Goal-line Defense Getting Attention

Shortly after Iowa State put a wrap on its first spring workout of the year Wednesday, Cyclone Nation caught up with defensive secondary coach Chris Ash for a few comments about his position and what the loss of linebacker Chris Whitaker could mean for the defense as a whole.

CN: How about a few general comments on the play of your group?

Ash: I thought the tempo was really good for the first day. We've made a few position switches with some guys that in the long run are going to be really good moves for our defense and team. I was really happy with the enthusiasm, tempo and retention of some of the older things we did last year. Even some of the new things have been picked up fairly well.

CN: In his first practice since switching from safety to cornerback, Anthony Forrest fit in well and played a majority of the first-team snaps opposite fellow starter Ellis Hobbs. What are your thoughts on his potential outside?

Ash: It's really too early to tell how he's going to be. Athletically, he's got what we're looking for. But in terms of learning the position and the reads and techniques, it's too early to tell. But Anthony is a smart football player and probably one of the smartest ones we've got. It's not going to be a problem picking it up. I think he'll be fine.

CN: Coach Dan McCarney alluded to the weight gains made by many players over the off-season, including the 17 pounds safety Marc Timmons picked up. How much will that benefit this safety that has battled to gain weight throughout much of his career?

Ash: He's going into his senior year and right now he's bigger and stronger than he's ever been. He's had a real good off-season and made some tremendous gains. Our whole group of defensive backs had a real good off-season. If you look at the weights of our guys right now, they're bigger and stronger than any group we've had in here. I'm excited about it."

CN: Whitaker tore a pectoral muscle in his left arm and is out for spring ball. What will losing this veteran mean to a young group of linebackers?

Ash: The biggest thing we're going to miss from C-Whit is his leadership and what he brings to the defense from that standpoint. It's too bad we didn't get the chance to work him at the new position and see what he was going to do. We haven't made a final decision on what we'll do with him heading into the fall.

CN: While the linebacking corps may be a young one, you have the luxury of working with plenty of experienced guys in the secondary. What kind of benefits are you seeing from that?

Ash: Some of these guys, especially the ones in my group, have played a lot of football. We haven't made a lot of changes, so they've been doing some of this stuff for three or four years now. They know it inside and out. They know the checks, the keys, the reads, where they're supposed to fit and get there pretty fast. Having so many guys back really helps us.

Throughout our whole defense, we've got a lot of guys that have played. We've got to find some guys in a few key spots, but for a nucleus we feel pretty good about them.

CN: What can we expect in the next few practices, particularly your first padded workout on Saturday morning?

Ash: We have worked so much on schemes right now, we've just got to keep improving on the little things. That first scrimmage is going to be more of a goal-line scrimmage. We weren't very good in the red zone or goal-line, at least on defense, a year ago. That's going to be the first thing we scrimmage this spring from an emphasis standpoint. We need to get more stops down there.

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