Inside the April issue of Cyclone Nation Magazine:
- The Search for Seneca's Successor. Our cover story focuses on the three Cyclones vying to replace Seneca Wallace as Iowa State's starting quarterback: Cris Love, Austin Flynn, and Waye Terry.
- The Return of the Running Game. The focal point of the offense this spring will be on reinvigorating ISU's once-vaunted running game. Leading that effort is a re-tooled offensive line and redshirt freshman Stevie Hicks.
- Strength in Numbers. ISU's defense returns loads of experience, depth, and leadership.
- Big 12 Rivals Looking for Answers this spring. A capsule look at the questions and concerns each of Iowa State's conference rivals are dealing with this spring.
- Top 10 Things to Look for this spring. A spring training guide for Iowa State football fans.
- ISU turns recruiting focus to class of 2004. A look at some of the top rising seniors being recruited by Iowa State and those who have already visited for "Junior Day."
Q&A with Coach Dan McCarney:
Iowa State faced a fork in the road after seeing its 2002 season end in disappointing fashion at the Humanitarian Bowl. Dan McCarney's team could either stay content with being that middle-of-the-road Big 12 team or dig back in and continue reaching for more.
After hearing his spirited post-game locker room speech, it was easy to tell which direction McCarney wants the Cyclones to go. Mac issued a challenge to his rising senior class and those around the program that needed to do more.
The players appear to have answered the call. Leading up to the kickoff of spring football, Cyclone Nation sat down with the ISU head coach to get his thoughts on the start of preparations for the 2003 season and we're happy to report that the prognosis is a good one.
CN: Our cover story this month deals with the quarterback battle. What are your thoughts on the competition between Cris Love, Waye Terry and Austin Flynn?
McCarney: Love goes into spring number one. He knows the offense inside and out. He's really a sharp kid. He doesn't have the athletic ability Seneca Wallace has, but not many of them do around college football. Cris is a faster Todd Bandhauer. He has the same kind of size, throws the ball a lot like Bandy and has a good strong arm. He's definitely the number one quarterback going in.
It's going to be a great battle.
Waye Terry has a lot of ability and athleticism, but needs to have some success and experience success. We've got to orchestrate as many game-like situations as we can in scrimmages and practices. Then hopefully he'll have some success and build on that. He's a big, physical quarterback and has a lot of ability.
I think Austin Flynn was the most impressive quarterback of the redshirts during bowl practices. I thought they all did a good job, but he was the most impressive. It will be interesting to see how that goes. He runs better than any of the quarterbacks we have, has a good arm and is very mobile. I'm excited about him. He was one of those guys that had a lot of chances coming out of high school. A lot of people were recruiting him. Nick Quartaro jumped in there and did a heck of a job, then when he left for Kansas we were able to hold onto him.
CN: If Love were to hold onto the starting job going into fall, how would that alter the offense you ran the past two seasons with Wallace?
McCarney: We don't want to change a whole lot because of the ability of the guy back there. We like what we do. Defenses have to defense the whole field against our offense and that starts with our quarterback being able to do some things inside and outside the pocket. We'll still run some option. I don't think you'll see us featuring one thing or another, regardless of who it is.
CN: Are Terry and Flynn comparable?
McCarney: They are somewhat with their release, touch and arm strength. Sometimes Waye will try to put that ball through your chest. He really has a strong arm and at times will have to take something off his throws. T
The supporting cast is going to be better for those quarterbacks than it was for Seneca. We'll be better on the offensive line. All of those receivers are back, plus you've got Jon Davis and Andy Kohler who have made major improvements. We've got to make sure we can win with whoever it is, and that he's not out there getting us beat by turning it over a bunch and making mistakes.
CN: Let's break down the top three quarterbacks individually. What areas would you like to see Love improve on this spring?
McCarney: He's got to prove to us that he can be the starting quarterback and lead us, operate the offense, and execute the offense. I know he's not going to be out there making a bunch of mental errors, because he's sharp and really understands our offense. But he's got to get out there and show us he can make the plays. When it's 3rd-and-medium or 3rd-and-long, he needs to lead the offense and limit turnovers.
CN: How about Terry and Flynn?
McCarney: With each of those guys, it's a matter of them going out and showing us they deserve to be the number one quarterback. That's consistency, performance and not making big mistakes. Everybody is going to make a mistake now and then, but don't keep making the same mistake. They're going to be running our offense and got a little bit of that during bowl practices, but for the most part all they've been doing is looking at cards through the whole season.
Those two are the most impressive scout team quarterbacks that we've had since I've been here. The defensive staff will tell you the same thing.
CN: How important is offensive line improvement this spring?
Luke Vander Sanden will move to center and should be our starter next season. He's doing everything right now, including all the lifting and running. Bob Montgomery is an All-Big 12 guard and is running as well as he's ever had. He's 310 pounds and has been super consistent ever since he's been here. Collin Menard will back up Montgomery going into spring.
We're going to look at Seth Zehr and Aaron Brant at the right guard spot to find out which one of those two will start. We knew all along that Brant would either be a guard or tackle. Zehr can play center, guard or tackle. He is just a real good athlete and is 275 pounds. He's starting to put some weight on. Either way, I'd be very surprised if both of those kids don't end up starting someday.
We've got to establish some depth. Kory Pence had a freak injury. They were doing towel pull-ups and he slipped and snapped a foot. Hopefully he'll be back for part of spring. Chris O'Hollearn and Joannes Egbers are walk-ons who have a real chance to play here. Now is it going to be the first game, sixth game or 2004? I don't know. Those are in-state walk-on kids who I've been real impressed with. Matt Bockes is our back-up center.
CN: You said Zehr is up to 275 pounds. Shelton almost looks more like a Big 12 power forward than offensive lineman. Is size as big a concern this season as it was last?
McCarney: They have to continue putting on weight. Zehr's got to get bigger, but he came in at 246 and has already made some major gains. He wears it well because he's tall. Brant doesn't need to put on more, he's 305 pounds already. Casey's up to 290 pounds and Stubbe is at 300 for the first time in his career. Those two are starting to look like Big 12 offensive tackles.
CN: How big of a role did you new "breakfast club" play in the much-needed weight gain?
McCarney: It's been real key. There are only about two kids on this team that haven't gained the weight we wanted them to. We gave everyone a spring goal and we're giving them a fall goal. We're making breakfast mandatory for these kids that have not been where they needed to be physically.
With some kids it was only gaining four or five pounds, which is pretty easy. It was pretty drastic for some other guys. There are some others that constantly have problems gaining weight and maintaining it, like Marc Timmons and Tyson Smith. We know they can play good football, but why not go play great football and have the size, strength and power to do it?
CN: How much of your offseason regimen is predicated on the leadership of the senior class?
McCarney: That's always important. There are some seniors in that class that are at the head of that list needing to gain weight. Everybody has bought into it and is doing a good job. I addressed it in the locker room after the bowl game. I talked to the upcoming senior class. The baton had been passed at the end of that game. The junior class is now seniors. I've been real impressed with the way these kids are working out. We just physically look better right now.
CN: Is the offseason and spring practice when team chemistry, camaraderie, and leadership are established?
McCarney: There's no question. This is the time to do it. It's those 6 a.m. workouts in the morning and lifting during the day. If you're not committed to this thing, this is the time of year you find out. It's real hard and demanding. We have academic checks going all the time. We have players meeting with the coaches once a week on academics. We want to know all about their progress. We have coaches going to study table every night. We all want a presence with the kids while they're studying. You're setting up a lot of things for the season this time of year.
CN: Are there any position changes fans should keep look out for?
McCarney: We moved Craig Kuhrt from tight end to offensive line. He's not going to step in there and be an All-American this spring, but he can play. We think he's got some potential. He's got great height, wide shoulders and needs to fill out.
We moved Chris Whitaker from MIKE linebacker to SAM linebacker, where Jeremy Loyd was. At MIKE linebacker they come from all directions. Out there on the edge, it's a lot more coming from the inside. For a guy that's had all of the major injuries he's had, I think it's going to help him.
We're going to move Brandon Brown from WILL linebacker to MIKE. There's no question he's the best linebacker we've got on this football team right now. He'll line up where Matt Word did last season. He's excited about it, as we are. If he stays healthy, he's got the chance to be All-Big 12 in the next couple years.
Joe Woodley will go into spring as our number one WILL linebacker.
We're going to take a look at Anthony Forrest at corner. We think he's one of our best cover corners. We know he can play safety. He was the MVP of the bowl game there, so we know he can play. But if he's one of our best cover guys and can play corner that's where should line up. The emergence of JaMaine Billups, the improvement of Nik Moser, the job that Stevie Paris did in his first start in the bowl game makes us feel better about the safety position.
CN: The hype surrounding Stevie Hicks going into this spring rivals that of Seneca Wallace heading into his first few practices as a Cyclone. Is he the main attraction?
McCarney: We'll find out. He really does have a lot of ability. I really don't think he has any idea how good he's going to be or how strong he can get. He's young and is still learning everything. He had a real good semester academically and did a great job on the field. He was our scout-team MVP.
The difference between he and Seneca, though, is that when Seneca came in there weren't two or three quarterbacks that had played. There are three backs that have all played now and they sure don't want to give it up to Stevie. Hiawatha Rutland was never the same after he had that bad sprained ankle. He still played and was solid, but he was never the same as early in the season. He has looked sensational in these early-morning workouts.
It's going to be fun to watch because Hiawatha, Michael Wagner, and Brian Thompson don't want to stand around and watch Stevie Hicks. Stevie doesn't want to stand around and watch anymore, either. It's going to be real good competition. We want to give all four of those guys a legitimate shot at the job.
CN: Who are some surprise players who could emerge this spring?
McCarney: All of those three young linebackers are tough and gained some weight. Morris is up to 225. Matt's up to 230. Kyle Smith's made a lot of progress and is around 220. Those are all good, young redshirts.
Klayton Shoals was a disappointment in the fall (on the defensive line), but he's getting bigger and stronger. He made some real gains in the weight room since last fall.
McCarney: Cephus and Shaheed were disappointing to me. They know that because I've told them the same thing. We need more out of them. They're big, physical kids that aren't cowards and don't shy away from contact. But they've got to start making plays. We need givers in the program and not takers. Giving is not just showing up to practice, it's getting out here on game day and helping this team.
CN: What about the rest of the defensive line?
McCarney: We're going to leave Jordan Carstens inside and we don't want to move him around anymore. Tim Tebrink is 282 pounds and looks good. We're going into spring with him at end. He's been a journeyman and we want to stop the journey and get him at one position. Beau Klaffke will back him up. He's a hard-nosed redshirt freshman that just needs to learn how to play. He's 265 pounds and is getting better all the time. That will be a good battle this spring.
Nick Leaders is around 290 pounds right now. He played the whole season around 267 to 270 starting as a freshman in this league. There aren't many around the country that can do that and play well. He looks like a different kid now. We're real excited about him.
To make sure you receiver Cyclone Nation Magazine's 2003 Spring Football Preview in the mail, click on this link: https://secure.theinsiders.com/a.z?s=171&p=6&c=1