Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Football Instead of Senior Prom

Ames, Ia. -- The last time I saw Jason Scales in football pads was late last fall when he was making the field at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls his personal playground while leading Valley of West Des Moines to a second straight state Class 4-A high school championship.

Now, here we are five months later, and Scales is the second-team tailback for Iowa State in spring practice.

"He should still be getting ready for the prom at Valley," Cyclone coach Dan McCarney told a handful of Internet, TV, radio and newspaper reporters who showed up this morning for his first spring football press conference.

And there are some who no doubt think the 5-9, 200-pound Scales should have stayed at Valley for a final semester and not begun classes in January at Iowa State. After all, he also was a track standout, participating on Valley's state championship medley relay team last spring.

But the kid -- a National Honor Society member -- chose to give up another season of track as well as everything else that goes with the final semester of high school and enrolled at Iowa State. He plans to major in architecture.

Scales couldn't make it to the press conference because he had a class. However, McCarney did plenty of talking about him. He certainly likes what he's seen of him in practice so far.

"Jason Scales is off to a great start," McCarney said. "He's learning and we know he's going to make mistakes. But he's shown in the first half of spring ball that he'll definitely play next fall, barring any injuries. He will not be redshirted."

Stevie Hicks, a redshirt sophomore who led Iowa State in rushing with 471 yards in 123 carries last season, is the No. 1 tailback.

Obviously, 6-7, 315-pound Aaron Brant -- one of the guys who does the blocking for Scales in the offensive line -- thinks Scales made the right decision to leave high school with a semester remaining.

Why? Because Brant did the same thing last year.

"Scales decided to come in early like I did, and I think he's enjoying it right now," Brant said. "He's trying real hard. He's making some mistakes, but he's going right back out there. He's doing all right."

Brant, who is from Cuba City, Wis., but played high school football at Dubuque Wahlert, started all 12 games at offensive guard in the Cyclones' 2-10 season in 2003. But he's been moved to offensive tackle this spring.

Scales finished his Valley career with a whopping 6,050 yards and 78 touchdowns. He had 19 career kickoff returns for more than 500 yards and scored a state-record nine touchdowns in one game as a senior.

Valley had a 13-0 record in Scales' senior season and was 10-3 when he was a junior.

So what's the secret to why he's making such big strides so quickly at Iowa State?

"You've got to have ability, we all know that," McCarney said, "and you'd better have some maturity to handle the things that happen as fast as they do at this level. Jason is out there blocking some pretty good defensive players right now, and he's learning from his mistakes.

"He has great pride. If he fumbles the ball, it just tears him up. He hasn't done a lot of that, but when he does he comes back with more determination.

"He's physical enough. He reminds me a little of Darren Davis and Troy Davis when he blocks. He isn't that type of running back yet, but as a blocker he's explosive and powerful. He has great fundamentals, and that shows me he can help us next fall."

Anytime a player is mentioned in the same breath with brothers Troy and Darren Davis, it means something. Troy led the nation in rushing with 2,185 yards as a Cyclone senior in 1996 and 2,010 in 1995. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1996 and fifth in 1995. Darren Davis led Iowa State in rushing in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

McCarney said, "It's a credit to coach Gary Swenson and the Valley program that Scales can come in here and be that close to being ready to play in the Big 12 right out of high school."

Bret Meyer, a redshirt freshman from Atlantic, has a slight edge over redshirt sophomore Austin Flynn for the No. 1 quarterback job. Flynn started seven games last season, completing 99 of 212 passes.

"Bret is listed No. 1 because he's been more consistent," McCarney said.

Asked if it would bother him to start a redshirt freshman at quarterback, McCarney said, "If he's the best, is the most consistent and makes the fewest mistakes, I don't worry about it. There's a good battle going on there."

Meyer, 6-3, 205-pounder who led Atlantic to a state high school title in 2002, opened some eyes as Iowa State's scout team quarterback last fall.

Iowa State has had eight of its 15 spring practices and will hold its intrasquad game April 17 at 1 p.m.


Sept. 4--Northern Iowa
Sept. 11--at Iowa
Sept. 18--Northern Illinois
Oct. 2--at Oklahoma State
Oct. 9--Texas A&M
Oct. 16--at Colorado
Oct. 23--at Baylor
Oct. 30--Kansas
Nov. 6--Nebraska
Nov. 20--at Kansas State
Nov. 27--Missouri

Ron Maly
April 6, 2004