But one thing that Cyclone coaches can count on from the Bagley, Iowa, native is his keeping an even keel and remaining humble. Cyclone Nation sat down with the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder recently for a question and answer session.
CYCLONE NATION: You came in playing behind the likes of Ryan Harklau and James Reed, but now find yourself in their role of being a veteran leader. What are your thoughts about that?
CARSTENS: It's a good feeling for me. Growing up in central Iowa and seeing Iowa State play Iowa every year and then coming here my first year and seeing the great defensive line we had. Now I'm in those shoes as a junior. I feel excited to be in that role and hopefully I can do a good job at it.
CYCLONE NATION: Does a possible career in the NFL come to mind, if even for a second?
CARSTENS: I try not to look at it. I just try to think about what I'm doing right now and play the best ball I can in college. Whatever comes after that, that's fine.
CYCLONE NATION: How much farther along are you this fall from where you were in 2001?
CARSTENS: Having some starting experience definitely helps a guy, then knowing what it feels like to play a whole game and getting 60 to 70 snaps a game. Knowing the conditioning and effort that it takes helps. I hope that I can use all of those things and be an even better player.
CYCLONE NATION: Your work ethic is really something to be proud of, isn't it?
CARSTENS: That's something I grew up with and it's something that my family really put into me. I'm trying to use that to lead by example and benefit myself.
CYCLONE NATION: That hard work has certainly led you to where you are today. Do you still think back to just how far you have come in three years?
CARSTENS: I definitely had a lot of room to improve. I was 6-foot-5 and 220. I had a lot of room to put some weight room. It's not that rare where you have guys that come in, work real hard, put weight on and improve themselves. I tried to do that and whatever I did on the field from there was fine.
CYCLONE NATION: What was it that drove you in the beginning?
CARSTENS: Not being recruited real heavily out of high school has fueled me. I didn't really know what I could do here, but I had a feeling I could play. I kept that in the back of my mind as I practiced and worked out. I think that really helped give me some motivation with working out and improving myself.
CYCLONE NATION: Finally, what are some specific things that you worked on during the off-season?
CARSTENS: One of the things I tried to do was concentrate on the little things, like using my hands, hand work, foot speed, coming off the ball and shedding blockers. I tried to take one thing at a time and improve.