Up Close With Seneca Wallace

With the football season rapidly approaching, afternoons in Tallahassee are not much different from afternoons in Ames, Iowa. In this exclusive interview, Iowa State record-setting QB Seneca Wallace shares his thoughts on the Cyclones' workouts, their opener against FSU and his elusive game. "They ('Noles) are always going to come at you and they are always on top. The main thing we hear about is their team speed, knowing they are quick flying to the ball and real aggressive," Wallace said.

The college football season is rapidly approaching, and afternoons in Tallahassee are not much different from afternoons in Ames, Iowa. Players from Florida State and Iowa State are focused on improving each day.

And it should come as no surprise that do-it-all quarterback Seneca Wallace is helping direct the Cyclones through conditioning and strength drills. Wallace also orchestrates 7-on-7 passing drills at least two times a week in preparation for Iowa State's opener against Florida State in the Eddie Robinson Classic in Kansas City on Aug. 24.

"Summer is winding down but it has been pretty productive. We've been going at it pretty hard for the past seven weeks," Wallace said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. "We try to do something as a team (in terms of strength and conditioning) each day. We have about a week left before we break for a couple of weeks and then return for the start of two-a-days. But it has been going pretty good."

Of course, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

Excitement abounds in Central Iowa, where the Cyclones return the record-setting Wallace and eight starters from a defense that posted the program's stingiest numbers in a decade last season. Iowa State proved it wasn't a one-hit wonder last season, finishing 7-5 and appearing in a second consecutive bowl game (lost to Alabama 14-13) for the first time in school history.

Naturally, most of the Cyclones' hopes this season center on Wallace, an athletic 6-1 senior who was voted the Big 12 Conference's offensive newcomer of the year after finishing second in the league in total offense (219 yards per game) and first in completion percentage (62.1). The JUCO transfer finished with 2,519 total yards, ranking third in school history behind former Atlanta Falcon David Archer and Washington Redskin quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

"Seneca Wallace is first-class on the field and off the field," Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said. "There is no question he should be one of the best players in college football this season. Ask any coach who coached against him last season and they will tell you he can do it all."

FSU coach Bobby Bowden, back in the office after his summer vacation, has watched enough video of Iowa State and Wallace to know the Cyclones' strengths. Wallace, who hails from Sacramento, Calif, said he and his teammates are eager to line up against the Seminoles.

"It's real exciting," Wallace said.

"There's a lot of guys here from the state of Florida. We are just looking forward to getting the chance to play them. I just know they are a regular Florida State team. They are always going to come at you and they are always on top. The main thing we hear about is their team speed, knowing they are quick flying to the ball and real aggressive."

Folks have also had plenty to say about Wallace, a versatile performer who can run and pass equally well. His elusive game helped Iowa State rank second in the Big 12 in third down conversions, making good on 46.2 percent. Despite the bowl defeat, Wallace was named the offensive MVP of last December's Independence Bowl, prompting Alabama coach Dennis Franchione to say, "We chased him all around a lot. What a great player."

The 193-pound Wallace also is nearly 20 pounds stronger than when he arrived from Sacramento City Junior College -- Wallace attended Oregon State for one season before transferring to junior college. The personable Wallace also is very well-spoken and yes-sir, no-sir polite. He also expects to have help this season. Offensively, the Cyclones return six starters, including two linemen and two receivers.

"My style of play sometimes they try to get me on the edge and do some certain things," Wallace said. "I am not that one-dimensional quarterback that just drops back and is just a passer. I like to be known as quarterback that can pass well and also run well. All quarterbacks have to make the right decisions at the right time. And that's what I like to do is make the right decisions and put us in the best situation as an offense and as a team."

Iowa State's invitation to play against the Seminoles affirms the rising status of the Iowa State program under McCarney in seven seasons. Wallace, who liked the program's "team atmosphere and family environment" during his recruitment, believes the Cyclones have the talent and potential to compete against the country's best teams. Iowa State also has beaten bitter rival Iowa four consecutive times.

"We have a lot of potential," said Wallace, who threw for 2,044 yards (167-for-269) with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions and also rushed for 475 yards with seven touchdowns last season.

"We have a lot of young guys. Our defense should be good, because we have a lot of returnees coming back. We have a lot of high expectations of trying each year to keep maintaining that style of going out there and competing against the top-ranked teams and trying our best to get back to a bowl game. That's one of the goals we've set -- trying to get to a bowl game each year.

"It's a great opportunity (to play FSU). It's opening the door for us to get some more exposure and playing against teams like Florida State and playing teams like Texas, Nebraska, Kansas State and Oklahoma now. It's going to open the doors for us. It's fun. Getting the chance to facing a different style of play."

As summer winds down, Wallace, 21, will begin to take a closer look at the Seminoles on video. He also will take advantage of the team's quick reprieve before the start of two-a-days, chilling with friends, watching movies or playing basketball -- another favorite sport as a youth.

Still, his thoughts are never that far from the Seminoles.

"We are trying to get better each day," Wallace said. "I haven't really looked (at FSU) but there will be time for that. It's still a good thing (right now) to get your mind right and relax. But, yes, it (season) is nearly here."

Players from the Sunshine State: Brian Thompson (Plantation), Matt Word (Miami Southridge), Johnny Smith (Bradenton), Hiawatha Rutland (Bradenton), Marc Timmons (Bradenton), Atif Austin (Tarpon Springs), Cephus Johnson (Palm Beach Gardens).


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