AMES - Iowa State football fans might not know Levi Peters by name.
Beginning this fall, the former Twin River Valley and Fort Dodge Senior High all-stater is hoping to change that.
Entering his redshirt freshman season with the Cyclones, Peters - who will wear jersey No. 35 - is currently listed as a starter on both the kickoff and punt teams, along with being a second-stringer on each return unit. The 5-foot-10, 213-pound preferred walk-on is also third on the depth chart at weak-side linebacker after making a position switch from safety.
Messenger photo by Josh Meyer
Levi Peters, a Fort Dodge Senior High graduate and former Twin River Valley prep, is slated to start on special teams for the Cyclones this year.
"Every day I'm feeling more confident, and I've learned a lot so far in camp in all of my positional meetings," Peters said at Sunday's annual ISU football media day inside Jack Trice Stadium. "I greyshirted when I first got (to Ames), and then I suffered a Lisfranc injury in my left foot during our fourth practice of spring ball, which took me out for the rest of spring ball and all through the summer.
"After having surgery, I finally got the screws out on the first day of camp (in 2012). I was able to suit up for all of the home games last season."
Adjusting to the rigors of BCS college football has obviously been a challenging task for Peters.
"I played 8-Man (at Twin River Valley) up until my senior year of high school, so I'm still learning what it takes - especially at this level," Peters said. "Strength and speed are huge in Division I football. Good footwork and changing directions quickly are also really important."
Peters, who was a Class 4A all-state catcher and a 171-pound state wrestling runner-up for the Dodgers, is anxious to play his first game in front of a sold out Jack Trice Stadium crowd.
"Everyone's going to have some nerves the first time playing in front of so many fans," said Peters, who quarterbacked Fort Dodge to its first outright CIML Iowa Conference title in school history and a berth in the state playoffs as a senior. "You just have to stay focused and try to block things out. Picture it like it's only you and your teammates."
During his short time in Ames, Peters has made the most of his collegiate experience.
"I've had a lot of fun, and I get along with every one of my teammates," Peters said. "Our whole coaching staff is intense, but they expect nothing less than your best and that's the way it should be.
"They want you to be a blue-collar worker (both on and off the field)."
ISU special teams coordinator and defensive tackles coach Shane Burnham envisions a bright future for Peters, who was both a 1A state wrestling champion (160) as a junior and state runner-up (140) as a sophomore for the Thunder.
"I'm expecting big things out of Levi Peters, who has a fearless mentality," Burnham said. "He's very physical, mature and smart. With his speed, he can play a lot of units for us."
NO EXCUSES:?Despite returning only 11 starters and having nine players atop the fall depth chart with no career collegiate starts, head coach Paul Rhoads isn't about ready to call this season a rebuilding project. Through his first four years at the helm, the Cyclones have posted 24 victories and qualified for three bowl games.
"We have the least amount of starters returning in the Big 12 and that is showing in practice, especially on defense," said Rhoads at Sunday's media day press conference inside the Bergstrom Football Complex. "I am glad I have a defensive coordinator (in Wally Burnham) that has 50-plus years of experience. I am confident that we will work around that and get the guys ready to go.
"We know what we've done in four years and our vision is loftier than that. I've got a group of seniors, I'm not going to tell them hey, we've got other players waiting in the wings and we have a better chance of doing that in 2014 and beyond. The talent level has always been there, it's a matter of the little things, paying attention to detail and guys stepping into their role and coming together as a team actually playing and grinding those tough games out to win those games."
TALL TASK:?Another daunting schedule awaits Iowa State, which has road trips to Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and West Virginia included in the Big 12 slate. Tulsa is the other road game and ISU also hosts nationally ranked Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU, as well as Northern Iowa, Iowa and Kansas.
"We are excited to be ranked in the top 10 in terms of strength of schedule for the fourth straight season," said Rhoads. "It is a challenge that our kids are very aware of and excited about it as they approach every single day of practice.
"Heck, let's get in the top half of the league. Let's be better than half the league as we continue to make this climb and do things that this program has never done."
STANDING ROOM ONLY:?For the first time in school history, the Cyclones have announced a season ticket sellout. More than 43,000 football season ticket packages have been purchased.
"We've set season ticket marks for a third straight year," Rhoads said. "The loyal Cyclone fan base is becoming recognized around the country for the support they give us at Jack Trice Stadium."
The only remaining tickets are single-game tickets (outside of the Iowa game on Sept. 14 which sold out late last week) and an end-of-the-year mini-pack from unused inventory of visiting team allotments.
NO LEG UP:?Iowa Central transfer Edwin Arceo and Cole Netten remain in an open competition for the starting kicking duties.
Arceo, a senior, went 12-for-18 on field goal attempts and 37 of 40 on PAT tries last season. Netten, a former Ankeny all-stater, redshirted a year ago as a true freshman.
"Much more consistent work out of both of those guys right now," said Rhoads. "That will probably be a game-week call."
QUICK HITTERS:?Knute Severson, an ex-Clarion-Goldfield standout, is listed as a 6-foot-2, 231-pound linebacker. Severson, a redshirt freshman, has been assigned No. 45.
Freshman D.A. Williams, a three-star cornerback from St. Augustine, Fla., failed to qualify academically and is no longer with the program.
Offensive lineman Bob Graham, a junior from Jenks, Okla., and Pierce Richardson, a junior tight end from Newport Beach, Calif., are also not currently on the Cyclones' 105-man roster. Both players are nursing injuries with Graham scheduled to have disc surgery at the end of the month.
Senior defensive end Willie Scott was arrested and suspended indefinitely after a possession of a controlled substance charge in April.