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A Look at Iowa State

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Bumped from the diaries. This is straight from the enemy's lair - specifically, Clone Chronicles, a terrific Iowa State site. --PB--

Hey guys, since I'm the Cyclone fan that frequents these parts, I figured I'd give you a bit of a primer on the Clones.

The team had appeared to improve in every game this season. Kent State was able to use a mobile quarterback to dart past our defensive line and into the second level. Northern Iowa physically manhandled Iowa State on the line, and I feel they were playing with a bit of a grudge. The Iowa game could be construed the same way. I never actually considered at the time that we might have actually been better than them, but it's pretty apparent they fucking suck as well. We gave the Toledo game away, allowing them to score two touchdowns in the last five minutes of the game without forcing their offense to do so much as take a snap.

The Nebraska game really occurred in two parts. The first quarter showed what happened when we could execute the game plan at hand. We took control of the ball and stalled out the Nebraska offense. As soon as Lucky completed a halfback pass on us, however, the defense got down. Tech was a horrible matchup for us. ISU was the first team to hold them under 500 total yards this year, but when our offense cannot produce at all, it makes it hard for anyone to keep up with Tech.

Quarterback: Bret Meyer is in his fourth year as starting quarterback, and has really appeared to regress from his sophomore year on. His decision making has been up and down this year. Can be a threat to run the ball, but often collapses in a heap short of the first down. Also runs with the ball outstretched in one hand most of the time. Is starting to draw the ire of fans. Locks onto a WR and stares him down. Rarely will look off a defender. Often throws too early. Lacks leadership on the field.

Runningback: JJ Bass was the top runningback through the first four games of the year, but was hurt going into Nebraska. Got some snaps against Tech. Decent runner with decent speed and a decent burst. Has yet to get to the second level this year, but none of our backs have. Has a decent stiff arm. Probably our best runner in terms of seeing a hole and hitting it. Jason Scales has gotten the starting nod while Bass has been hurt. Good backup and has fared well in spot duty, but has been injury plagued, so no one really knows what he is capable of. Alexander Robinson may also see time as a change of pace back. Has decent speed as well, and the coaching staff will use him as a guy to give the defense a different look. Bass is only a slight threat to catch passes out of the backfield.

H-Back/Fullback In most of our offensive sets, Derrick Catlett lines up at H-back. He'll occasionally get out into the flat for a short pass, but he'll usually get the ball when Meyer feels rushed. Has improved as a blocker. Brian Ekwelendu will line up in goal line situations, but that hasn't been much of a worry for us.

Tight End Ben Barkema is probably our best hands guy on the team, but he hasn't gotten much action so far this year. Could be an option for a big first down trying to get into enemy territory, but has been really underutilized in this offense.

Wide Receiver Todd Blythe is still our big threat but Meyer does not go downfield to him near as much as he used to. Adept at the pushoff move and often shies away from contact. May be utilized on fade routes in the end zone. Hasn't improved much since his sophomore year, but has also been hurt a couple of times since then. Marquis Hamilton appears to be one of Meyer's favorite options this year. Dependable pass catcher, mainly on short and intermediate routes. RJ Sumrall is often the guy Meyer will look to on third down, and I believe he leads the team in receptions. May be the best receiver on the team. Milan Moses may see action in garbage time, as would be the case with Euseph Messiah; either may play if the guys in front of them aren't getting it done. Wallace Franklin has serious speed and may also be an option on the end around. Caught first touchdown pass a couple weeks ago.

Slash (Phillip Bates) Phillip Bates, true freshman out of Omaha, may be used a variety of roles. Comes into the year as the #3 QB, but may be up to number two with a possible injury to backup quarterback Austen Arnaud. Has yet to throw a pass this year. May come in at QB, and if this is the case, expect him to run. Will also line up at wide out, and can be an option on the end around. Often in on empty sets, out wide. Catches the ball nicely for a quarterback. Smart player for turning 18 a couple weeks ago. Had a big catch in the Iowa game to set up the GW FG.

Offensive Line Actually an impressive performance this year out of a group that is really just career backups and walkons. The tackle positions have been surprising with JUCO transfer Doug Dedrick at left tackle and high school quarterback Ben Lamaak at right tackle. Both are raw but improving. Left guard is Reggie Stephens, doing an ok job, with line leader Tom Schmeling at right guard. Center Brandon Johnson is probably the weakest link, but he is really the only center with any size. As a unit, mediocre to average in both run and pass blocking, but lightyears ahead of last years group.

Offensive Breakdown There is talent there but you might not know it. Meyer has been a disappointment at times earlier this year, but appeared to play well against Iowa. Turns the ball over at horrible times, with many coming on the opponent's side of the field. The running game is a big question mark, as no one knows who is starting. The WR corps has talent and can change the game, but is also up and down. The team utilizes a spread offense most of the time that is most successful with short and intermediate passes, but if they fail to adjust to a team covering them short, they'll be done for.

Defensive Line: Pretty undersized but making some hay out of their opportunities. Nose guard Ahtyba "Tuba" Rubin does come in at 321 pounds, and can either be a force or a pushover. A true mystery. Bryce Braaksma is undersized but has improved this year. Kurtis Taylor and Rashawn Parker are also question marks that are really unpredictable. Parker was the guy who hit McCoy late last year that quelled any chance of ISU pulling close. Parker is talented but small. Taylor's been hurt a bunch.

Linebackers: Alvin Bowen, last year's national leader in tackles per game has a nose for the ball, but still has room to improve. Will play at WILL. Would probably be second or third team all conference. Jon Banks is a converted safety playing at MIKE. Decent in pass coverage, but doesn't think sometimes. MIKE Jesse Smith is your typical big white kinda doofy guy who likes to hit. First year starting. Will get better as he gets more and more comfortable, but can be picked on by a mobile QB. Decent group.

Secondary Susceptible to the big play. Top cornerbacks are Chris Singleton and Allen Bell. Singleton can make a big play but has problems tackling. Strangely enough, can also hit hard. Bell is a JUCO transfer who is 6-2 and is still adjusting to the speed of D1 ball. Strong safety Caleb Berg is coming off on injury and has many of the same problems as Singleton, except I happen to think Berg is worthless in pass coverage. Chris Brown and Steve Johnson may also fill in. James Smith is a talented free safety with a couple of picks already this year. He can create turnovers and also has good speed. Rapidly improving this year, and would be the most likely guy to get a pick.

Defensive Breakdown A group that is susceptible to giving it up on third down, but also a group that is improving as a whole. Improved in pass coverage relative to last year. The defensive line never creates turnovers. It seems like they like to stick with the 4-3 a lot, bringing in the nickel guy on third down, but I'm not sure who that is right now. Not an overly talented group, but does work hard.

Special Teams Bret Culbertson made the first big kick of his life against Iowa. Decent leg, probably good out to fifty, but below average accuracy. Absolutely worthless on kickoffs, and the coverage on kickoffs blows donkey testicles as well. Mike Brandtner has an NFL caliber leg at punter, but has real problems with the wind when kicking. Can kick a punt 65 yards in the air in warmups, then pooch two in a row during the game. Deep snapper Matt Purvis is not overly dependable, but has seemed to settle down this year. Josh Greibahn is the backup kicker and the holder, so if a kick breaks down, don't expect much from us. Drenard Williams is the primary punt and kickoff returner, and has a decent burst and normally holds onto the ball. Sumrall and Bell may also return kicks.

Overall assessment I don't think this team is as bad as their record. The Toledo loss was due to two pretty freak plays and the team has shown considerable improvement up to this week, Tech game excluded. McCarney would likely not have one win with this group. When executed properly, our gameplans do seem to work and are more imaginative in the past. From what I could tell on the radio, however, we stuck to the 4-3 a lot early against Tech and that may have cost us, especially in situations where a nickel back at least could have helped tackle someone. I expect the coaching staff to  be pumped for this, as well as the fans as we welcome Mack back for a (sort of) homecoming. While an upset is very unlikely, a hot start could help Iowa State. They simply cannot turn the ball over. To that end, big plays (or freak plays) seem to demoralize the team. I'm not going to make a score prediction, but I'd feel Texas is probably at least two touchdowns better than us. The crowd should be a good one, with better than 50,000 tickets sold already (good for us). Iowa State isn't the worst BCS team out there, that's for sure, but they need a game with few mistakes to hang with teams in the conference this year. Saturday will be a matter of how far ISU can get by on adrenaline and hard work.

If y'all have any other ISU based questions, let me know.