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  1. #1
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    Recruiting Offensive Tackles

    Fourth in a series...if I can count.

    ’12 Recruiting Offensive Tackles
    Fooled ya, didn’t I? Betcha thought that I was going to do for the defensive tackles next. Well, right now, the offensive side of the ball has my attention. After all, three offensive tackles got all of the playing time last season—and in two years, all three will be gone. Two of them next season. The “proven” cupboard is a little bare. Mother Hubbard is poking around.

    Oh, there are lots of “If’s, And’s and But’s”, which is just about the same as “Could’a, Would’a, Should’a”. Guess what? Dan McCarney should have spent more time recruiting offensive linemen. Is that a surprise? No, but he doesn’t get a Mulligan to go back and do it all over again. In much the same way, Paul Rhoads and Bill Bleil are taking a chance on the ’12 recruiting class.

    ‘So what?’, you ask. ‘We got away with it last year. We can do it again’. Hmm. Can we?

    It seems to me that the injuries on the offensive line stretched that group right to the breaking point. Brayden Burris went down. Ethan Tuftee missed time. Tom Farniok went down, but came back in again a play later. Kyle Lichtenberg missed a game. Shaban Dika was hurt most of the season. Keleche Osemele and Hayworth Hicks both played with injuries. Tell me this—had one single more offensive lineman gone down, who would Bill Bleil have sent out there? Seriously. Sure, I liked Zach Spears—but I don’t think anyone wanted him in there starting at tackle against OU or Oklahoma State. “Hmm” indeed!

    Which is what catches my attention. Burris’ injury did provide Lichtenberg and Bykowski with invaluable experience, and apparently demonstrated to coaches that signing a JUCO offensive tackle wasn’t an absolute must. On the other hand, there are still only three of them, and it’s a long ways down the depth chart to the next tackle. Sure, a healthy Dika or Jacob Gannon could play tackle in a pinch—but both of them are expected to be in the battle for an open guard spot. Move one of them off the two deep, and someone else has to step up.

    If I were Bob Graham or Ben Loth, I’d be working my tail off under Yancey McKnight this offseason. Before anyone asks, I’m expecting Oni Omoile to be one of the top four guards—though John Tautolo might not be content to remain merely the backup center. But I’ll get to the interior of the line later.

    It’s pretty obvious what the staff’s emergency fourth option will be at tackle. The moment that Duaron “Big Dawg” Williams committed, Porter and Hayes’ Blinn JC teammate Chris Grisbhy no longer had a visit.

    Still, it would also seem more than obvious that, if Williams doesn’t grab a starting spot, he should redshirt. He didn’t play at all his senior year, and is coming off ACL surgery—much as Quenton Pompey did. Not necessarily the best recipe for Big XII success. So, if the Big Dawg isn’t starting, and is clad in a thin red shirt, what are the other options? Especially considering that there will definitely be a pair of holes in the two deep when ’13 rolls around.

    Okay, let’s start off with Gannon and Dika as possibilities. Does Dika have Gannon’s agility? Does Gannon have a shadow of Dika’s power? Perhaps there’s a reason both are inside at guard. Yes, either Graham or Loth have the size to step up as a fourth tackle—but both are also listed inside, and further down the depth chart than the former duo. Which brings us to the newbies.

    Yep. Jamison Lalk and Brock Dagel. Trust me, it doesn’t get much “newer” than these two high school tight ends. On the other hand, the news that Ecby and Brundage have put on twenty pounds over the last six months gives me a glimmer of hope that one of these two might be ready after their redshirt year. ‘Might’ clearly being the operative word. Okay, so it’s not impossible that either could weigh 290 next Fall, and be ready for a backup role. Just because Lichtenberg has been a little slow to put on weight, doesn’t mean everyone else has to be. All right, these are two completely unknown quantities. At the least, I’ll expect that both are ready to chip in by ’13.

    Speaking of “new”, that also describes current commit Jacob Dunning. He has only played football for two years. That and the fact that he plays at a high school that’s not exactly a regular stop on the recruiting trail is what let him slip by other eyes—I don’t think he hit the summer camp circuit. I really think that Jacob was underrecruited. I’m not saying that he should have been a four-star, but he does remind me of a couple of players on ISU’s list who were ranked much higher, Colby Cybert and Kyle Fuller. Hmm. If a former Cyclone brought Daley to the staff’s attention, who is responsible for Dunning? I think CPR got another steal. An athletic guy whom I think, barring injuries will be ready to help as a redshirt freshman. One spot filled for Burris and Bykowski’s departure.

    Then there’s the Big Dawg. Duaron Williams. Don’t ask me to class him with the guys of similar size I’ve seen over the years. Hayworth Hicks, Scott Haughton, Keleche Osemele, Keith Sims. With luck, he might prove to be another James Carpenter. I mean, for Iowa State. But up there in that group, I really can’t place him. I simply haven’t seen enough. It took KO a couple of years to refine his body, after all. Honestly? I just hope that somewhere along his college career, unlike Osemele or Sims, someone else is good enough to allow the Big Dawg the luxury of playing guard.

    That would be domination.

    ’13 OT Recruiting
    I’ve mentioned some of the historical Cyclone standouts I’ve seen signed. To them, add the likes of Karl Nelson and Bruce Reimers (who played guard in the pros). McCarney had a problem, as he rebuilt the program, that he learned to rely on JUCO’s, converted defensive players, and other recruiting odds and ends to throw a competent offensive line together. That worked under Steve Loney, with the likes of Pat Augafa and the guy who ended up having a long career with the Steelers—someone got his name? It didn’t work with the Fisher twins, and the signees of the latter Mac era. Seneca was just the first Cyclone quarterback to spend too much time running for his life, rather than looking for receivers.

    The good news is that CPR seems to be taking reasonable “projects”, like Lichtenberg, Lalk and Dagel, rather than grabbing big, slow guys, and somehow hoping that rendering the adipose tissue off them would make them better athletes. One of two things that killed Danny Mac’s tenure. Rhoads and his staff seem to be doing a remarkable job of uncovering hidden gems, as well. Lichtenberg is about as athletic as you can hope for in a tackle. Though the ’10 class seems to be a mixed bag, first Omoile and then Dunning could really prove to be steals. As Williams is, in an entirely different way.

    The other good news may well prove to be Osemele and Hicks’ departure. If both are drafted, that begins to establish credence with the program—even moreso should KO manage to regain his first round status through upcoming camps and tryouts. Don’t think his stock didn’t suffer because of those injuries.

    The upshot being that, with Bykowski, Burris and Lichtenberg soon on the departure list, the staff will soon be out rock hunting again. Unless more Big Dawgs care to prowl into the kennel.

    Hey, anyone got some bacon?

    Go Cyclones!

  2. #2
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    Re: Recruiting Offensive Tackles

    Would like to see some BIG walk-ons from Iowa head to Ames. Two are at Valley HS - they could earn scholarships in yr 2.

  3. #3
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    Re: Recruiting Offensive Tackles

    I just want to say that I appreciate all the time and effort that you obviously put in on your "position" opinion pieces. They are making for an interesting read. I guess that I would differ some on several of your evaluations. My thoughts are that you are probably a little too critical on Dagel and Lalk. I do not anticipate that they are going to be ready this coming Fall; but, I do think that they will be more than ready by the Fall of '13. Gannon is going to be more than capable at either tackle position.

    I generally am reluctant to make predications about incoming players. (Too many intangibles that can throw a career off track.) But, after watching Jake Dunning's senior highlight video, all I can say is that he is one talented, athletic high school OT. What is the potential upside for a guy that only plays football his junior and senior year in high school and is selected FIRST team all-state in Texas (Class 5A) ?

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