Back on the line

Zac Reicks

It happens to all college football teams.

Each year coaches have to deal with losing seniors to graduation, shrugging it off as an inevitable part of college football.

Whether first-team All-Americans or inspirational walk-ons, these seniors are the glue that hold teams together and are always sorely missed.

The 2001 ISU football team is no different as they try to cope with the loss of 32 letterwinners off a history making 9-3 squad that won the first bowl game in school history.

Affected most was a defense that returns only 4 starters from an opportunistic unit which forced an impressive 23 turnovers last season.

This season’s defensive line lost as many talented players as any school in the nation as four key contributors now find themselves competing for jobs in NFL training camps.

Gone are All-Big 12 picks Reggie Hayward and James Reed.

Three-year starter Ryan Harklau also departed along with Nigel Tharpe.

Despite these enormous losses, the Cyclone defensive line will not be without talent. Returning defensive end Kevin DeRonde has taken it upon himself to bring the underclassmen under his wing and mold them into Big 12 lineman.

One returnee he won’t have to worry about, however, is sophomore tackle Jordan Carstens. Exploding onto the scene as a walk-on freshmen with 8 tackles against Ohio, Carstens quickly cemented himself into the defensive line of the Cyclones by providing steady play week in and week out.

Throughout the 2000 season, Carstens improved each game and has himself poised for a breakout year in 2001.

“With the loss of all the great seniors we need a bunch of guys to step up,” Carstens said. “Me, Willie [Judd], Tyson [Smith] and everyone else will have to be ready to play every week.”

Hailing from Bagley (pop. 303), Carstens came to Ames in August of 1999 as a 230 pound walk-on.

With the help of strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan, the second year Cyclone quickly beefed up to 275 pounds and made an immediate impact by playing valuable snaps for head coach Dan McCarney and his staff.

“As a walk-on, I saw myself playing a little bit later in my career,” Carstens said. “I just didn’t know about the development I would make in the weight room or the phenomenal coaching staff I would be working with.”

McCarney was pleased with the growth of Carstens last season but is definitely concerned about others stepping up to help anchor the trenches.

“The loss of four starters on the defensive line will make it difficult, and we hope to find some guys to fill those holes by the time UNI rolls around,” McCarney said.

“We’ve got four guys back that played some D-line last year, five redshirt freshman and three jucos that we will need to step up and help this football team.”