CN's Spring Game Preview

The Spring Game is a special day for big-time football fans. It is like Christmas in July for college football fans and it's finally upon us. On Saturday, Jack Trice Stadium will be rocking with Cyclone faithful attempting to catch a sneak peek at the 2006 ball club. The team has had a productive spring and CN is here to preview the big game for you. Here is a position by position breakdown of what to look for in Saturday's spring game.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Iowa State's football team will hold it's annual Spring Game. Special Teams coach Brian Schneider will be coaching the 1's and 4's on Saturday as Outside Linebackers coach Shawn Sims will take the 2's and 3's.


The reserves will once again start the game with a 21 point advantage. The game will feature 12 minute quarters and Coach McCarney will decide during the 15 minute halftime what will happen in the second half.




One of the top stories all spring has been the emergence of Kyle Van Winkle at back-up quarterback. This fifth year quarterback out of Story City, Iowa has not only impressed the coaches this spring, he's impressed his teammates as well. Bret Meyer even went as far as to say that Van Winkle knows the offense better than he does.


"Van Winkle is solid and he will be our back-up. I think he's gotten so much better. I see him probably on the same plane as me as far as knowing the offense and making plays. With Van Winkle-- if I wasn't able to play-- I don't think we'd miss too much. Maybe he's not as mobile as I am, but as far as throwing the ball he's got a stronger arm than I do. Nothing is going to be a drop-off if he has to play," said starting quarterback Bret Meyer.


We all know that Bret Meyer will get the nod in the fall, but the back-up position was the big question mark going into the spring. With the departure of Brice Beck and the spring that Van Winkle has had, there's no question that Van Winkle will be playing with the number 2's on Saturday.


At third string, Cyclone fans will get an opportunity to watch Nate Mechaelson, a 6'2 red-shirt sophomore out of Blairsburg, Iowa. At fourth string, a player by the name of Tyson Unkrich will get the nod. Unkrich is a 6'4, 170 pound red-shirt freshman out of Mount Pleasant, Iowa.


Player to Watch - Kyle Van Winkle

Van Winkle is no longer just a good story. He can play and he's looking to prove it on Saturday. After having a great spring, he wants to capitalize on it this Saturday in Jack Trice Stadium. He'll have to throw against a swarming Iowa State defense to do so.


Running Backs


Iowa State's depleted running back situation will be headlined by two men on Saturday. Stevie Hicks and Jason Harris have been battling all spring and as of now it is Hick's spot to lose. Though Harris has shown signs of brilliance with his mix of speed and power, he's still having ball security issues and that won't be tolerated by the coaching staff in 06. Expect Harris to take the majority of the snaps at this position on both teams come Saturday as this game will be a true test for the sophomore.


Jason Scales has been having problems with his knee all spring and will not be participating on Saturday. This is a tough break for a kid who is all of the sudden being passed up on the depth chart by guys who came in after him. Though he's concerned, Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney did say that the doctors have said that this is normal with the surgery that Scales had.



Player to Watch - Steven Ebner

Another back who has made his presence felt this spring is Steven Ebner, a big 5'10, 229 pound junior out of Sioux City, Iowa. This spring Ebner has gained the reputation of a punisher on this team and he'll be a crowd favorite on Saturday. This bruiser is an absolute blast to watch even when he doesn't have the ball. Ebner is a true story of an undersized athlete working his way into playing time. Keep an eye on number 45 on Saturday because when he's not running the ball, he's hitting somebody.


Wide Receivers


For being Iowa State's deepest position, it won't look like it on Saturday as four wide receivers will be out of action in the Spring Game. All-Big 12 wide receiver Todd Blythe is questionable on Saturday and will probably not see the field due to a bruised knee that he suffered a couple of weeks ago. It's notable that it is not the same knee that he had surgery on last season. Along with Blythe, senior receiver Jon Davis will also be out after he tore his Achilles tendon earlier this spring. Ryan Baum and Milan Moses will also not participate in Saturday's spring game.


Without Davis and Blythe, the youngsters will really have a chance to shine on Saturday. R.J. Sumrall will be the headliner on Saturday as he will more than likely be the number one target for Bret Meyer with the 1's along with Austin Flynn. This is a chance for Sumrall to get out of Blythe's spotlight and prove that he can be that deep threat that the Cyclone passing attack is looking for.


The injuries to Blythe and Davis will benefit Marquis Hamilton more than any other player on the roster. Hamilton, who is a red-shirt freshman will have an opportunity to show off against a second string defense and dazzle Cyclone fans on Saturday. He's been impressive all spring long and fans can expect the same on Saturday as this big receiver will have a hay day with the young secondary.


Euseph Messiah was last year's offensive scout team player of the year and he's shown why this spring. This small, but quick wide – out will remind Cyclone fans of a young J.J. Moses on Saturday. He might be small, but he's extremely quick and if he gets out in the open, he's very tough to catch.


Player to Watch - Marquis Hamilton


Hamilton will be a fan favorite after Saturday. At 6'3, 217 pounds, this red-shirt freshman can not only push the young secondary around, he can run right past them with his speed.


Offensive Line


It will be extremely hard to judge this unit on Saturday as Scott Stephenson (shoulder surgery) and Seth Zehr (broken hand) will both be out of the lineup.


"Anytime you have guys out of the lineup that makes you really nervous because you don't get a true test or evaluation. You're pulling some really good players out of that lineup so to say that here's my evaluation of our number one offense coming out of Saturday's scrimmage, it's hard to be really accurate when some of your most important pieces aren't even there," said McCarney.


Replacing Stephenson at center will be a fourth year player, Bastian Schober. Tom Schmeling, a 6'3, 290 pound red-shirt sophomore will be replacing Zehr at LG. Keep an eye on the play of Schmeling and Brandon Johnson at LG, because those two will be battling for spots on the depth chart this fall when Zehr comes back.


"Reggie Stephens and Tom Schmeling continue to improve on the offensive line. I'm really impressed with those guys. They're running number two right now. They're getting better and I'm proud of those kids," said McCarney.


A key position battle on Saturday will be for the RG position. 6'7, 325 pound senior, Paul Fisher will be battling it out with the youngster, Reggie Stephens.


Player to Watch: Reggie Stephens


Stephens has all of the tools in the world to be a starter; he just needs to put them all together. Going up against the young Iowa State defensive line on Saturday will be a great opportunity for Stephens to have a big game and prove himself to the coaches.







The game of musical chairs at this position has supposedly come to an end according to Dan McCarney. As many as five different guys have played this position this spring and Kurtis Taylor has earned the right to be the opposite of Shawn Moorehead on Saturday.


Travis Ferguson and Nick Frere are listed as the men who will be on the ends for the 2's.


This unit will be looking for immediate help this fall when Collins Eboh comes back to Ames. Along with Eboh, Rashawn Parker and Bailey Johnson will likely get looks at the position.




Brent Curvey is the man at DT but the NG position is still up for grabs. In a classic spring battle, Bryce Braaksma, a 6'4, 260 pound junior has come out on top of 6'3, 255 pound red-shirt freshman Stephon Dale heading into Saturday. This will be one of the key position battles of the entire day as the two have gone back and forth all spring. Curvey will get double teamed all year long so it's important to have somebody beside him who can take advantage of the match-ups. So far it's been Braaksma but Cyclone fans will learn a lot about the pair on Saturday.


Defensive Lineman to Watch – Kurtis Taylor


Coach McCarney stated on Tuesday that he would be surprised if anybody beat out Taylor in the spring. That's a big statement considering Collins Eboh has already proven that he can play Big 12 football. Keep an eye on Taylor and see if you think he has what it takes to play in the in Big 12. He's had a stout spring and will look to capitalize off of a young second string offensive line on Saturday.


"Kurtis Taylor has really stepped up and will be way beyond a special teams player for us," said McCarney.





The linebackers are by far the strength of this year's defense and they will show why on Saturday.


"What we see is some talent there. Again, we've got guys who haven't played. We can't be in any practice or game situations that what we can provide. We can't be in it enough, because all of those guys need those reps. As many times as we can play football, those guys are going to get more experience and get better. They've got talent; we just got to get a little more experience," said outside linebackers coach Shawn Sims.


Most Cyclone fans will have their eyes on middle-linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, the 6'2, 230 pound sophomore who recently transferred from Michigan State. His combination of speed and power will make him one of the best linebackers this school has ever seen. McKenzie's biggest weakness is his ability to learn the defense, which he will have a grasp on by this fall.


Alvin Bowen and Adam Carper will be on the corners for the Cyclones on Saturday. Carper started six games for Iowa State last season and proved that he could play Big 12 ball. Bowen didn't start a game last year but showed off his secondary like speed when he did get into games.


Carper has shown his versatility since he's been at Iowa State as he's played everywhere from safety in his red-shirt freshman year to RUSH end earlier this spring. SLB is where he was last year and it's where he'll be on Saturday.


The second team linebackers create numerous question marks with unproven players. The two to watch out for are Josh Raven and Jesse Smith. Smith, a 6'0, 230 pound red-shirt freshman has had an eye opening spring and now finds himself on the Cyclones depth chart. His quickness is why he is there. Raven is an undersized red-shirt freshman coming into Saturday at only 205 pounds, which is unheard of for a linebacker in the Big 12. Though he's small, he's been all over the field in the spring and he makes up for his lack of size with his speed.


Player to Watch – Tyrone McKenzie


This is a no-brainer for any diehard Cyclone fan. McKenzie could possibly be one of the best linebackers in the history of this school, and he's never even taken a snap. Number 17 will be everywhere on Saturday.




Of the eight men on Iowa State's depth chart in the secondary, only one of them has started at game at Iowa State. That's a scary though when fans think about Iowa State's upcoming Big 12 schedule. Though experience is lacking, Chris Ash's crew has the athletes to fill the holes.


Chris Singleton now has the opportunity to make his presence felt opposite of an All-Big 12 candidate, DeAndre Jackson. Singleton has proven in the spring that he can go up against some of the best receivers in the conference, now we'll see if he can do it in front of a crowd. His big strength is his athleticism, and his weakness is his brain. If he can keep from making youthful mistakes, he will be fine and the coaches expect him to. Singleton played sparingly as a freshman for the Cyclones last season.


James Smith has made quite the name for himself as he passed up third year player Caleb Berg to be your number one SS on Saturday. Smith is only 5'8, 191 pounds, but he's tough as nails.


"Among the most improved guys on our team is James Smith, who is holding down that No. 1 strong safety spot.  He has had a tremendous spring.  Everybody thought he was too short, except myself and my defensive coaches.  Watch his career.  It will be special.  (Smith) is going to be something but he needs a lot of work and experience in playing in games.  He has never played in a Big 12 college game yet but he is going to be something," said McCarney.


Berg is now listed as the number two at both SS and FS. Make sure and watch to see where they have him playing the majority of his time on Saturday.


There are a couple of guys battling it out for spots on the two-deeps at cornerback named Steve Johnson and Chris Brown. Johnson has great size for a cornerback at 6'2 but Brown holds the edge with speed by far. It will be interesting to see how those two hold up against the wide receivers.


Player to Watch – Caleb Berg


Here's a guy who has proven he can contribute, he just still hasn't had his chance to shine here at ISU. By putting him at the number 2 FS spot, it means that the coaches aren't ready to give up on Berg just yet.


Special Teams


Mike Brandtner has earned his spot as the Cyclone's number one punter on Saturday. He still needs to work on consistency. Here's a kid who can punt the ball 70 yards one play and shank it off of his foot the next. He'll see a solid rush coming at him on Saturday and this fall.


"Mike Brandter is definitely our starting punter, he just needs to be more consistent.  He has shown all kinds of potential and has a real strong leg but he is real conscientious and has done a lot of good things this spring. Saturday will be big for him because there will be people in the stands and its going to be great weather and I want him to step out there and look like a Big 12 starting punter for us at Iowa State," said McCarney.


Bret Culbertson will rightfully be the kicker on Saturday. Shaggy earned his scholarship last season and will be number one heading into the fall. However, he has had some competition this spring. Chris Mahoski has kicked inconsistently but shown signs of greatness. Look for Mahoski to take on the kickoff duties.


Player to Watch – Steven King


This freshman kicker out of Johnston has emerged in the final week of spring ball as a factor in the kicking game as well. Keep an eye on number 48 on Saturday.



Overall – What to Expect


  • Expect this first string defense to make the number two offense look silly. These guys have something to prove and they will go out there and do it on Saturday. I predict that they will force over four turnovers.
  • Expect the first string offense to struggle just a little bit, not because of lack of talent but because so many key pieces to the puzzle are missing.
  • Expect a competitive and intense game. Coach McCarney has mentioned numerous times that this team loves getting at each other whether it's during drills or in a scrimmage. In their biggest scrimmage of the year, these two squads will be hitting hard.
  • Expect Jason Harris to get a TON of snaps on Saturday. The coaches are going to want to get one final read on this quick running back on Saturday. Along with that, who else do they have to put in?







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