Cyclones aim to evaluate, entertain at spring game


ISU coach Paul Rhoads leads the ISU football team out onto the field during the game against Texas Tech in 2014 at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones fell to the Red Raiders 34-31.

Max Dible

Football is back in Ames — well, sort of.

The Cyclone Gridiron Club Spring Game is slated for April 11 at Jack Trice Stadium. It will be the first opportunity for many ISU fans to get an up close and personal glance not only at the ongoing renovations in the stadium’s south end zone, but also a glimpse at the product ISU coach Paul Rhoads will be fielding next fall once construction is complete.

The anticipated scrimmage won’t feature a complete roster, as a number of potential ISU contributors will stick to the sideline because of minor injury concerns. The measures are mostly precautionary, as Rhoads said he wants the game to be characterized by a physical nature.

Rhoads added he is considering a new format for deciding which players will be draped in cardinal and which players will don the gold.

“We’re going to tackle … so you won’t see [Quenton] Bundrage and you won’t see Levi [Peters],” Rhoads said. “I’ve been playing in my mind with maybe doing some type of draft. The coaches will not be very happy with me if I do that because they’d like to have continuity, but to a certain extent, we don’t have a whole lot of continuity anyway with so many guys out.”

Another notable absentee from the spring game along with wideout Bundrage and linebacker Peters will be wide receiver D’Vario Montgomery. Montgomery had surgery earlier in the spring to remove a small piece of bone from his knee. Running back Martinez Syria will also miss Saturday’s contest due to injury.

Rhoads said his hopes are to promote a highly competitive atmosphere on the field despite all the players sitting out, which is what is driving the notion of a draft as well as the possibility of even keeping score. He added that each are simply motivating tools and the score matters as little as the stats he expects to receive after the game, for which Rhoads has a special destination in mind.

“[The score] is like the stats they hand me afterward,” Rhoads laughed. “They go to my toilet.”

The coaching staff’s cavalier attitude about the numerical performances by their team, both points and stats, stems from a shared idea of what the spring game is really all about — evaluation.

There are a number of positions in flux as far as the starting lineup and rotations are concerned. Three primary competitions for fans to watch exist at running back, cornerback and on the offensive line, where determinations about who will play where and for how many plays are yet to be made.

Redshirt freshman Mike Warren and redshirt sophomore Tyler Brown will take most of the snaps at running back for the Cyclones in Syria’s absence. Walk-on redshirt junior Mitchell Harger, who has been a staple as the second-team running back throughout the spring, should also see some field time on Saturday.

For players like Harger, the spring game serves a showcase of sorts.

“Just showing [everyone] that walk-ons … can make plays and play with the scholarship guys means everything to us as a family,” Harger said. “I’m a small town Iowa kid that loves to play football, and I just want to show everyone in the state of Iowa [that] it doesn’t matter where you came from, you can make it in the big leagues anywhere.”

Scrappy upstarts such as Harger and the rest of his walk-on brethren aren’t the only players with something to prove. Middle linebacker Jordan Harris, who redshirted last season but will likely be the starting signal caller for the ISU defense in the fall, said he’s ready to announce his presence with authority to ISU fans.

“I just want to show them that I’m a way better player than I was last year,” Harris said.

Admission to the spring game is free to the public. Spectators can park in the north lots and enter at Gate 1, located at the northeast end of Jack Trice Stadium. All seating will be on the east side of the stadium. The opening kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.