Uncertainty at quarterback, running back for Iowa State
AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State begins coach Dan McCarney's ninth season with major questions at the two most critical offensive positions.
All McCarney knows going in is who WON'T start at quarterback and running back in the Cyclones' opener.
Quarterback Chris Love and tailback Hiawatha Rutland, both listed at No. 1 after spring practice, have been demoted after being charged with drunken driving this summer. Neither will play in the Aug. 30 opener against Northern Iowa and neither will practice with the first team before that game.
So after two years with Seneca Wallace running things, often in spectacular fashion, Iowa State will begin the year with a quarterback who has never taken a snap in a major-college game, either junior college transfer Waye Terry or redshirt freshman Austin Flynn.
"Would I like to have Seneca back? Hell, yes," McCarney said. "But he's not going to be here. I really trust those kids. Those were the two best scout team quarterbacks we've had."
Terry sat out last season after throwing for 2,249 yards and 28 touchdowns at Foothill College in California in 2001, then a broken thumb kept him out of most of spring practice. Love's suspension has put him right back in the thick of things.
Flynn passed for 1,633 yards and 15 TDs as a high school senior and averaged 8.6 yards rushing. Neither he nor Terry are as elusive as Wallace, but both are more mobile than Love.
"Hopefully we'll have a good enough offense surrounding the quarterback so he doesn't have to make every play and we can rely on receivers and running backs," wide receiver Lane Danielsen said. "Hopefully we can establish a running game to take some of the pressure off."
Rutland's starting job wasn't safe even before his suspension.
Although he led Iowa State in rushing with 614 yards last season, it marked the first time in McCarney's tenure the Cyclones failed to have a 1,000-yard rusher.
Senior Michael Wagner, sophomore Brian Thompson and redshirt freshman Stevie Hicks, a sensation on the scout team last year, all were pushing Rutland. Hicks, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, might have the edge.
Whoever gets the job will try leading Iowa State out of its late-season doldrums of 2002.
With Wallace making himself an early favorite in the Heisman Trophy race, Iowa State was 6-1 start and ranked in the top 10 for the first time. Then came a devastating stretch of Big 12 road games -- and a collapse.
The Cyclones lost six of their last seven games, including a 37-20 embarrassment against Connecticut and 34-16 to Boise State in the Humanitarian Bowl.
"That's something you can't forget about," defensive lineman Jordan Carstens said. "We've got to keep that feeling in the pit of our stomach and use that to motivate us."
Carstens has become a force after showing up as a 228-pound walk-on in 1999.
Now 6-foot-5 and 303 pounds, Carstens had five sacks among his 103 tackles last fall and earned second-team all-Big 12 honors.
He's among eight returning starters on a defense that could be McCarney's best. Sophomore defensive lineman Nick Leaders has star potential and all four starters return in the secondary.
The offensive line returns three starters, but the biggest story in that group is freshman Aaron Brant, a 6-7, 307-pounder who'll probably start.
The schedule reverses, though maybe not in Iowa State's favor.
The Cyclones get Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State and Colorado at home, but they have trouble beating those teams anywhere. Iowa State has to play the four Big 12 teams it beat last year -- Kansas, Missouri, Texas Tech and Nebraska -- on the road.
That could be one reason the Cyclones are picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 North, much to their disappointment.
"It's a battle that we have to fight all the time because we don't get the national respect we think we deserve," Carstens said. "We just have to go out and prove it on Saturdays."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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