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Football

Notebook: O-Line depth to be tested vs. Baylor

By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams

As expected, injuries were the hot topic at Iowa State head football coach Paul Rhoads’ weekly press conference on Tuesday.

News that senior cornerback Leonard Johnson planned to practice in the afternoon was good.

News that junior offensive tackle Brayden Burris had surgery on Monday and will be out for the next six weeks was expected, but bad.

And that’s where the Cyclone Nation’s focus needs to be as Iowa State gets set to travel to Baylor on Saturday night. With Burris out and left tackle Kelechi Osemele still nursing a bad ankle (not to mention the fact that every other starter on the line is dinged up in one way or another), the health of Iowa State’s offensive line is a massive concern for not only the Baylor game, but the rest of the season as well.

Iowa State’s coaching staff met and developed a game plan regarding this topic on Tuesday morning.

“Who is going to be out there to practice fully? How are we going to save reps in practice and not double guys up? (Carter) Bykowski and (Kyle) Lichtenberg potentially could rotate from one tackle to the other, as well as Jacob Gannon moving to tackle. He’s been playing a little bit more at guard lately," said Rhoads.

"The biggest thing with the tackle position is a big change in stance, with the outside foot dropped and what you have to do to protect the quarterback. We will roll some guys around with Brayden being out and see if we can’t get a full squad on Saturday at 6 o’clock.”

Want some good news? Rhoads and his staff have been preaching for months that this is the deepest offensive line that they’ve had in three years at Iowa State. The youngsters will likely be tested on Saturday night.

SPECIAL Teams – I was researching Iowa State’s special teams play earlier today. Other than field goal kicking, this area of the team has performed very well. The Cyclones are ranked 26th nationally in net punting. Iowa State is 34th in kickoff return yardage. I found Iowa State’s special teams statistics and wanted to give props to a few guys. Backup free safety Durrell Givens leads the Cyclones in special teams tackles, with three on punts and two during kickoffs. Second on the list is reserve linebacker Matt Morton, with four total.

=== QUOTEABLE ===

Paul Rhoads on Iowa State’s Sunday evening practice…

“Our kids were eager to be coached. They realized the mistakes that they made that largely contributed to our loss and are anxious to get back on the field again.”

Paul Rhoads on Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin…

“He is a highly explosive and talented athlete who has proven that he can beat you with his legs, as well as his arm. He does a great job of leading their offensive football team. They are in the top 10 of both scoring and total offense and one of a handful of teams who are over 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.”
=== JOTTINGS ===

*** Iowa State’s offensive line, nor quarterback Steele Jantz have handled the blitz very well so far in 2011. Luckily for the Cyclones, blitzing hasn’t been a big part of Baylor’s game plan on defense so far this season.

“Not near as much as three out of the first four teams that we have played," said Rhoads.

*** Before the season, Shontrelle Johnson was Iowa State’s sure thing, number one running back. Johnson is still at the top of Iowa State’s depth chart, but James White’s four early season touchdowns have caught the attention of everybody within the program.

“I think that he has shown with the number of snaps he gets, the stronger he gets. The better he performs," said Rhoads. "He is very elusive. He doesn’t need much of a hole. He showed better speed than I would have thought in Saturday night’s game.”

This goes without saying, but expect White to once again be a major part of Iowa State’s offensive attack this Saturday.