Signing Day Notebook

Although the Iowa State signing class is relatively low in players that figure to hit the field in year one, Dan McCarney, during his annual signing day press conference Wednesday, was happy to introduce two that could contribute this fall.

JUCO transfer James Wright and highly-touted freshman Aaron Brant received some rave reviews from the Cyclone head coach…and for good reason. Both enter some opportune situations at their respective positions, with Wright entering the mix at a position losing starter Kyle Knock to graduation and Brant plugging in on an offensive line short on depth at every spot.

Never wanting to place undue pressure on a first-year player, McCarney almost couldn't help himself when discussing their chances at early playing time.

"If these two sitting down here don't, I'm real disappointed," said McCarney, who signed 26 players overall Wednesday morning. "I think they know that. We don't try to put undue expectations on anyone. But we need help at tight end. We lost Kyle Knock and have moved Rasberry and Kuhrt. Kuhrt will be going to the offensive line and Rasberry to defensive line. We needed immediate help there. So hopefully J.W. will be out there on the field the night of the 30th.

"Aaron Brant, if he stays healthy, it will be hard to screw that deal up. He can play and is athletic. He's 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds. I don't know if I've been around many offensive linemen that are mid year seniors in high school that have the talents he does. He's humble, a great student, tough and physical. All he needs to do is learn our offense and it will be hard to keep him off the field. He's going to have a real good chance to play this season."

Wright figures to do battle with Kenny Segin this spring for the top spot at tight end. Brant enters a situation with two returning starters in Casey Shelton and Cale Stubbe, but McCarney has also made it very clear that the O-line needs to improve greatly from 2002 to this fall.

No influx from JUCO ranks

Always an inexact science, particularly when recruiting two-year players instead of high schoolers, ISU's luck has been porous recently with JUCO transfers at key areas of need.

Quarterback Seneca Wallace and SAM linebacker Jeremy Loyd were two exceptions from the 2001 class, but there have been too many disasters in the form of Curtis James, Mike Hmoud and Federico Samuel, three additions last February.

McCarney sought to clean up his program's junior college recruiting this year, but also didn't need to plug many holes immediately since all but seven contributors are returning in 2003.

"We've got a majority of the team back, obviously," McCarney said. "Once you get your program established and start getting some good depth and competition going, why not bring in four- and five-year players instead of two? Everybody knew we were really trying to upgrade immediately when we got here and there was more emphasis on J.C. players.

"We're not ever going to say we're not going to recruit those players, but if we can get four- or five-year players, then that's what we want. Depending on graduation, injuries or academic problems, we may have to go back to another year where we get four or five (J.C. kids)."

Team notes

ISU's coach also addressed some academic and injury questions in his program leading up to spring football. He began by addressing the futures of bowl game non-qualifiers Marc Timmons, JaMaine Billups and Collin Menard, among others.

"They were ineligible for one game and one game only," McCarney said. "They're eligible as we speak and can go through winter workouts and spring football. I anticipate them being with us in the fall, no question."

Mac's team will be without the services of a few players when resuming practice in March, however.

"T.J. Klith had knee surgery and will be ready to go for spring," he said. "Kory Pence had a freak accident while doing a pull-up in the weight room, slipped, fell and broke his foot. He had surgery, but should be back for some of spring.

"Cory Wierson and Andy Leaders had knee surgeries during the season and should be back for part of spring ball. Nick Linder and Boyd Viers had knee surgeries and won't be involved in spring ball. All of those kids should be ready for two-a-days in August."

Spring practice begins on March 26th and leads up to the Spring Game on April 19th at 1 p.m. All spring practices, scrimmages and the finale are open to the public.

For complete coverage of the 2003 signing class, check out our much-awaited March recruiting yearbook. The cut-off for subscriptions if February 11, so act now. Click on this link for more information:

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