Iowa State Preview 2006 - Offense
Iowa State Cyclones
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Iowa State Cyclones Preview 2006 - Cyclone Offense

What you need to know ... Ten starters return to an offense that has the potential to be the most explosive in the Big 12 North. The offensive line struggled last year in all phases, but it's experienced and very, very big with an emphasis this year on being more physical for a running game that averaged a mere 111 yards per game. Getting RB Stevie Hicks back at 100% from a groin injury should help make the Cyclones a power running team again, but it'll be hard not to throw it and throw it some more with Todd Blythe leading a dangerous receiving corps. Bret Meyer is back for his third year as the starting quarterback and should be one of the North's total offense leaders.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Bret Meyer
227-368, 2,876 yds, 19 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Stevie Hicks
149 carries, 545 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Austin Flynn
56 catches, 624 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Junior WR Todd Blythe
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior OT Scott Fisher
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR R.J. Sumrall
Best pro prospect: Blythe
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Blythe, 2) C Scott Stephenson, 3) QB Bret Meyer
Strength of the offense: Experience, receiving corps
Weakness of the offense:
Proven pass protection, backup quarterback

Bret Meyer has the tools and experience to take another step up and become one of the Big 12's best quarterbacks. He has to cut down on his interceptions and has to learn to not take so many sacks, but his numbers should skyrocket with a tremendous receiving corps to work with. The backup situation is a bit muddy with senior Kyle Van Winkle looking to hold off true freshman Austen Arnaud.
The key to the unit: A full healthy season from Bret Meyer would be nice while developing the backups.
Quarterback Rating: 7.5

Projected Starter
- Bret Meyer, Jr. - 227-368, 2,876 yds, 62%, 19 TD, 10 INT, 133 carries, 123 yds, 1 TD
This will be Meyer's third year as the starter after coming off a solid season. With the running game struggling, the offense fell on his shoulders and he came through, for the most part, turning into an efficient passer who threw better and better on the move. He's a talented runner who could stand to get bigger to fill out his 6-3, 208-pound frame a little more to absorb more shots. The big key will be interceptions; he can't throw them. The Cyclones went 0-5 after the Army game when Meyer threw a pick and almost lost to the Black Knights after throwing three interceptions.

Top Backups
- Kyle Van Winkle, Sr.
The 6-6, 217-pound senior overcame a broken collarbone to see time in two games last season. He's a big passer who knows the offense, but he doesn't have nearly the same mobility as Bret Meyer and will face a huge challenge from incoming freshman Austen Arnaud.

- Austen Arnaud, Fr.
Pencil in the true freshman for the number two spot once he gets to camp this summer. The Iowa high school player of the year is a great all-around talent with an accurate arm and excellent speed. Head coach Dan McCarney has already said Arnaud will likely see time this year, but it would be nice to redshirt him considering Bret Meyer still has two years left as the starter.

Running Backs
It's all about staying healthy. Stevie Hicks never got over a groin problem and Jason Scales was never in the mix, and it showed as the Cyclones finished 98th in the nation in rushing. With a big offensive line to pave the way and a great passing game to take the heat off, a healthy Hicks should be a lock for 1,000 yards while big fullback Ryan Kock should once again be one of the nation's premier short yardage runners.
The key to the unit: Getting more backs in the mix to keep Stevie Hicks healthy and effective.
Running Back Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- Stevie Hicks, Sr. - 149 carries, 545 yds, 3.7 ypc, 4 TD, 8 catches, 39 yds
It's not an overstatement to say the season rests on Hicks, who was never healthy last season suffering from a groin injury. Iowa State went 3-5 when he was either out or ineffective including a loss to lowly Baylor. He's a 212-pound power back who's a key blocker in pass protection with good enough speed to crank out big plays. He only averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season and didn't do enough for the passing game, so he'll be looking for a big bounceback season after rushing for 1,062 yards and nine touchdowns in 2004.

- Fullback Ryan Kock, Sr. - 54 carries, 129 yds, 2.9 ypc, 13 TD, 1 catch, 6 yards
The 239-pound senior's main purpose is as a top lead blocker after giving the defensive line a shot, but most fans know him for his talents round the goal line scoring 13 touchdowns including three against Missouri and two against Kansas State. An unstoppable runner when one yard is needed, he's not a receiver like many fullbacks will only get more than few carries is something happens to Hicks.

Top Backups
- Jason Harris, Soph. - 11 carries, 40 yds, 3.6 ypc, 1 catch, 6 yds.
A quicker option than Stevie Hicks, Harris saw a little bit of time as a true freshman in the middle of the season. At 201 pounds he has the size to provide a little bit of power, but breaking off big runs as a change-of-pace back will be what the team needs from him. His role in the running game depends on how well he can hang on to the ball.
- Jason Scales, Soph.
The superstar recruit missed all of last year with a knee injury and hopes to be back in time to be a key player this fall. He ran for 6,050 yards and 78 touchdowns in his Iowa high school career and should be a dangerous runner once he's healthy.
- Fullback Steven Ebner, Jr.
Consider it a major shock if Ebner gets more than five carries. He'll have a hard time getting in the game with Ryan Kock taking up so much of the fullback time, so the 229-pound Ebner has to make his mark as a top blocker.

With or without Jon Davis, this will be one of the Big 12's best receiving corps. Todd Blythe is a premier deep threat who's almost unstoppable around the goal line, while Austin Flynn has been fantastic making the switch from quarterback to receiver. Davis is the steady possession receiver in the group, but he tore his Achilles tendon this spring and is iffy for the start of the season. On the plus side, speedy R.J. Sumrall appears ready to fill in and add even more pop to the position. The tight ends have the potential to be excellent with Ben Berkema and Walter Nickel each fantastic receivers.
The key to the unit: Hope for Jon Davis to quickly return healthy while getting big seasons out of R.J. Sumrall and Marquis Hamilton.
Receiver Rating: 9

Projected Starters
- Todd Blythe, Jr. - 51 catches, 1,000 yds, 19.6 ypc, 9 TD
He has it all from 6-5, 210-pound size, excellent leaping ability around the goal line, and big play ability on deep plays. He's a tough receiver who attacks the ball when it comes his way. Now the key is consistency after struggling to break out over the first half of last season until a 214-yard, four touchdown day against Texas A&M. He could stand to do more after getting the ball in his hands.

- Jon Davis, Sr. - 41 catches, 319 yds, 7.8 ypc, 2 TD
Call this a projection for some point this season as Davis has to return from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered late in spring ball. He's expected to be back early in the season, but it's still way too early to tell. The 6-4 senior is a very big, very talented target who has mostly been a short-range playmaker who benefits from all the deep plays made by the other receivers with his longest catch a mere 16 yards.

- Austin Flynn, Sr. - 56 catches, 624 yds, 11.1 ypc, 3 TD
Flynn went from being the starting quarterback to the team's number one receiver. He's a steady, smart route runner and a tough playmaker who's not afraid to make the in-traffic catches. He's a surprisingly good downfield blocker and makes more than his share of big plays

- Tight end Ben Barkema, Jr. - 18 catches, 244 yds, 13.6 ypc, 2 TD
A solid blocker, the 245-pound junior is mostly used as a big play receiver with nice hands. He can be more physical in the running game and he isn't the most polished receiver, but he's talented and should only get better.

Top Backups
- R.J. Sumrall, Soph. - 20 catches, 311 yds, 15.6 ypc
With the injury to Jon Davis, the spotlight goes on the emerging sophomore to produce. He had a very nice freshman season as a reserve and now should see more action no matter what happens with Davis. He's big and very, very fast splitting his time between football and the track team.
- Marques Hamilton, RFr.
He's the one to watch. At 6-3 and 217 pounds, he's a huge target who has made it clear he wants to be a receiver, not a tight end, and grow into a star of the offense. He'll start out behind R.J. Sumrall and Jon Davis.
- Tight end Walter Nickel, Sr. - 20 catches, 263 yds, 13.1 ypc, 2 TD
Nickel is a little smaller than Ben Berkema and not quite as physical, but he's a great receiver who shines in two tight end sets. While not the starter, he might as well be considered one with all the work he gets.

Offensive Linemen
It's a huge, experienced line that has to be night-and-day better than last year when it paved the way for a mere 111 rushing yards per game and allowed a whopping 39 sacks. Averaging around 310 pounds per man among the projected starting five, the running game should be better with more physical all-around play. There's solid depth with several good, young, big bodies ready to fill in.
JUCO transfer Lee Tibbs and freshman Jose Vargas could make things interesting this summer.
The key to the unit: The line has to play up to its size and do more in pass protection. The tackles need to play better.
Offensive Line Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- OT Scott Fisher, Sr.
Scott and his twin brother Paul will be huge factors on the line. Scott is 6-7 and 335 pounds and experienced after starting the final five games of last year. He's a former BYU Cougar who's athletic enough to be more effective as a pass blocker.
- OG Tom Schmeling, Soph.
A backup so far, the 6-3, 290-pound sophomore will get one of the first looks at left guard. He has made a huge jump in production from last season to this spring and is expected to grow into a key blocker.
- C Scott Stephenson, Sr.
The former transfer from Minnesota turned into an All-Big 12 blocker in the middle. He's 6-4 and 305 pounds with great movement and athleticism along with a relentless hitting ability. He missed spring ball recovering from shoulder surgery, but he'll be back this fall to be the line's anchor.
- OG Seth Zehr, Sr.
A solid veteran with 31 starts, the 6-6, 300-pound senior is a great athlete who's versatile enough to play either center or guard. He was out this spring with a broken hand, but he'll be back this fall as a mainstay at right guard.
- OT Aaron Brant, Sr.
Brant is finally starting to live up to the lofty promise he showed as a true freshmen when the coaches were raving about him from day one. He's an experienced starter with tremendous size at 6-4 and 320 pounds. Now he has to take another step up in his pass blocking ability.

Top Backups
- C Bastian Schober, Jr.
An academic all-star, the 305-pound junior saw plenty of work this spring while Scott Stephenson was recovering from a shoulder problem. He needs more game experience before he's ready to come close to matching Stephenson's production.
- G Paul Fisher, Sr.
The 6-7, 325-pound senior isn't quite as big as his brother Scott, but he's a massive body with the potential to take over a starting spot at right guard. If nothing else, he'll be a key reserve.

- G Reggie Stephens, RFr.
On the fast track to becoming a top guard, the 315-pound redshirt freshman showed enough promise this off-season to be a starter if needed. He'll be a top backup behind Paul Fisher and Seth Zehr at right guard.

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