That's the baseball equivalent of picking up the best looking girl at the bar, but not having any memory of it the next day. So what constitutes value? It can be argued, if it weren't for A-Rod the Rangers would have only won 55 games. And he had the best individual year in the league, which makes him a deserved winner. Honestly, there really isn't a correct answer to the debate. So, I wanted to take a different approach to this age-old conflict.
15. Packed Jack
Imagine a sell-out seven days from now. As the sun goes down, 50,000 fans stand in unison as the 2006 Cyclones emerge from the smoke and onto the surface. The noise is deafening as the sound system combined with nine months of building excitement join forces to send the crowd into a frenzy. As any player will tell you, that will get you fired up quicker than anything else can. Now imagine that for every home game. It could be some kind of fun to be a part of and a huge asset to this Cyclone team.
14. Scott Stephenson
Just talking with Scott for a few minutes at media day made me fired up about football. He was starving to hit somebody. I actually felt like I should keep my distance to not give him any ideas; he could toy with me like a box full of Legos. The best story of the fall camp came from one of the scrimmages and involved Stephenson. As the legend goes, Alvin Bowen picked off a pass and was on his way to an easy TD return with seemingly nobody within yards of him. But, Stephenson was in no mood to see Bowen celebrate on his practice turf. He came barreling down the field and leveled "Ace" after he crossed the goal-line, sending him sprawling towards the back of the end-zone. Scotty means business this fall. Not even his teammates are safe. Expect big things from #63 this year. No doubt. They need him to establish a running game.
13. Jason Scales
I'm not going to mention the "I" word that often is complemented with the word "prone" when speaking about Jason. Nobody has any idea what Scales can do. But just having him on the field should give the team a lift. He is a well-liked, hard-working kid that just needs to get some snaps under his legs. And he could add another dimension to Hicks and "Juice" Johnson. That means added value to 2006.
12. Walter Nickel
I think we are in the wake of a break-through effort from the ISU tight-ends. With J.D. and Blythe on the outside, Flynn operating the slot, Messiah in the flat, and the backs doing their jobs, the middle of the field should be a haven for Walter Nickel. He had a nice year last year (20 catches, 263 yards, 2 TDs), but I believe he could put up some big-time numbers this fall. He has put on 15 pounds over the off-season, up to 255 pounds, but kept his 4.65 speed and fantastic hands. He had some tremendous, acrobatic grabs last year and with so many weapons around him, no limit should be set for his production in 2006. Four months from now when Walter has 50 grabs and 7 TDs, don't be surprised.
11. The Cannon Guys
Last year in a column I wrote for the Iowa State Daily, I mentioned the sluggishness of the guys firing the cannon after scores in 2005. Their timing was worse than Howard Dean's scream at the Iowa Caucuses. They were firing cannons after fumbles, in the middle of missed field goals...all sorts of issues. I called them out in the paper and they responded with a barrage of angry e-mails. True story. Well, this year I look forward to great things from the cannon guys, who apparently, as I was angrily told in the e-mails, have to go through rigorous training to get the honor of firing the cannon. The value of a well-timed cannon artillery is tough to equate, but it could be a good motivator for the men in Cardinal and Gold.
10. Todd Blythe
Are 70 catches for 1300 yards and 13 TDs unrealistic? Not for this guy. If he can get off to a great start unlike last year, nothing is impossible. Plus, Blythe has been sporting the full-growth beard during fall camp. He could become the best bearded receiver in college football history. Not that there is a whole lot of competition for that distinction.
9. "Ace" in the Hole
a player I am looking more forward to watching on an every-snap basis more than
Alvin Bowen. I'm telling you, by the end of the year people are going to be
wearing shirts with an Ace of Diamonds plastered on the front, just like
Superman's Big "S."
Some may have Shags a little higher on the must-perform list, but I have confidence in the young man. Over the summer he went to the Jamie Kohl kicking camp and reportedly did quite well. I know what you're thinking, "Nothing like a former Cyclone kicker teaching a current Cyclone kicker how to kick. That's just like attending Britney Spears' seminar on parenting." But that is pessimistic. Jamie Kohl actually made two game-winning field goals back in the day. I think Culbertson's attendance will officially break the Cyclone place-kicking hex. Seriously. Don't worry about Shags this year, he will be just fine.
7. The PA announcer
I think this is the year the Iowa State PA announcer finally figures out the meaning of dual numbers. No longer will Bret Meyer be making tackles on special teams, or Jon Banks making catches on slants across the middle. This effect on a team's morale is immeasurable and could lead to at least four more wins.
6. Todd Fitch
It didn't receive a lot of attention, but quarterbacks coach Todd Fitch was given the keys to the aerial attack this off-season. He is now the passing game coordinator. The players rave about his teaching ability and he has been called one of the bright young minds in college coaching. With added responsibility, Fitch will allow Barney Cotton to concentrate on the big-uglies, which could make this offense even more lethal. This move is like giving Wesley Snipes character in Blade, Incredible Hulk like strength. In less crazy terms, the ‘Clones offense will be even more dangerous.
5. Stevie Hicks
Hicks is the
Morgan Freeman of
Singleton has had a quietly great off-season and he needed to. Teams are going to pick on him more than the Mark Mangino-looking kid in dodge ball this fall. D-Jack will receive Deion Sanders like respect at the other corner, and teams will focus most of their attention on Singleton's side of the field. He played quite a bit as the nickel back last year, but hasn't had much time out on the island. He doesn't have to be LaMarcus Hicks or Ellis Hobbs, but needs to have a solid year. And I think he will. Along with "Ace" Bowen, Singleton is my break-out Cyclone for 2006.
3. Scott Fisher
surprise some folks to see the big dude in this position, but he and his 6'7 325
pound frame needs to hold down Meyer's blind-spot. The revolving door last year
at LT (in more ways than one) with Johannes Egbers and Fisher was a large part
in allowing a Big 12 leading 39 sacks. The only schools who allowed more sacks
2. Bret Meyer
There is a different aura around Meyer this fall. It is bordering on cockiness, but that is what this team needs. The aura could also be mistaken for the glass bubble placed around him during practice. He is being protected better than the Colonel's "finger-lickin' good" recipe. They can't afford Meyer to go down for an extended time. Austen Arnaud may be the next great thing, but without #7 under center ISU loses its leader and conductor of the offensive symphony. Meyer is going to put up scary good numbers this year. Book it.
1. The person opposite Brent Curvey
If "Big Play" is the Curve Ball,
this person is the Slider. As Kerry Wood will attest, you can't get by with just
one pitch. (Wood will also attest that it's hard to pitch with a shoulder that
resembles a train-wreck, but that is another story.) As I wrote earlier this
summer, teams with stout rush defenses are almost always successful. The
correlation is remarkable: In 2005, 37 of the 40
top run defenses had a winning record. 34 of the bottom 40 had
losing records. Last year, the Cyclones were 12th nationally, but
that was with Nick Leaders and his 310 pounds of sloppy brilliance. Guys like
Nate Frere, Ahtyba Rubin, Bryce Braaksma, Stephon Dale, Matt Berg, etc. are the
#1 key to a successful season. It was the biggest question mark in the summer
and remains the biggest question mark with only a week left to the first game.