Camp Valuable to ISU

Iowa State football's annual summer camps open this weekend in Ames and the numbers are expected to be as solid as ever. A pair of padded camps that commence Sunday and close on Saturday showcase the week-long session. The camps have proven to be a valuable recruiting tool in recent years. To get a preview of what to expect, CN sat down with Cyclone Football Camp director Don Knock for a question-and-answer session.

CN: How about starting with a few general comments about this year's camp?

Knock: We're looking at some really good numbers. There are some concerns all across the nation with camps, that the numbers might be down a little bit because of the economy and competition from more camps from outside organizations. We feel good about our numbers. Right now our kicking camp, which starts on Saturday, the numbers are good and very comparable to a year ago. We'll be right at 80 kids.

Then our padded camp's first session starts on Sunday and goes through Wednesday. And our second session goes from Wednesday to Saturday. The two camps combined will have over 500 people involved. The first session is fifth grade all the way up through seniors, and then the second session is just high schoolers. We feel good about our numbers and preparation.

This started when Coach (Mike) Woodley was here as our camp director for eight years. He has since left, so this is my first go around with these camps. He left a lot of very valuable information. Also, the people that are here have worked a number of camps throughout the years.

Overall, it's a great opportunity for us to showcase the University and our football program. We hope the kids keep coming back. For a lot of kids, they reap some very big benefits by being here.

CN: What are some of the responsibilities you've added since taking over for Woodley last summer?

Knock: It's a lot of coordinating and contacts. We have a secretary, (Joyce Vegge), had done it for years and she's left now and gone to the English department. We hired Melanie Shane back as a temp until we get our position filled to help us work with camps. She also has some camp experience, because she was here the first few years with Mac.

It's just an awful lot of communication with housing, meals and every facet of camp to make sure things run smoothly. It's really a team effort. I'm involved in the coordinating of the thing, but our entire staff from (graduate assistants) all the way up to Coach Mac, work with it.

CN: Are there any changes that have been implemented this year, or is it just business as usual for Cyclone Football Camps?

Knock: We've had a lot of success over the last eight years and Coach Woodley did a fine job of tweaking it to get it to run. When I was here as a G.A. two years ago in 2000, and I'd worked camp several times as a high school coach, it's very similar to what we've done here over the last three or four years. It was a good plan and we're sticking to it.

Every year we try to make some minor adjustments, maybe to have it run more efficient. There are times when you run in some issues that you haven't in the past, for example, our indoor practice facility. Therefore, we don't have an outdoor turf field. We use that at night with our linemen, so those are some issues we have to deal with. But it's the same master plan, overall.

CN: What about the value of these camps for evaluating potential recruits?

Knock: The major purpose of our camp is to teach fundamentals to all kids that come to our camp. We promote that and do that. We coach every kid the same when he comes to our camp. Obviously, it has proven to be a successful tool for us in evaluating talent. We evaluate talent all the way from a very young age to their senior year.

To get them on your campus gives you an opportunity to sell your program and coaches, because they get to be coached by your staff. Then it's an opportunity to sell Iowa State University once we get them on our campus. They get a feel for life on our campus and the family atmosphere. There's no question if you get an athlete here to our camp, you get a more honest and true evaluation because it's done from our people. It can be a huge benefit and it's proven to do that in the past.

CN: What makes ISU's football camps different than many of the others across the country?

Knock: Coach Mac was the first to really get here and start a padded camp where high school kids wear helmets and shoulder pads. Our younger kids don't, but our nine through 12 kids do. It's a very controlled environment. Coach Mac started that trend and other coaches and universities have picked up on that. That was something unique that had never been done before.

The other thing is, it's really Coach Mac. He doesn't miss a session and is out there coaching and watching. He's not one of these guys that sits in the office and shows up and says hi to the kids, or shows up on the last day and talks to them before they go home. He's there all the time dealing with the kids and coaching the kids.

We also have an opportunity to bring in some guest coaches to help out. A lot of high school coaches come out and that gives us an opportunity to work with them so they can see us coach and know what we're all about.

CN: Is the tempo of camp similar to that of practices for the Cyclone team?

Knock: In some respects it is. You can do some things. The enthusiasm and the upbeat attitude is, from Coach (Matt McGettigan) stretching them to what we do in the weight room with some of the kids to what we do in the weight room with some of the kids. We use our clocks just like we do in practice. They get a feel for how we'd run practice at this level.

CN: You mentioned practices getting started with stretching. When that's concluded, what could be expected in a normal camp session?

Knock: It does vary somewhat from day to day, and with our younger kids versus older kids. Our offensive and defensive coordinators are responsible for organizing the practice on each side of the ball, respectively. We basically use our same practice format for our practice and have individual periods, some segments combined together and then some seven-on-seven. We don't take anybody to the ground, it's all up and we stay on our feet.

CN: How our times set up from day to day?

Knock: There's a morning session, afternoon session and evening session. We'll go 9 to 11 in the morning, 2 to 4 in the afternoon and 7 to 9 at night where we'll go seven-on-seven and then the linemen get the opportunity to do some lifting and other technique work.

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