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    Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    I wrote this following a week or so ago, thought some of you might find it interesting--one of a series.

    09 Offensive Line
    I’d be the first to admit to being grandly optimistic about the Cyclone’s offense this fall. "Blindly optimistic" and "drinking the Kool-Aid" are terms occasionally applied to me, and while I disagree, I’d also have to admit to playing Powerball twice a week.

    Still, the offense clicked the last few games of last season, most of those guys are back, and I couldn’t ask for much more from the skill positions. There is a passel of good returnees (Jones, Hamilton, Robinson, Catlett and Franklin), some really young guys whose improvement I’ll be excited to see (Johnson, Darks and Bykowski), a handful of redshirts who have my full attention (Williams, Schwartz, Range, Hammerschmidt and Tiller), the guys who just signed (topped by Reynolds and Bellamy), all centered around an experienced, talented quarterback in Austen Arnaud, who has been breathtaking at times.

    The one question, of course, is the offensive line. A unit that was horrid just a handful of years ago, struggled mightily early last Fall, seemed to stabilize midseason, and was at least passable the last couple of games. And I’m seriously uncertain as to how much room there is for optimism.

    I have to admit that I’d feel much better if Robert McFarland had managed to sign James Carpenter to step in for graduated Dougg Dedrick. Stick Carpenter into left tackle, let everything else sort itself out, and we’re copacetic. Well, unfortunately, James fell for the glitz of Alabama, and we wound up with Zach Spears as a consolation prize. Now, I like Zach, but I’ll tell you one thing, he’s no James Carpenter. Carpenter was ready to step in through Spring ball, grab a starting position and excel, Zach may take a little longer. But then, as a soph, he has a little longer. Of course, on the other hand, James Carpenter (at 6’4 ½") is no Zach Spears (6’7").

    Then there is my uncertainty as to the philosophy of Paul Rhoads and Bill Bleil. I’d had a chance to listen ro Chizik and McFarland talk about line play, and I knew, for example, that they liked a quick center who could pull, feeling that it added another dimension to the offense. Thus their enthusiasm for an undersized Mike Knapp. I can’t say the same thing about Rhoads and Bleil, when one of the first things they did was encourage Chizik center commitment Brock Wempa to look elsewhere. Obviously different philosophies and values.

    And one thing that I am reasonably certain of, despite how some have speculated as to who fits where on the offensive line come Spring drills, is that in the flurry of hiring a staff and rushing through recruiting, Paul Rhoads, Bleil and the rest of the staff hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at ’08 game film and breaking down player performances. Obviously they haven’t had hands on workouts yet, since the NCAA frowns on that strenuously.

    So I can’t guess what they’re going to see in their returning players. For all I know, Bill Bleil will take one look at Hayworth Hicks, and anoint him as ISU’s next (or, first) great center. For all I know, he’ll take a look at Trey Baysinger, or Keleche Osemele, and say, "Why weren’t you playing left tackle? You’ll make millions?" I don’t know that, and I’m not sure that at the moment, anyone can. We simply don’t know how the pieces are going to fit together in Rhoads and Bleils’ (and Herman’s) eyes. To me, there’s just too much uncertainty to be overly optimistic, for the offensive line could easily hold back what is otherwise a well oiled machine.

    A lack of pass blocking or holes to run through can tend to do that, you know.

    That said, I can take a look at all of the pieces, and try to get a feeling for the eventual whole.

    Scott Haughton 6’4" 335 Sophomore
    Any discussion of the offensive line has to start with Haughton, if only because half of Cyclone Nation wants to move him to the defensive line. Had the Rhoads happened to sign Carpenter and another plug-n-play tackle, I could almost see it. But the fact is that Haughton could probably be a good defensive lineman, sure. On the other hand, he can be a great offensive lineman, talking as fine as has ever played at ISU, possibly even an NFL first rounder, and with six defensive tackles among the returnees, we don’t need "good" over there. He’s powerful and he can really run, however, this fall he needs to be in better condition; at say, 310 he could be a monster. With a year to get his feet on the ground, I think the sky is the limit for Scott this Fall.

    Reggie Stephens 6’4" 320 Senior
    Some people have at times ragged on Reggie because he’s started for a while, yet not yet excelled, so I’d like to make a point about Reggie. He signed with Dan McCarney when he was just sixteen. So even five years later, he’s still just coming into his own. And he hasn’t exactly been surrounded by sterling talent, let alone seasoned, veteran players. Yes, I’ll expect him to start.

    Keleche Osemele 6’5 320 Sophomore
    Like Haughton, Osemele reported for his freshman year vastly out of shape. Fortunately for him, he had the luxury of a redshirt, and stepped into a starting role the middle of the next season. He still made some mistakes and is learning, but with that half season of starting, he now has the cachet of being a "veteran". How he (and the others) handle a new line coach will be interesting. I’ll note that he did get a brief trial at left tackle late last season, when the former staff was still experimenting.

    Hayworth Hicks 6’3" 335 Junior
    Another guy that I would have said reported out of shape, if not quite as drastically, he was also essentially reporting to ISU from limbo. That said, he’s another who is powerful, quick and agile, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he becomes over the next two seasons. Perhaps a prototypical guard, but those spots seem occupied—at the moment.

    Ben Lamaak 6’5" 305 Junior
    I like Ben. He stepped in as a freshman, when we desperately needed offensive linemen, he’s been a jack of all trades, filling in where needed across the line, and he’s been solid, up until his injury. The thing is, now that he’s a junior, and one of the graybeards of the line, we’re going to have to see a little bit more. In high school, Ben was a utility guy too, playing a number of positions (sorta like Jake Knott) on both offense and defense, and one thing that struck me in his video was his athleticism, at least in terms of outstanding balance and body control. Two other things that struck me were that he obviously hadn’t spent a lot of time in the weight room, and despite his other athletic assets, he wasn’t especially quick or explosive.

    Well, after three years in the Cyclone S&C program, he should be showing some benefits. A little quicker, a little more powerful, something of a road grader in his own right—it’s time to blossom. Yes, I know he put on a lot of weight his freshman year, but that’s not the same thing as strength. And strength was what Ben needed, though he may find himself at yet another position this fall (I’d guess that he’d be a candidate at left tackle or center), it’s time to stop being just a "utility guy", and excel.

    Mike Knapp 6’3" 270 Senior
    Given the rumblings that we’ve all heard, I think that I’d be pleasantly surprised to find that Mike was available for Spring ball. Which is a sad thing, because my impression was that when he was healthy and in the lineup, the offensive line was a far more efficient, more energized unit. My original hope was that Mike might be able to put on ten or fifteen pounds of muscle this offseason in preparation for his senior year, but rehabbing from catastrophic knee injuries generally tends to prevent that. Right now, I’m just hoping that he’s able to see the field for a few plays sometime his senior season.

    Alex Alvarez 6’2" 305 Junior
    Alex was one of the guys that Gene Chizik brought in, very wisely I thought, as a juco soph, with four years to play three, and then redshirted him. Unfortunately, my impression was that Alex came out the other side of that redshirt not exactly in tip top condition, and the offensive line seemed to me to slip appreciably when he stepped in for the injured Knapp. One way or another, I think he’s going to be challenged this Spring, and through Summer two-a-days.

    Zack Spears 6’7" 320 Sophomore
    Zack is the new Big Man On Campus (literally), and there’s already some buzz about just how big and fast he is. I’m going to inject a little wariness and point out that as a high school basketball player, much like Trey Baysinger, Zack is relatively new to the nuances of football, and straight from a junior college. And however physically gifted, Trey wasn’t quite ready for action his second year on campus—so he might serve as a good barometer. Yes, it helps that he’s already on campus, but jucos are notorious for their prime weight training facilities—or the lack thereof. Assuming that Zack and buddy Sedrick Johnson were in the same graduating class, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised or disappointed if Zack were to redshirt. In some eyes, Zack might have been a consolation prize when James Carpenter chose Alabama. Perhaps the largest difference between Zach and James is that James had that additional year of experience. On the other hand, Zack is a whole heck of a lot bigger. We’ll see how that turns out.

    Trey Baysinger 6’6" 305 Sophomore
    Looking at photos and video of Trey Baysinger last Summer and Fall, I was in awe of this athletic man mountain. He didn’t start until his senior season at powerhouse Dallas Carter, which is one reason we were able to get in on his recruitment, but it’s also the reason he’s a little behind the learning curve. The former staff had him at right tackle before moving him to guard for whatever reason, I’m sure that at least part of the reasoning was to groom him to take over for Reggie Stephens when he graduates.
    Coaches talk about young players who languish on the roster until they see the light come on. Whatever and whenever he plays, I’m really looking forward to seeing Trey in action when the light comes on.

    Matt Hulbert 6’7" 280 Junior
    Along with Stephens and Lamaak, the last of McCarney’s holdovers on the offensive line—which should tell you something about Danny Mac’s line recruiting. A native of Ankeny, like Coach Paul Rhoads, seeing Matt play left tackle I was nonetheless treated all too immediately to flashbacks of Scott Fisher—‘nuff said. Technique doesn’t get you everywhere.

    Joe Klerekoper 6’5" 278 Sophomore
    I have to admit that Joe is pretty much a complete mystery to me. One of Chizik’s first offensive line recruits, he wasn’t even a blip on the radar last Spring or for Summer two-a-days, but as the season progressed, he started seeing time on the field. As a matter of fact, that’s pretty much all I know, so for all I can guess, he’ll blow up into a starter somewhere this time around.

    Brayden Burris 6’6" 275(?)
    The reports last fall said that Brayden was putting on a lot of weight very quickly, which is a good thing. The thing is, it has to be good weight, as in muscle mass and substantially improved overall strength, rather than just getting bigger. That said, if he is stronger as well, there is a place in the two deep for him. If he’s worked hard enough, and is talented enough, there could even be a starting spot waiting for him—but both of those things are on the list of what we’ll be eagerly waiting to see once Spring ball rolls around.

    Ethan Tuftee 6’3" 285 Freshman
    I wish that I could say that Ethan will be a factor on the offensive line this Fall, but considering the knee injury he spent last Fall rehabbing, I’d say that that was a stretch. Too bad, at the least it appears that we could use another body pushing the two- or three-deep at center, if not the either guard positions.

    Aaron Moore 6’5" 255 Freshman
    Yes, I know that Aaron is going to "start out" as a defensive end—considering that he had committed as an offensive linemen, and it was only on his visit that the coaches said they would start him on defense, I’d guess that it shows just how desperate the staff was for another strongside defensive end as anything—and defense might be easier to settle into quickly than the offensive line. And a 385 pound bench tells us that Aaron probably has better upper body strength than the average freshman—on the upper body, at least. A 485 squat is almost as much on the low side.

    Still, I find myself hoping that should Cleyon Laing and Taylor Martin immediately show themselves capable of handling strongside end effectively (with a little help from their friends), that Aaron might quickly end up back on the offensive side of the ball. After all, either left tackle or center (as mentioned above) are crucial question spots, and I think that he might have the physical attributes to excel at either.

    Kyle Lichtenberg 6’6" 245 Freshman
    I like Kyle, I like Kyle a lot. With his quick feet, I think he’s an eventual starter at left tackle, left guard, or even center. On the other hand, as a high school tight end, it isn’t going to be this Fall, and Kyle is pretty much a lock to redshirt, and spend the year in S&C, getting "bigger, stronger, faster"

    Some people talk about our sudden offensive line "depth", but I find such a perception amusing. If you count you’ll find fifteen names listed here, which would constitute a reasonable three deep—if it didn’t include the injured, redshirting or very green, a player who might be on defense, and maybe a couple who aren’t very good at all, In fact, if you count only good athletes, the list is far shorter still.

    While I expect the offense to be vastly improved as the season progresses, Paul Rhoads, Tom Herman and Bill Bleil will have an area of focus on in ‘10 recruiting.




    Paul Rhoads' players never quit.
    (They just disappear offseason)


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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Interesting write up...

    Couple of things. We already had our great center. His name is Ben Bruns.

    Don't kid yourself on Knapp. If he is healthy, he is playing. He is light years ahead of Alvarez mentally and it showed last year.

    Lamaak will also be a staple on the line, although I wouldn't be surprised to see him move back to guard. If we go towards the leaner linemen that spread usually necessitates then I imagine the maulers move outside and the smaller, quicker, more agile guys move inside to help the run game.

    We will see I guess. But don't think the incumbents will suddenly be on the bench. They started for a reason the last year, or in some cases, two.



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Awesome post Aclone. I would give you some rep but I have to spread it around a bit more. Will you be doing this type of thing for every position? I thought this was a great read and look forward to future posts like this.



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by d4nim4l View Post
    Interesting write up...

    Couple of things. We already had our great center. His name is Ben Bruns.
    Speaking of "kidding yourself". Ben was a good center, even very good, but I'm not even sure he was the best in Mac's tenure. And "great" generally yields an extended tour of the NFL.

    Don't kid yourself on Knapp. If he is healthy, he is playing. He is light years ahead of Alvarez mentally and it showed last year.
    I know, the line was immensely better when he was healthy. Right now, I'm taking the position (without details) that health is a question.

    Lamaak will also be a staple on the line, although I wouldn't be surprised to see him move back to guard. If we go towards the leaner linemen that spread usually necessitates then I imagine the maulers move outside and the smaller, quicker, more agile guys move inside to help the run game.
    I got the impression that CPR's comment about leaner linemen didn't mean that he was going with smaller bodies, but that the bigger guys (the maulers) needed to get leaner, so as to be more explosive.

    We will see I guess. But don't think the incumbents will suddenly be on the bench. They started for a reason the last year, or in some cases, two.
    Agreed. For two reasons. One being that there is no one better, we simply don't have much real depth for competition. Another being that, as I said, left tackle is the one real question

    Quote Originally Posted by kurimski View Post
    Awesome post Aclone. I would give you some rep but I have to spread it around a bit more. Will you be doing this type of thing for every position? I thought this was a great read and look forward to future posts like this.
    Thanks. I have them done for some other units, just wanted to see how this one was received.




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    (They just disappear offseason)


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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by Aclone View Post
    Speaking of "kidding yourself". Ben was a good center, even very good, but I'm not even sure he was the best in Mac's tenure. And "great" generally yields an extended tour of the NFL.
    Depends on your defintion of great. Ben couldn't go pro because of the extensive damage to his knees. That and when was the last time we sniffed an All-American spot, two times, for anyone on our team?

    As far as Cyclones go...I'd call him great.



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    This is a great write-up. I hope you will post the others.



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by d4nim4l View Post
    Depends on your defintion of great. Ben couldn't go pro because of the extensive damage to his knees. That and when was the last time we sniffed an All-American spot, two times, for anyone on our team?

    As far as Cyclones go...I'd call him great.

    I agree with what he said...



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by Aclone View Post
    Speaking of "kidding yourself". Ben was a good center, even very good, but I'm not even sure he was the best in Mac's tenure. And "great" generally yields an extended tour of the NFL.



    I know, the line was immensely better when he was healthy. Right now, I'm taking the position (without details) that health is a question.


    I got the impression that CPR's comment about leaner linemen didn't mean that he was going with smaller bodies, but that the bigger guys (the maulers) needed to get leaner, so as to be more explosive.



    Agreed. For two reasons. One being that there is no one better, we simply don't have much real depth for competition. Another being that, as I said, left tackle is the one real question



    Thanks. I have them done for some other units, just wanted to see how this one was received.
    Are you kidding? Bruns was a great center. You aren't an All-American unless you're great in some regard. And thing about the NFL means nothing for college determining college greatness. Troy Davis didn't have much of an NFL career, but no one in their right mind would say he wasn't a great player.


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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Don't get your hopes up about Spears, most likely will not be playing here



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    We've had very few true dominant offensive linemen, and I really didn't start this thread to argue about Ben Bruns. All I'll say is that it's about time we started raising the bar--as we seem to have at quarterback and wide receiver. Oh, and tight end--definitely at tight end. But that's another post.




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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by IOWASTATE View Post
    Don't get your hopes up about Spears, most likely will not be playing here
    care to elaborate????



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    He wanted to play for Chizik, has already left the team (Or in a sense never really joined it)

    Edit: I guess some of it was also Chizik's style of play



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by IOWASTATE View Post
    He wanted to play for Chizik, has already left the team (Or in a sense never really joined it)

    Edit: I guess some of it was also Chizik's style of play
    I'm confused, because that makes no sense, since he signed after Chizik was gone--and he was introduced at the Signing Day Press Conference.

    And what "style of play" difference, when Spring Ball hasn't even started?




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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Well as to why he signed idk I cant really say, but he's not participating in drills right now and I would venture to say he leaves the university after spring semester



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    Re: Offensive Line, Pre-Spring (Long)

    Quote Originally Posted by Aclone View Post
    We've had very few true dominant offensive linemen, and I really didn't start this thread to argue about Ben Bruns. All I'll say is that it's about time we started raising the bar--as we seem to have at quarterback and wide receiver. Oh, and tight end--definitely at tight end. But that's another post.
    I agree about raising the bar at QB and TE. I think the book is still out at WR. There is potential for this group to be great, but right now thats all I would call it. Back to QB, I really, honestly think that Arnaud will end up being the best "all-around" QB to ever play at ISU. He doesn't make the crazy plays Seneca did, but he does a better job of taking care of the ball, and doesn't have the extremes (when Seneca got off his game, it was bad. See: K-State '02). He's more athletic than Rosenfels (see that last-drive rumble against UNLV) and he's really got a lot of moxie, toughness and fight in him. The team didn't win much, but it wasn't because of his lack of effort or talent. As far as tight end, I think the combo of Franklin and Cattlet is definitely the best we've had. Both are capable receivers that can add another dimension to the offense when properly utilized, and from what I understand about TH, he knows how to utilize the talent he has available.


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