Spring-ing Ahead

Preparing ahead for our April issue of the magazine, Cyclone Nation sat down with Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney Wednesday morning. McCarney spoke mostly on spring football, which kicks off March 26 in Ames, and updated us on some different position changes and issues regarding his team.

Much of Iowa State's work this time of year is in the weight room with strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan. McCarney issued a stern challenge to his team following a disappointing end to the 2002 season in Boise on New Year's Eve – gain the necessary weight and be more physical next year.

Most of the 60-plus players have followed through on the New Year's resolution. As of Wednesday, McCarney said all but two have reached their individual weight goal set by the staff.

Here are some news and notes out of the interview.

Offensive line shaping up

According to the ISU coach, this position has responded well to his postseason challenges. Expect the Cyclones to open spring ball with a starting lineup of Luke Vander Sanden (center), Casey Shelton and Cale Stubbe (tackles), Bob Montgomery at guard along with either Seth Zehr or Aaron Brant.

The offensive staff has decided to start Brant at guard, instead of playing him on the outside, and he will be locked in a battle with Zehr, a redshirt freshman who has already bulked up to 275 pounds after reporting to camp last fall at just under 250. Mac added that Brant is up to 302 pounds and progressing.

The odd man out of the lineup, at least for now, appears to be Collin Menard. The JUCO transfer gained starting experience opposite Montgomery last season, but will start spring as his backup.

Two offensive linemen faced with the chore of gaining weight in the offseason, Shelton and Stubbe have made marked improvement in the area. Mac said Shelton is up to 290 pounds and Stubbe currently stands at 300.

Walk-ons Chris O'Hallearn and Johannes Egbers are expected to provide some depth on the line, and were spoken of highly. A scholarship signee from the 2002 class, Craig Kuhrt has already moved from tight end to offensive line but is still a ways away from factoring into the depth chart. However, the redshirt freshman has a great frame to be a dominant tackle in the future.

Musical linebackers

Chris Whitaker, Brandon Brown and Joe Woodley were expected to be at or near the top of the depth chart this season, however, McCarney said two of the three are changing positions at linebacker. Whitaker will be given a chance to start at SAM, but will have to contend with Erik Anderson and Jamar Buchanan. Brown will assume Whitaker's old spot, moving from WILL to MIKE. Woodley, meanwhile, will settle in for a battle with Jimmy Morris (225 pounds) at WILL.

A duo of redshirt freshmen, in addition to Morris, is making strides in the off-season. Matthew Robertson is up to 230 pounds, while Kyle Smith weighs in at 220. Smith's twin brother Korey will back up Tyson Smith and Cephus Johnson at rush end.

The defensive staff will be without the services of Boyd Viers this spring. The oft-injured WILL linebacker is rehabbing from knee surgery, but will give it a go in preseason workouts. Viers had battled shoulder injuries throughout his young career before tearing a knee ligament in practice last season.

More defensive positions settled

In order to clear up some room in a crowded safety corps and provide some immediate help at cornerback, Anthony Forrest will be assigned to cover receivers this spring. He moves from safety to cornerback, where the Cyclones have lost Atif Austin to graduation.

McCarney feels Forrest is talented enough to start at corner, leaving Ellis Hobbs and Harold Clewis to battle for the other starting job. Despite the move, ISU still has JaMaine Billups, Marc Timmons, Stevie Paris and Nik Moser returning as safeties.

Who would replace Beau Coleman as the defensive end opposite Tyson Smith had been an item of off-season speculation. That player appears to be Tim Tebrink, who has settled in around 282 pounds and gives ISU the anchor on the edge it lacked last season. Tebrink will be backed up by 265-pound redshirt freshman Beau Klaffke. Disappointing JUCO transfer of last season, Shaheed Richardson, must step up and find a home inside or outside.

Quarterback battle set to heat up

As expected, Mac named Cris Love the pre-spring starting quarterback. But Waye Terry and Austin Flynn are hot on the incumbent's heels. Terry, a redshirt junior, was expected to put the most pressure on Love, however, Mac said Flynn was the most impressive of three redshirts during bowl practices. Stay tuned, because this will be one of the most interesting story lines throughout the spring.

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