A Very Welcome Culture Change

Had Chris Klenakis stayed in Ames, inevitably he would have forged a better working relationship with his players. Probably. The truth, though, is it's taken Brandon Blaney two months to do what Klenakis never could

They won't do it anymore under a new blocking scheme, but last season Iowa State's offensive linemen held hands right until the snap, to better help with their spacing and make sure everyone was in sync with the snap count.

It's funny, the universal sign of unity. If there's one thing those were guys aligned in, it was their contempt for line coach Chris Klenakis.

The morning it was reported Klenakis would be leaving after one season with the Cyclones for a lateral gig at Louisville, center Tom Farniok tweeted, "I literally broke my door, I was so happy when I woke up this morning."

Speaking publicly on the matter for the first time since the January tweet, Farniok did not back down, using his platform to compare the old regime to the new one.

"It felt like it was an us-vs-him thing in the past whereas [new line coach Brandon Blaney's] biggest thing is stressing, 'Hey, we're in this together,'" the senior said Saturday. "Really, the whole offensive staff communicates that. With [Mark] Mangino and them, there's a lot more unity I've felt around here really since [2009-11 offensive coordinator Tom] Herman."

More from Farniok: "[Blaney], he cares about the players. He really goes the extra mile to make sure everyone enjoys their time and makes sure there's mutual respect both ways. It's not like he's in there and it's happy hour, everyone doing what they want, but it's a job, it's a business and everyone understands it; we don't have a guy in our o-line room that needs to be put in the dirt, a guy that needs to be [worked] into the ground. Everyone's a self-motivator."


What was going on?

Despite his past brilliance with the pistol offense and Colin Kaepernick at Nevada, the introverted Klenakis had his share of personality clashes with Iowa State's offensive linemen, who were used to the softer touch of Bill Bleil.

"Klenakis never treated [him] with any respect," said the parent of an ISU player who wished to remain anonymous. "K would treat him like an idiot like he just didn't understand anything, where the reality is he was never told what Coach K wanted."

The Cyclones had three linemen injure their MCLs in 2013 and, per multiple parties, Klenakis worked his unit mercilessly even in the final week of the season, when the team was 2-9.

Welcome change, going from Klenakis to Blaney?

"Very," Farniok said.

To his credit, Klenakis got an early start on the development of left tackle Brock Dagel, who he inserted in place of senior Kyle Lichtenberg after one game, and Daniel Burton, a versatile guard who started the first eight games for the Cyclones before missing the last four contests of the year.

Still, it was clearly best that both parties move on, Klenakis to Louisville to reunite with old friend Bobby Petrino, the Cyclones welcoming Blaney with open arms from.

"He does a great job of coaching and teaching us his new techniques, which is definitely a change from Coach K," Dagel said in March. "A great all-around guy. We all just love him."

Gone is the playbook packed with power-pulls. In its place is a more traditional scheme (blending zone and power) that meshes better with what ISU's linemen were recruited to do.

"It's totally different, really," Farniok said. "A lot of stuff is gonna look the same offensively to a lot of people in the stands but it's totally different. … It's a lot simpler, a lot less calls, it makes a lot more sense, to me personally."

As Farniok said, the self-dubbed beefcakes aren't sipping daiquiris and kicking their shoes off in Blaney's room, but there's a sense of conviviality that didn't exist in 2013.

"He works with you," Farniok said of Blaney. "That's the big thing he stresses."

Remarked 2015 offensive tackle Grant Schimdt, a Cyclones recruit who was in Ames for the Spring Game: "[Blaney] brings a professional mentality and expects that from his players. He treats them like adults."

Had Klenakis stayed in Ames, inevitably he would have forged a better working relationship with his players. Probably. The truth, though, is it's taken Blaney two months to do what Klenakis never could.

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