The battle to succeed Ennis Haywood has taken a twist.
Michael Wagner has replaced Hiawatha Rutland, the starter coming out of spring ball, atop the depth chart. Wagner has the most experience of any player in the backfield with 138 career carries for 539 yards and six touchdowns.
"Mike's been more productive," said McCarney shortly after his team wrapped up the first of two practices Monday. "He's had a great camp and is playing better than he did anytime during the spring. He's making more plays and is getting more yards after contact. After Saturday's scrimmage, he's number one. It's not a big lead, just like Hiawatha didn't have a big one coming in."
Despite losing former third-stringer Ja'Maine Billups to the defensive side of the ball, ISU has remained solid in the offensive backfield during the first week of two-a-days. McCarney also had positive things to say redshirt freshman Brian Thompson and first-year player Stevie Hicks. "Thompson has been excellent and is number three," McCarney said. "Stevie is number four and we'll make a decision as time goes on if we're going to try and play him or not this season. Hopefully we can redshirt him, but he's got a lot of talent."
The remainder of the offensive depth chart remained intact, with the exception of offensive guard where third-year sophomore Luke Vander Sanden is out for at least seven weeks with a broken ankle.
Defensively, the major changes have occurred up front.
Senior Beau Coleman is being considered at both defensive end positions. He is listed ahead of defensive ends Cephus Johnson and Shaheed Richardson, and could end up starting opposite rush end Tyson Smith, whom he split time with last season.
"There is a good possibility that both (Smith & Coleman) could be starting rather than splitting time at rush end," McCarney said. "If those are two of our best four defensive linemen, they need to be on the field at the same time. "Beau is ahead of both Cephus and Shaheed right now. If we started tomorrow, Beau would start at defensive end. We'll use the rest of two-a-days to hopefully finalize our evaluations."
Junior Jordan Carstens is firmly entrenched at defensive tackle, while third-year sophomore Tim Tebrink, who made the switch inside from defensive end to noseguard last April, has moved into the top spot. His backup is now true freshman Nick Leaders, who has passed redshirt sophomore Brent Nelson on the depth chart.
"The defensive line has got to keep emerging," McCarney said. "Tebrink and Leaders are our top two nose guards right now. Tebrink right now is our number one nose guard, but Leaders is going to play. He'll play a lot if he keeps coming on."
"Yelk has got the edge coming out of the last couple of competitions," he said. "Tony is our starting field goal and PAT guy, but we need every practice to evaluate. It's real close. He was better in the scrimmage on Saturday and was good again this morning. We're working every single practice, kicking field goals, PATs and evaluating that position."
The lone remaining academic uncertainty is JUCO transfer Max Steward. On Monday McCarney said his status for the upcoming season was still questionable, at best. Steward has been trying to clear his academic hurdles at Fresno (Calif.) City College.
"We haven't gotten any final word with him," McCarney said. "We're not holding our breath. He's still working through academic issues. We've got a game in 12 days, so we're moving on. But it's not 100 percent that he's done and can't get in. He's still working through some things out there. Obviously he can't play in the Florida State game even if he got here tomorrow. He wouldn't be ready."
The Cyclones have already lost two other JUCO transfers that signed in February, offensive linemen Curtis James and Mike Hmoud.
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