On Campus: You Can't Blame Coach Mac

I've always liked the underdog. I've always been a fan of the person, the team or the idea that everybody else discards. And by underdog, I don't mean the person or thing that is easy to cheer for, like say George Mason in last year's NCAA tournament or the Mighty Ducks with Coach Emilio Estivez. They were fun and easy to get behind. That's not my style.

I've always liked the underdog. I've always been a fan of the person, the team or the idea that everybody else discards. And by underdog, I don't mean the person or thing that is easy to cheer for, like say George Mason in last year's NCAA tournament or the Mighty Ducks with Coach Emilio Estivez. They were fun and easy to get behind. That's not my style.


I like the groups of folks that everybody else quickly dismisses as irrelevant or not worthy of discussion. I've always found myself arguing against the majority, even if it's not what I really believe. There's something about making the majority of folks stop and think for a moment if their stance on a subject is the correct one that gives me great pride.


With that in mind, let's discuss the oh-so-prevalent topic that has taken the Cyclone message boards by storm: What's the best move for the Iowa State Football program?


Everyone has an opinion, and from the very unscientific poll on the CN free board, most (around 75 percent) are leaning towards a change at the top. Granted, the message board community may not be a true, or very accurate, measure of the entire Cyclone Nation, but the winds of change seem to picking up ferocity. And in the end, only one man's opinion really matters.


Borrowing on an idea from ESPN, I thought I'd take a look at the other side of the coin and break down with my own variation the "Top three reasons you can't blame Dan McCarney."


Keep in mind this is merely to promote some honest discussion, so save the "Blum is drunk on the cardinal and gold kool-aid" and "Blum is a Mac-apologist" posts. And also remove yourself from the opinion that "Ultimately Mac is responsible." Of course he is ultimately responsible. But to an extent there have been a lot of instances and obstacles that are far from his control. Let's get it on.


1. Offensive Line Woes     


It seems pretty obvious that the greatest ailment of this football team in the past few years has been the play of the offensive line. It is probably the most important aspect of any college football team. This group of Cyclones has undergone more changes and reconstruction than Joan Rivers and Pamela Anderson combined. Since Steve Loney left town in 2001 and Marty Fine took the reigns of men in the trenches, the recruiting and performance on the field have been less than stellar. Let's take a quick look of the revolving door of linemen recruited in the past four years. 


Class of 2002

Cory Wierson- Knee injuries and then Hodgkin's disease ended Wierson's career. Thankfully, Cory has beaten the disease and is thriving in the working world.

Seth Zehr- Four year starter is one of the smartest and nicest men you will meet. That may be part of the problem.

Mike Hmuod (JC)- Never made it to campus.

Curtis James (JC)- Never made it to campus.

Emmanuel Valcourt (JC)-Never made it to campus.

Kory Pence- Solid two year starter.


Class of 2003


Brandon Cook- Still waiting.

Anthony Walker- Still waiting.

Bastian Schober- Back-up at center.

John Tjaden- Still waiting.

Tom Scmeling- Alternating with Reggie Stephens at right guard.

Aaron Brant- Four year starter, but hasn't developed into the all-conference tackle some believed he would.

Colin Menard (JC)- Spot starter for two years he was in program.


Class of 2004


Brandon Johnson- Rotated between offensive and defensive lines. Now back to offense.

Joe Vanstrom- Mr. towel waver has yet to see action.

Jordan Goos- Still waiting.

Kody Kuehl- Still waiting.


Class of 2005


Jason Fiacco- Transferred to UNI, where he is a back-up.

Paul Fisher (JC)- Struggling to find time anywhere.

Scott Fisher (JC)- Starter at LT has had a rough year.

Reggie Stephens- Making some great strides alternating with Schmeling.


The most recent class is still to be determined. But of those 21 scholarships given in the four-year span, ISU has hit on maybe five of them. It's tough to win any games with nobody on the line. And just as importantly, as John Walters astutely pointed out after this week's game, it's tough to give incentive for the starters to work their butts off, if there aren't any guys pushing them for playing time. It's a vicious cycle that is making it difficult for everyone involved.


Although Dan McCarney has the final say in scholarship offers, he delegates most of the recruiting efforts to position coaches. And a good percentage of these guys were pursued by Marty Fine and Steve Brickey. You can't blame Dan McCarney for that. 




2. Bad Apples and Bad Attitudes


Dan McCarney has always been known as a player's coach. The football players really do like him. He has molded many a young man into upstanding, productive adults. But he also has had to deal with a higher than usual percentage of bad apples in the last few years. Unfortunately, they were bad apples that would have greatly helped this football team. The biggest weak areas besides the offensive line are the defensive backs, defensive line and running backs. These three areas have been hit hard by defections, malcontents or guys that didn't ever show.


Defensive Backs- Ron Prelow (2003), Dominique Flower (2003), Mike West (2003), Josh Hargis (2004), Jerry Gair (2004), Bobby Chalk (2004), Brandon Gunn (2004), Mack Kimble (2004), Will Lewis (2004), Reggie Rock (2005), Durell Williams (2005).


Hargis and Gair were both highly-regarded JUCO guys who made it to campus in 2004. Hargis lasted two months before he punched a student after the student lost control of his unicycle at a dining hall. Hargis was then kicked off the team. Gair lasted all of 2004 before he ran into a litany of legal problems, culminating in the armed robbery of the Ames Kwik Shop as well as the Fuel Right. He is now serving a 37 year prison sentence.


Chalk would be a junior this season and more than likely would have been the starter opposite D-Jack if things went as planned. But he was dismissed after his true freshman year in 2004. Williams, Rock and Gunn were all cornerbacks that would have added some depth but are no longer on the team. Williams was involved in the altercation that eventually led to the arrest of Jason Berryman and Greg Coleman.


Kimble, Lewis, Flower, and Prelow all lasted less than two years at Iowa State before going elsewhere. West never made it to Ames. Each would have been given a chance to get ample playing time at either safety position this season. Flower and Prelow both came in as safeties before moving to linebacker. Neither lasted past 2005. That is 11 possible defensive backs Iowa State hasn't been able to use. Even if you remove Gair and Hargis due to exhausted eligibily for this season (2006), nine guys who could have proved very valuable to this extremely thin defensive backfield remain. That is way too many scholarship losses to overcome for any coach.


Defensive Lineman- Korey Smith (2002), Klayton Shoals (2002) Jason Berryman (2003), Nick Davidson (2003) Collins Eboh (2004, 2006) Jason McGinty (2004).


The Smith twins never played a significant amount of snaps and both left the team. Klayton Sholas transferred after his freshman year and now starts on the Baylor defensive line. Davidson only lasted a year and a half, McGinty left the team this winter. We all know the Berryman and Eboh sagas. Imagine a line of Berryman, Curvey, Shoals, and Moorehead. With Eboh, Korey Smith, McGinty and Tuba Rubin backing up. That would make a pretty noticeable difference to a line that has put absolutely no pressure on opposing teams.


Running Backs- Tyease Thompson (2004) Greg Coleman (2004) Webster Patrick (2004) Dominique Rocker (2005).


The magical running back class of 2004 has turned into a vomit-inducing group. Tyease Thompson helped Jerry Gair rob a dormitory after his freshman year and was eventually dismissed. Coleman left this spring after two very average seasons. The legend that is Webster Patrick remains the biggest enigma in ISU history. Dominique Rocker was a highly touted kid from Florida who never made it to Ames. Any of these guys would have added another element to aid Stevie Hicks and the anemic running game.


You can't blame Dan McCarney for that.     


3. Field Goal Kickers


Iowa State could very easily be the two-time defending champs of the Big 12 North if a few field goals went through the uprights instead of around them. The potential ramifications from a few simple swings of the leg are hard to fathom. From confidence to exposure to recruiting, the tone of the program would be completely different. It's sad but true. If you don't believe me, you are kidding yourself.


You can't blame Dan McCarney for that.

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