Vander Sanden: O-Line Recruiting

The old saying is that the game of football is "won in the trenches." That old saying holds true for any game of football. Sure, once in a while there is luck involved, and the marbles fall your way. The battle in the offensive and defensive lines is where games are won.

In this story, I focus my efforts on Iowa State's football recruiting since the year 1999, focusing on offensive lineman. I will dissect and figure out what has gone wrong in this department of recruiting, and why it is an issue for the program.  While at Iowa State, I knew it was a problem, the coaches knew it was a problem and the fans knew it was a problem.  The reality is that there are many factors that contribute to the offensive line problems at Iowa State. These problems start with recruiting.  We are going to walk back in time to the 1999 offensive line commits, all the way to the 2005 offensive line commits.  I will explain where the heart of the problem lies, and how it needs to be fixed in my eyes.


2005 Iowa State Offensive Line Commitments:


-Reggie Stephens

-Paul Fisher

-Scott Fisher

-Jason Fiacco


In this 2005 offensive line recruiting class, two members have contributed on game days for Iowa State.  Scott Fisher, a two-year starter at left tackle, and Reggie Stephens, an on-and-off starter at right guard.  Paul Fisher is in the two deep at left guard, and Jason Fiacco is history.  Fiacco was a highly touted offensive lineman out of Wisconsin, and he left the team for "personal reasons."  The Fisher twins were highly touted junior college offensive lineman, and they haven't lived up to their expectations.  These two guys are behemoths, and they haven't produced for the football program like coaches and fans thought. 


2004 Iowa State Offensive Line Commits:


-Brandon Johnson

-Joe Vanstrom

-Jordan Goos

-Kody Kuel

-Landon Streit

-Fabian Dodd (defensive lineman converted to offensive lineman)


In this recruiting class, whose members are now red-shirt sophomores, not one guy has step foot in the two deep.  Adding to that point, Kody Kuel, has quit the team.  Fabian Dodd contributed in 2005, but that is about it.  He was a converted defensive lineman with two years of experience at the offensive line position. The rest of the offensive line class are members of the team, but have not found a way to better the team, and enter into the two-deep depth chart.  No offense to the remainder of this class, but the rest of these guys will be "projects."  It honestly would surprise me to see any of these guys be starters before they are seniors, let alone produce.  That being said, this offensive line class of 2004 has been non-existent and is a miss.


2003 Iowa State Offensive Line Commits:


-Anthony Walker

-Bastian Shober

-John Tjaden

-Tom Schmeling

-Aaron Brant

-Brandon Cook


This recruiting class has all members in tact except for Brandon Cook.  Cook left the team last year to pursue his schooling and personal life.  It sounds pretty interesting to me to say the least.  Aaron Brant is a massive offensive lineman who a lot of fans expected to be a dominant figure on the field.  He has a NFL type body, one that everyone would dream of having.  Brant is a four-year starter who contributed and started some as a freshman.  Does he have the tenacity of an offensive lineman?  He was forced into this role as a freshman due to injuries, and not enough offensive linemen on the roster that could produce and contribute.  I think that Brant would have been much better off red-shirting from a physical and mental standpoint.  He never got that chance to develop into a college offensive lineman.  I will talk about this point later in the story.  Bastian Shober is a back-up center.  He is a short, stocky offensive lineman, with a lot of strength, but limited athletic ability.  Beyond this, it is just mind boggling.  Jon Tjaden was tabbed as a big time offensive line recruit out of high school, and we don't even find him in the two-deep roster.  That is sad being that he has been in the program for several years.  Tom Schmeling made ground into the two-deep roster by starting, and sharing time with Reggie Stephens this year.  His season was cut short by a knee injury, and Schmeling has a long ways to go before he will be a top lineman in the Big XII.  Anthony Walker competed for the center spot, but has struggled to earn his way into the two deep.  All of the members of this class are seniors or red-shirt juniors.  In a lot of successful programs, those are the players that hold the number one and number two spots in the depth charts.  Some of these guys have been forced into their roles due to the lack of production out of the offensive line as a whole.


2002 Iowa State Offensive Line Commits:


-Collin Menard

-Mohsen Hmoud

-Curtis James Jr.

-Kory Pence

-Emmanuel Valcourt

-Cory Wierson

-Seth Zehr


The 2002 offensive line commits features two full-time starters, and one role guy.  Kory Pence was an offensive guard that started for two seasons.  I thought he was better his junior campaign than his senior campaign, but he definitely contributed to the program.  Seth Zehr is a guy that has been a 3+ year started and has helped the Cyclones.  Lastly, Collin Menard was an offensive guard from Valley High School that was a role player and contributed to the team.  Cory Wierson left the team due to a serious knee injury.  The others on the list quit the team, or were not able to make it academically.  That is very sad because college is not that difficult.  This was a class that the Iowa State Football program did not get much out of in terms of all around contribution from its members, and as a result, caused them to be behind in the game of producing offensive lineman.


2001 Iowa State Offensive Line Commits:


-Gerald Johnson

-Joseph Johnson


Iowa State only went after two offensive linemen in this class, and they happen to be twin brothers.  These two guys did not even come close to producing or contributing to the Cyclones.  They were definitely a washout in terms of recruiting.  This was basically a year missed out on developing offensive linemen. 


2000 Iowa State Offensive Line Commits:


-T.J. Woods

-Ryan Terpening

-Lorenzo White

-Kerry Karlson


The 2000 offensive line commits were full of size, that is for sure.  Only Lorenzo White provided constant success out of this group.  This group also featured three junior college guys, and one high school kid in Ryan Terpening.  T.J. Woods stuck it out through his senior year, but never contributed on the offensive line on Saturdays, Ryan Terpening quit before his freshman campaign was over, Kerry Karlson quit before graduating, leaving the only producer for the Cyclones out of this class in Lorenzo White.  Once again, the Cyclone football team did not get much help from this recruiting class.


1999 Iowa State Offensive Line Commits:


-Bob Montgomery

-Scott Rickard

-DeAndre Harns


The 1999 offensive line commits produced a great player and a solid contributor.  Bob Montgomery was a great player for Iowa State.  He gave it his all and definitely produced for the program, and made it a better program because he went to Iowa State.  Scott Rickard was a solid contributor, not a starter, but a role player on the offensive line.  We never heard anything from DeAndre Harns, nonetheless, he probably did not even wear a cardinal and gold jersey.  Once again, you can see no depth established.


In conclusion, I hope you can see the trend of offensive line commits over the past 5-6 years.  There hasn't been any depth established because guys have not panned out.  It may have been lack of academics or lack of talent to play in the Big XII.  This is truly an area that needs to be addressed.  In the recruiting of an offensive lineman, you cannot expect a kid right out of high school to contribute his first year in your program.  Guys are not physically or mentally ready for the grind of an offensive lineman, and what it takes.  That being said, a good program has depth established in the offensive line positions.  Back-ups should be red-shirt sophomores, red-shirt juniors, and red-shirt seniors.  This position has never had depth to push the starters to the point of losing jobs.  This position has had coaching turnover three times since 1999.  That being said, there are a lot of factors that go into producing offensive linemen.  Coaching turnover, academics, physically ready, and lack of talent to name a few.  Whenever a new coach comes in, he has his idea of what the mold of a division one offensive lineman is.  Footwork is and weighing 285 pounds is more important than a 330 pound lineman with no footwork.  Closing up, consider the list I have put forth to you, and hopefully you can see why the offensive line position is a struggle at Iowa State.












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