Wednesday, August 22, 2007

2007 Preseason Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

In preparation for the 2007 College Football season, Drinking the Forty will look at every team in the Big XII, sizing up the conference for the 2007 season.

After starting the 2006 season 3-2, Iowa State looked to make a move in the wide open Big XII North. What started out as an optimistic outlook quickly turned into a disaster, as Iowa State started the Big XII 0-7, losing every game by 14 points or more. Only a season ending upset versus Missouri saved Iowa State from the giant conference goose egg. The collapse cost coach Dan McCarney his job as he stepped down after 12 seasons, opening the door for Texas co-defensive coordinator Gene Chizik to take over and usher in the new era of Iowa State football.

They obviously are excited about the Chizik era, as they will unveil new uniforms this season as well as allowing you the fan to vote on their new helmet. After reviewing the options it is pretty obvious, Iowa State will have some of the ugliest uniforms in football. That, and the 1992 Washington Redskins will be jealous. The path this season for Iowa State is an up hill one as they lose 12 starters off of last year's team. From the way last year's team played, it is debatable whether that will hurt or help the Cyclones. Either way, this year looks to be a rebuilding one for Chizik, as he will have to rebuild this program through recruiting. His 2007 class will look to help that process, but he will need to continue to improve on their #60 rating for 2007.

On offense, Iowa State will rely heavily on senior quarterback Brett Meyer (56.4%/2546 yds/12 TD/12 INT in '06). He will have 6'5" senior wide receiver Todd Blythe (34 rec/484 yds/8 TD is '06) returning as well who could be an all Big XII performer. However, outside of Blythe, Brett Meyer will not have much to work with as he only two other starters returning from 2006, in right guard Tom Schmeling (Jr) and senior tight end Ben Barkema (11 rec/106 yds/1 TD in '06). Along the front line Iowa State will be starting over with new faces at four offensive line positions (LT, LG, C, RT). Also, the running duties will be shared by juniors Jason Scales (193 yds/2 TD in '06) and Jason Harris, neither of whom have much playing experience. While the leadership of Meyer will be useful to help aide the rebuilding process, this offense should struggle to establish a running game and keep Meyer upright, with time to throw the ball.

On defense, Gene Chizik will look to make the most improvement on a unit that gave up at least 28 points in 8 of their 12 games. Chizik will begin immediately to try to improve on that, implementing his defense that has garnered him national recognition over the past three years. On the defensive front, Iowa State will have one returner in senior Athyba Rubin, but will have two seniors and two juniors that will see time on the defensive front. That experience should allow Chizik to implement his system at a quicker pace. The Cyclones return outside linebackers Jon Banks (Sr) and the NCAA's leading tackler from a year ago Alvin Bowen (Sr) and will be joined in the middle by sophomore Fred Garrin. In the secondary, Iowa State returns three players in corners Drenard Williams (So) and Chris Singleton (Jr) and strong safety Cale Berg (Sr). This should give Iowa State the experience to build a solid unit around as they will be joined by juniors Brandon Hunley and junior Chris Brown in the secondary. The defense should be much improved over last season with the addition of the defensive minded Chizik, but look for the unit to be inconsistent as they are not the talent that Chizik is used to working with, and it will be a while before Chizik gets the kind of talent that he needs to succeed.

Iowa State will get a chance to ease into their season with winnable matchups against Kent State and Northern Iowa, before they try not to lose their annual rivalry matchup against Iowa. They then will play Toledo before starting their conference slate. Iowa State has a chance to get some experience and some victories in Chizik's new system before they will get rudely awakened by the Big XII conference schedule, starting at #20 Nebraska and Texas Tech, before getting to welcome #8 Oklahoma and #4 Texas into Ames. The true test of this season should be whether Chizik can keep his team together through that treacherous stretch of games. If he can, Iowa State has a chance to end the season on a positive and building note, ending with games at Missouri and Kansas and versus Kansas State and Colorado. If the team can't keep it together and begin to gel under Chizik's tutelage, then don't look for 2007 to be any better than the disaster that was the 2006 season. But hey, at least they have new uniforms.

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