Offensive Line Main Concern Against FSU

Cyclone Nation editor-in-chief Steve Deace believes the offensive line is Iowa State's chief concern heading into the season-opener against No. 3 Florida State in the Eddie Robinson Classic.

With three new starters already penciled in along the offensive line, Iowa State Coach Dan McCarney spent a good portion of media day answering questions about the quality and inexperience of that unit.

The news of Luke Vander Sanden's broken ankle suffered during a non-contact drill – as first reported by Cyclone Nation earlier this week – throws the depth chart up front into even more chaos.

If that doesn't depress you enough, consider the season-opener is against Florida State, a team renowned for its pass-rushing prowess over the years. Nothing like jumping right from the frying pan and into the fire.

Perhaps that's the biggest reason the odds-makers bumped the Seminoles up to a 22-point favorite in some circles this week, strictly for entertainment purposes only of course.

Ironic, isn't it? All summer long the talk has been how could Iowa State possibly matchup with FSU's vaunted speed? Now, the concern is along the line of scrimmage, where the Cyclones have traditionally been strong during McCarney's tenure. New offensive line coach Marty Fine certainly has his work cut out for him the next eight days.

If the season started today, Iowa State would likely start the following offensive line: Casey Shelton at left tackle, Dwayne Johnson at left guard, Zach Butler at center, Bob Montgomery at right guard, and Cale Stubbe at right tackle.

Shelton originally came to ISU as a defensive lineman, but he was in the rotation last season at right tackle and has almost two full years of seasoning under his belt. He played in the Independence Bowl against Alabama, which has a better defensive front than the Seminoles, so he should be ready to be counted on.

Johnson played in three games last season as a defensive lineman before switching sides. He has this position mainly by default because of Vander Sanden's injury and freshman Korey Pence's rustiness coming off a two-year Mormon mission. Stubbe just moved to the offensive line in the spring.

The line's strength is up the middle, with Butler and Montgomery providing the foundation as returning starters with loads of experience. Expect to see their numbers called upon frequently against the Seminoles to lead the way for Michael Wagner and Hiawatha Rutland.

Meanwhile, Florida State lost only one starter from last year's young defensive front seven, and returns its entire defensive line. However, this unit did not live up to tradition last season while accounting for just 19 sacks.

Plus, Bobby Bowden has suspended standout nose guard Jeff Womble for the opener for a violation of team rules. So far, at least, this Seminole defensive front is getting by on the reputation of its predecessors and recruiting rankings.

Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine the offensive line not being the primary concern for the Iowa State coaches as they prepare for the Seminoles.


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