TB Stevie Hicks

2004 Statistics

Coach: Dan McCarney
45-72,10 years
2004 Record: 7-5
at Iowa LOST 10-17
at Oklahoma State LOST 7-36
at Colorado LOST 14-19
at Baylor WON 26-25
at Kansas State WON 37-23
vs. Miami OH WON 17-13

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

There are no excuses this time.
This edition of the Cyclones will be everything the last one wasn't - full of experience and all-conference potential that won't be able to surprise anyone (after such a great end-game). So while some fans/observers might still be able to shrug off last year's collapse (Cyclones had a chance to win the North but lost its season-ender to a marginal Missouri squad), they won't have the same reaction if this year's higher expectations lead to disappointment. And that's a good thing, of course, as this could be the best Iowa State team in decades - if it just plays within itself and doesn't try to be too much too soon, ESPECIALLY within the play of the QBs.

There's cautious optimism on campus, and there should be (and not because the North remains the weak sister to the South). It is weaker, of course, creating a simpler path to the Big XII championship game, and this a team on a decided upswing. After going 2-10 in 2003, conventional wisdom was that it would take until 2005 to improve. A 7-5, bowl-winning season in 2004 thus creates the high expectations now felt in Ames.

Hicks and Blythe, assuming he's healthy, give ISU game-breakers who are touching the ball on virtually every other down. The defense is rock solid. Special teams may not be that special, but they're consistent enough and will improve enough to keep from costing State any wins.

The good news is that there is no Oklahoma or Texas, but there are conference road games at Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M. Even tougher may be in-state rival Iowa, which comes in early with their own momentum from '04. But the key will be how the QB play pans out, and that will be contingent on the O-line's ability to push this running game past 3.2 per try. We'll see Meyer's management skills improve so that the sack total goes down as his completion % and TD-totals go up. The Cyclones know exactly what they need to do, now they just have to do it well enough to win. The home closer with the Buffaloes defines the season as they trounce rightfully-maligned Gary Barnett's troops to get to the conference championship...they might take a plane, or they might take a train, but any way, you know it, they'll be rolling once again…going to Houston.

Projected 2005 record: 7-4
DL Nick Leaders
QB - 3 DL - 4
RB - 3.5 LB - 2.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 4
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Bret Meyer, 290-149-6, 1926 yds., 10 TD

Rushing: Stevie Hicks, 270 att., 1062 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Jon Davis, 48 rec., 614 yds., 2 TD

Scoring: Todd Blythe, 9 TD, 54 pts.

Punting: Troy Blankenship, 75 punts, 38.4 avg.

Kicking: Bret Culbertson, 8-10 FG, 16-16 PAT, 40 pts.

Tackles: Nik Moser, 85 tot., 59 solo

Sacks: Shawn Moorehead, 4.5 sacks

Interceptions: Nik Moser, 3 for 30 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff returns: Tyease Thompson, 14 ret., 23.8 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Terrance Highsmith, 8 ret., 9.5 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Todd Miller-WR, Brett Kellogg-TE, James Wright-TE, Cale Stubbe-OT, Luke Vander Sanden-C
DEFENSE: Tyson Smith-DE, Erik Anderson-SLB, Brandon Brown-WLB, Ellis Hobbs-CB

Bret Meyer and Austin Flynn split time at quarterback through the first five weeks of the season before the Cyclones let Meyer fly solo in the second half. "We were never nervous with having a freshman come in because we knew of the ability and the talent he has," running back Stevie Hicks said. "As the season went on, he started getting better and better." Indeed, Meyer can throw AND run. Meyer's accuracy leaves a lot to be desired, no question, but so does Flynn's. What's not as much of a question mark is Meyer's decision-making - he threw just six interceptions in 290 attempts. Again, a lot of that probably has to do with his fleet feet, so then why was the team sacked 34 times? Meyer has to decide when to run and then just do it. His upside is much greater than Flynn's (41% completion rate), so the larger Meyer will be the man until he relinquishes such. This unit is a glass-half-empty/glass-half-full kind of thing, depending where you sit.

Running Back
Stevie Hicks is THE MAN. We've called him the poor man's Ricky Williams, but after a 1,000-yard season as the featured back there's nothing poor about him. He'll continue to be pushed by Jason Scales, and another "Hitman" like Hicks (Scales pummels opponents who think they're about to hurt him) is a great option to have as a backup TB, but unless Hicks gets injured or starts coughing up the ball, it's Hicks and his size-speed tandem. What separates Hicks from the rest is an extraordinary sense of vision and a feel for a crease (inside especially). He hits an opening better than any back in the conference. Tyease Thompson is hugely-heralded out of Lakeland, and too brings deceptive power with blazing speed. Fullbacks in a Barney Cotton offense rarely do anything more than block, but Ryan Kock surprised everybody in the bowl game when he got the ball in a short yardage, goal-line situation. We'll see more of that this year, but it's not like the FBs will be any more central to the offense than blocking.

The Cyclones are going to ask mammoth Todd Blythe to again be their big play receiver. In fact they're going to ask him to be their best offensive weapon. And they're going to ask him to do all this after recovering from knee surgery that is keeping him out of spring ball and will limit him until early summer. But the Cyclones are optimistic. "Todd is dealing with this really well," head coach Dan McCarney said. "He's a hard worker and he'll be ready to go full speed when fall practice begins." Blythe set a freshman receiving mark last year with nine TDs. Ironically, he isn't ISU's most accomplished here - that would be Jon Davis. The problem for the Cyclones is that Davis isn't the big play guy that Blythe is (12.8 vs. 21.4 yards per catch). Davis needs to rectify a serious case of the drops because when Blythe does come back, defenses will key on him. The fact that only Blythe was over 13 per catch shows how he is the designated "field-stretcher" and everyone else works underneath. When the average per pass is more than 6.4, you will see this offense blossom.

Tight End
Walter Nickel, a top 25 JUCO player according to rivals.com and the top junior college tight end according to collegefootballnews.com, serves up immediate help here. Sophomore Ben Barkema is back, but Nickel has the better hands (and 4.6-40 speed), and Barkema is the bigger, better blocker. Though there will be some rotation, coordinator Cotton does love his double-TE formations (for inside running), so expect to see the incoming class' other three recruits bulk up so their speed has some girth (average weight is 214 lbs) and therefore impact.

Offensive Line
Starters Aaron Brant, Seth Zehr and Kory Pence are all back. In fact, it could be four returning starters here if center Luke Vander Sanden gets his hardship request for an extra year approved by the NCAA. Scott Stephenson will likely fill one of the vacant guard positions and although he's technically a "newcomer," he's been around the program for a while having watched and learned while sitting out his transfer year from Minnesota. Further help comes in the whopping 6-8, 330-pound frame of Paul Fisher, a top 100 junior college player who will step in immediately and make his presence known (with brother Scott right there too). This is a unit that has great depth, and hopefully, that will help, but this is a set of guys who really could not get the push needed to make their run efforts work (73rd-ranked in I-A). With 34 sacks to boot, they will have their work cut out for them, but those tougher days will soon be behind them as the balance this team should have will soon be achieved.

Well, at least offensive coordinator Barney Cotton is a man of his word. Early on in the 2004 season, he popped into a defensive team meeting and thanked the defense for carrying the time while the offense was finding itself. Cotton promised that in the second half of the season, the offense would more than hold its own. He was right. There should be no early problems early on again. Cotton likes to operate out of the pro-set, with the added bonus of having a mobile quarterback who can not only scramble out of trouble, but also produce via his number on set plays. Cotton is committed to a balanced offense predicated on running (on) first, ask questions later, and hope it opens up the pass (59% run, 41% pass). It worked perfectly over the last half of '04 to the tune of winning five of the last six. It will work even better this season with an experienced, more comfortable Meyer running the show. Look for the role-playing WRs to make the QB play improve via execution and/or route-running. Suffice to say that we're sure that Iowa State will improve on its anemic scoring offense that finished 97th last season.


WR Todd Blythe


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Bret Meyer-So (6-3, 205) Terrance Highsmith-Sr (6-1, 175)
Kyle Van Winkle-Jr (6-6, 205)
FB/H Ryan Kock-Jr (6-1, 245) Walter Nickel-Jr (6-2, 235)
Kyle Smith-Jr (6-2, 235)
TB Stevie Hicks-Jr (6-2, 215) Jason Scales-So (5-9, 200)
WR Todd Blythe-So (6-5, 210) Milan Moses-So (6-1, 190)
WR Jon Davis-Jr (6-4, 200) Austin Flynn-Jr (6-1, 185)
TE Ben Barkema-So (6-3, 250) Brandon Tinlin-So (6-4, 245)
OT Johannes Egbers-Sr (6-3, 290) Scott Fisher-Jr (6-7, 323)
OG Kory Pence-Sr (6-4, 310) Tom Schmeling-Fr (6-3, 295)
C Seth Zehr-Jr (6-5, 300) Anthony Walker-So (6-2, 275)
OG Fabian Dodd-Sr (6-3, 315) Trent Claussen-Sr (6-4, 300)
OT Aaron Brant-Jr (6-7, 315) John Tjaden-So (6-7, 300)
K Bret Culbertson-So (6-5, 195) Tony Yelk-Sr (6-1, 205)



Defensive Line
This is he best unit on the team. NG Nick Leaders and DT Brent Curvey are the best interior linemen combo in the conference. Both are big enough and have great footwork/technique. Curvey had fumble returns for TDs in back-to-back games, and he will again force double-teams while still getting 50+ tackles. Leaders cannot be ignored with an ability to affect a play just through his fast push. Cephus Johnson and Shawn Moorehead are quick, undersized defensive ends, but accomplish their tasks and will work well together to contain the sidelines. Korey Smith and Travis Ferguson give ISU strong depth here. There's a reason why the Cyclones held opposing teams to just 139 yards rushing last year, good for 46th in the country and ISU's best effort in more almost 60 years. This is an intelligent, spirited defensive line and we anticipate even better results.

Of the three defensive units, this is the shakiest since the Cyclones lost two starters. But at MLB - a position that drops back much of the time - starter Tim Robbins and backup Matt Robertson are both back. Jamarr Buchanan stepped in and did a decent job on the weakside, but needs to be better. The SLB spot remains a question mark with RS sophomore Ron Prelow having the inside track on a pair RS freshmen, but watch out for incoming recruit Alvin Bowen' speed and prowess to bolster their need for range here. The two LBs who did the run-stuffing are now gone, so the tailor-fit of toughness for that purpose is crucial for this unit to have impact (and not just athletes who annually fail to stop the major in-conference foes).

Defensive Back
Well-sized CB DeAndre Jackson is the best cover man on the team, able to be left on that "island" coaches pray can be single-handedly defended. Safeties Nik Moser and Steve Paris are solid, and Moser is especially good at sneaking up and plugging holes on run support. Filling the vacant CB spot will be senior LaMarcus Hicks, a former nickel-back who can tackle with authority and will lock down the other side well, too. The depth here is immense, with so many DBs coming in the last few years that the speed afforded via raw talent and rotated, fresh legs will keep this unit improving until the last gun of their bowl game. Only leadership has to be found with CB Hobbs gone, so watch the established guard take these underclassmen and slingshot them into a successful crew that can improve on their 15:17-TD:INT ratio and the Cyclone's 20th-ranking for pass defense.

ISU's defense would get more headlines if not dwarfed in the media by the Ds in Austin and Stillwater. State was the 29th-rated total defense, but that fact doesn't calm the winds of scrutiny Cyclone fans create in wanting that "next level" achieved from this side of the ball. Still, this is a fast, aggressive defense with a nose for the football. They know how to bring back TOs for scores (four INTS, two fumbles went for six) while winning the TO-margin battle almost weekly (ranked 12th in I-A). Defensive coordinator John Skladany favors the 4-3 and that won't change. In fact, it doesn't have to. Skladany has the horses again, and given the experience he has back and the depth waiting in the wings, Skladany can afford to be even more aggressive than he was, so look out. Only the smaller LBs pose a weak link, but even they will hold their own as they tork it up a notch (of intensity).


DB Nik Moser


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Cephus Johnson-Sr (6-2, 250) Collins Eboh-So (6-2, 240)
DT Brent Curvey-Jr (6-0, 300) Bryce Braaksma-So (6-3, 230)
NG Nick Leaders-Sr (6-2, 290) Matt Wood-So (6-2, 265)
DE Shawn Moorehead-Jr (6-3, 245) Korey Smith-Jr (6-4, 240)
SLB Adam Carper-Fr (6-2, 200) Nick Frere-Fr (6-2, 215)
MLB Tim Dobbins-Sr (6-1, 245) Ron Prelow-So (6-0, 230)
WLB Matt Robertson-Jr (6-1, 230) Jamarr Buchanan-Sr (6-1, 230)
CB DeAndre Jackson-Jr (6-0, 185) Roger Wright-Fr (5-10, 180)
CB LaMarcus Hicks-Sr (6-0, 190) Chris Brown-Fr (5-10, 175)
SS Nik Moser-Sr (6-0, 195) Caleb Berg-So (6-1, 195)
FS Steve Paris-Sr (6-1, 200) David Rahe-Jr (6-1, 205)
P Troy Blankenship-Sr (6-1, 190) Tony Yelk-Sr (6-1, 205)




The smallest guy on the team was the BMOC last year. When Brian Jansen faltered, hitting just three of his first nine field goals, Bret Culbertson stepped in and banged 8-of-10 to steady the ship. Culbertson's isn't the strongest leg (longest try was from the 39), but ISU tried only two from outside the 40, so expect FGAs only when the ball hits an opponent's 30. KO-coverage will again be strong with so much youth hungrily plying for more reps with viciousness and speed.

Troy Blankenship can get it downfield adequately, but needs to work on his hangtime for better net results - State was the worst in the Big 12 with a net just 33.1 yards per kick. Incoming DBs will make this, as will be on KOs, an improved area that will, if consistent, win a close one for them.

Return Game
Tyease Thompson and Terrance Highsmith make for serviceable, if not spectacular, return men. The special teams are among the best in the country, with nine blocked kicks (three by NT Nick Leaders).