a true freshman!  That is a lot to ask of a true freshman, but the cupboard was bare, and we needed someone to step up to the plate.  Harris will definitely be in the mix this spring at the running back position.  In 2004, he had trouble with ball security.  In the past, you did not find the ball put on the ground a whole heck of a lot, and this is something that Harris must conquer if he wants to run the football for Coach Tony Alford.  Spring practices will be a tremendous opportunity for Harris to gain confidence back from last season, as well as prove to coaches that he can play winning football and hold on to the pigskin.  Harris has been through the strength and conditioning program for nearly a year, and it will be great to see his progress athletically.  I wouldn't be surprised if the coaches try Mr. Harris at a different position either if they are happy with the progress of Hicks and Scales.

 

Look for some of the incoming freshmen at running back to push these guys once they come in during the fall and really produce some competition within the depth chart.

 

 FULLBACK

 

Ryan Kock

 

What a great story to last year's season out of the play of Ryan Kock.  Kock is definitely an asset to the Cyclones' offense in short yardage situations.  3rd down, 2 yards to go.  What is Bret Meyer going to do with the ball?  The Cyclones knew Kock was going to get it, and the opponents knew who was going to get the pigskin.  Almost 100% of the time, Kock got the first down or crossed the pay dirt.  The fullback position in Iowa State's offense is a tough one.  It is kind of like playing on the offensive line.  You are primarily used as a blocker and do not get much glory.  That is why it takes a special person to play the fullback position.  You need a guy that is determined, motivated, a guy that doesn't care who gets the glory, and a guy that plays with a relentless attitude.  Kock fits all these attributes.  Look for Kock to fine-tune his technique, leadership, and play during spring drills.  Kock enters his final season under Coach McCarney.  Another solid season out of Kock will aid his chances of extending his career past the college level. 

 

TIGHT ENDS

 

Ben Barkema

 

 Ben Barkema has proven to play winning football for the Cyclones.  He came back after an up-and-down year two seasons ago.  He was definitely an asset to the program a year ago.  Meyer can hit Barkema in the passing game across the middle.  Barkema has definitely developed some size at the tight end position.  He is a kid from Muscatine with soft hands and a great receiving tight end.  Coach Mac said that Barkema needs to work on his run blocking, and Barkema would agree.  Barkema has 15+ practices to fine-tune the run blocking technique out of the tight end position.  I think this will be a huge spring for Barkema as his compadre, Walter Nickel has provided competition at the tight end spot.  I look for Barkema to elevate his game this spring and become a balanced tight end.  A tight end that can stay in the pocket and run block or pass block, as well as a tight end that can catch balls across the middle in traffic.

 

Walter Nickel

 

Who is Walter Nickel?  If you don't know, ask the football coaching staff for tapes from last season.  What a pleasant surprise to the Cyclone offense in 2004.  Nickel, coming from Dixie State College, has proven he can be a premier tight end in the Big XII.  Nickel is a huge recieving tight end, giving Meyer another option while going through his progression in the passing game.  Nickel is a lot like Barkema.  Nickel also needs to improve his blocking skills this spring when in the game and not in the passing routes.  Coach McCarney addressed this a few days ago.  There needs to be a relentless attitude with a desire to be more physical in the running game out of Nickel and Barkema.  Nickel will take this upon his shoulders and really develop consistency this spring in his ability to be called on the run and pass block.  I look for a successful spring out of Nickel.  It is great to know that we have two tight ends that can play winning football for the Cyclones.  Nickel and Barkema will be a nice one-two punch for the Cyclone offense of 2006.


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