Huge Florida Contingent Heads to Ames

Tampa area LB Josh Balloon one of 13 visitors (TI)

Cyclone Nation has learned that at least 13 players are set for official visits to Iowa State this weekend, and that includes a number of highly-rated preps from the Sunshine State. Here is a listing of those players along with a brief profile on each.

Steve Allen, LB, 6-2, 205, 4.55, Del Ray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic H.S.

Anxiously awaits his official visit to Iowa State and could potentially commit during his trip. The Cyclones would be getting a potential SAM or WILL linebacker with great speed and playmaking ability. Allen played left outside linebacker for one of the top defenses in Palm County, which didn't allow an opponent over 100 yards rushing. Allen had made more than 50 tackles to go along with seven sacks and two interceptions through Atlantic's first seven games. Allen's teammate is big-time safety prospect Brandon Owens, the number one national player at his position by The Insiders, who will visit ISU this weekend as well.

Josh Balloon, LB/RB, 6-0, 200, 4.5, Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson H.S.

One of the state's top FB/LB prospects, Balloon had 90 tackles as a junior but could project as a college fullback. He is a four-year varsity starter that has played several different positions including running back, fullback, linebacker, defensive end and safety. At running back, Balloon and Rashaun Grant combined to form one of the top tailback duos in the state and nearly led Jefferson to within one game of the Class 4A title game last season. Balloon is mainly being recruited at running back, safety and linebacker. He has scholarship offers from several Division I programs, including ISU, Indiana, Northwestern, San Diego State, Wake Forest, Wisconsin.

H.B. Blades, LB, 6-1, 230, 4.55, Plantation (Fla.) H.S.

Blades has set four official visits scheduled over the next several weeks, including Iowa State this weekend. Blades visited Pittsburgh last weekend and has Auburn (Jan. 10-11) and Virginia (Jan. 17-18) set. He will also take an unofficial visit to Miami over Christmas break. Former Plantation standout Brian Thompson, a good friend of his, saw plenty of playing time in his redshirt freshman season at ISU. Blades put up some amazing numbers as a senior at Plantation, recording 149 tackles, six interceptions, 4 ½ sacks, six fumble recoveries and eight forced fumbles in 10 regular season games. He also scored two defensive touchdowns while leading his team into the second round of playoffs and District 7-6A title.

Todd Blythe, WR, 6-5, 200, Indianola HS

The standout senior had posted 51 receptions for 851 yards and seven touchdown catches through the Indians' first seven games. He was named all-state after junior and senior seasons and had 54 receptions for 790 yards and eight touchdowns last fall. On defense, Blythe had seven interceptions from his defensive back position. Scholarship offers from Iowa State and Iowa, but committed to the Cyclones a few days before their annual in-state clash with the Hawkeyes. Also recruited by Texas, Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan, Harvard, Kansas State, and Wisconsin.

Brandon Owens, S, 6-2, 195, 4.5, Del Ray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic H.S.

His visit to Iowa State will be the first for this talented safety who ranks as the number one national recruit at his position by The Insiders. Owens is also being pursured by Miami, Florida, and Georgia. Grades also appear to be an issue, but this could play out well for the Cyclones if he is to quality. If he receives his qualifying test score, everyone will jump on this safety from Atlantic High School. Owens compares favorably to former Atlantic standout DB Mike Rumph, now with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. He had three interceptions as a junior.

Nate Mechaelsen, QB, 6-2, 190, 4.7, Northeast Hamilton HS

Passed for 925 yards and 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions on 47-of-84 completions last fall. Like many of the quarterbacks ISU recruits, Mechaelsen posses the ability to throw both in the pocket and rolling out. Mechaelsen, who earned first-team all-district and honorable mention all-state honors, led Northeast Hamilton (7-2) to within one game of a Class A playoff berth last fall. He has already broken his school's single-season and career touchdown marks.

Bret Meyer, QB, 6-3, 180, 4.7, Atlantic H.S.

Accomplished quite a feat as a senior quarterback by leading his team to an Iowa Class 3A State Championship. Meyer did so in dominating fashion and commandeered a length-of-the-field scoring drive in a semifinal game against Grinnell. In addition to the Cyclones, Meyer garnered recruiting interest from Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin after throwing for 1,570 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. Taking over the starting job as a sophomore in 2000 he passed for 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. After throwing 13 interceptions as a first-year starter in 2000, Meyer cut that number down significantly last fall and demonstrated more confidence as a pocket passer.

Ron Prelow, LB, 6-0, 210, 4.5, Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson H.S.

A teammate of Balloon's and another coveted D-I prospect on a Jefferson team full of outstanding players. Prelow, who transferred to Jefferson from Sickles High School prior to this year, has scholarship offers from Iowa State and Hofstra, and is getting calls from Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Troy State. Prelow started on a varsity for three years and was one of the anchors on an impressive Jefferson defense in 2002. Through eight games this season, Prelow had over 100 tackles and 15 sacks. His future position is most likely at MIKE or WILL linebacker.

Tom Schmeling, OL, 6-3, 280, 5.1, Atlantic H.S.

Schmeling, who is projected as a guard or center, was deemed one of the huge surprises in ISU's summer camp and earned an offer with his solid play. Committed to Iowa State over interest from Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa, Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and UNI. Schmeling saw his season cut short due to an injury, and he had to watch from the sidelines as fellow Cyclone commit Bret Meyer led Atlantic to a state championship.

Kurtis Taylor, ATH, 6-3, 200, 4.7, Fort Dodge H.S.

Recruited as an athlete, Taylor flashes the ability to play a number of different positions. He played both wide receiver and weak-side linebacker last fall for the Dodgers, but has shown the capability to play quarterback and defensive end as well. He will become the third Fort Dodge senior in three years to sign with the Cyclones, joining offensive lineman Seth Zehr (2002) and Nik Moser (2001). Committed to Iowa State over interest from Iowa and UNI.

Jermaine Thomas, CB, 6-2, 205, 4.48, Reddick (Fla.) North Marion H.S.

Teammate of recent Iowa State commitment Mike West, Thomas will also be taking an official visit this weekend. The tall and athletic cornerback has visits scheduled to Louisville, Central Florida, South Florida and Southern Miss. He could also take a visit to Florida in January. Thomas recorded 25 tackles and four interceptions as a senior. One of the top defensive back prospects in central Florida, Thomas had 45 tackles and four interceptions as a junior. He also plays tailback and rushed for 655 yards on 70 carries and scored eight total touchdowns as West's backup. He's also a state high-jumper and an all-area basketball player.

Gabe Toomey, LB, 6-2, 230, 4.6, Iowa Central C.C.

A first-team All-American in his first season at Iowa Central in Fort Dodge, Toomey led Iowa Central to an 8-2 regular season and postseason bowl bid against Grand Rapids (Mich.). He led the Tritons in tackles by averaging more than 15 per game and received Region 11 defensive player of the year honors in addition to being an all-conference pick. Toomey originally signed with Oklahoma out of West Des Moines' Valley High School, but decided to transfer after spending his redshirt season in Norman. In addition to the Cyclones, Colorado State, Iowa and Kansas had expressed recruiting interest in Toomey. The Jayhawks currently have three former Oklahoma assistants on board, which made them an intriguing choice. However, remaining in Iowa and signing with ISU won out over other outside factors.

Mike West, RB, 6-1, 200, 4.4, Citra (Fla.) North Marion H.S.

ISU's 16th commitment for the Class of 2003, Mike West made his decision without even the benefit of an official visit after running backs coach Tony Alford made the trip to his high school last week. West rushed for more than 1,500 yards on 230 carries in the regular season and scored 15 touchdowns, leading North Narion into the Class 3A state playoffs. Although Cyclone coaches made it clear he would play offense, West made an impact on defense as well, racking up 65 tackles and one interception. In addition to ISU, Southern Mississippi, Troy State, Central Florida, South Florida and Illinois State had all offered West scholarships.

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