McCarney Media Day Transcript

Cyclone head coach Dan McCarney hit on a number of topics, including the situations at quarterback and running back, Wednesday afternoon as he introduced his football team on Media Day. Here is a complete transcription of his press conference.

Opening comments:

"We got our first practice under our belt this morning. I really like the retention from last spring with our football team. I'm beginning my 33rd Division I media day and I've never been more excited or feel better about a group of young men than I do right now."

"We have 24 days until kickoff and need to make as many fair and accurate evaluations as we can. This isn't spring football and we don't have five or six months until we line up and play. We need to be very accurate."

"It was different going to practice today and not having those three days with the freshmen before you start with everybody else. It's an NCAA rule and it's fair. We're all under the same rules. But it is hard on those young kids that don't know where to line up and anything about it. We have had no previous meeting time. We've got to coach them on the run and they've got to learn on the run."

"Some of the best battles on this football team, on offense, are at quarterback, running back, right guard and tight end where we've got three guys that are close from an ability and productivity standpoint. On defense, Cephus Johnson has the edge right now at defensive end, but Beau Klaffke is 275 pounds. I expect a great battle there. At left corner with Anthony Forrest and Harold Clewis, it should be a tremendous battle.

"Tony Yelk is our number one punter going in, but Troy Blankenship did a lot of good things last year. (Adam) Benike, our all-Big 12 kicker, struggled a little bit in the spring and Yelk had an excellent spring. I expect a very good battle there."

"The health of the team overall is excellent, except for Kory Pence and Cory Wierson. Pence re-broke a bone in his foot this summer and cracked it again, so we're going to X-Ray it again August 11 and will take a look at it. Hopefully he'll be able to come back and get in the mix for the first game. It all comes down to the healing of the bone. He's not with us."

"Cory Wierson has not responded since surgery last fall. No one has worked harder and he's one of the strongest kids on the team. He benched 450 pounds. But right now there is constant swelling and fluid in his knee, so he won't be in the 105 and won't be in the picture at all for the first game. We'll see how it goes as the season goes on."

"All of the other guys that missed either part or all of spring football are with us and ready to go – Chris Whitaker, Eric Schmitz, Waye Terry, Beau Klaffke, Andy Leaders, Boyd Viers and Nick Linder."

"We signed 26 players in this last class and two of the young men didn't make it. Mike West and Steve Allen, both Florida recruits, will not be with us and will have to go on to junior college and try to get academically eligible. Whether they end up back at Iowa State, I couldn't tell you."

"Some of the finals run through tomorrow and Friday on the present team. I don't anticipate losing anybody from an eligibility standpoint, that's definitely the norm and not the exception in this program. We really think our kids have done a great job. We had the highest GPA of any time that I've been here this past spring. The summer grades are outstanding so far."

"Cris Love and Hiawatha Rutland will not be available for interviews. They've been disciplined. It's no secret to anyone, they let everybody down in this football program and don't deserve to be any voice of this program right now. They'll take pictures and be out there, but won't be involved."

"The focus of this media day should be our team, the upcoming season, the 103 players that have had great behavior and no problems, not the two that made mistakes. You may not agree with that, but frankly I don't care."

On prospects of young players on team:

"I'm very confident, because I think our recruiting has gotten better each year. Aaron Brant is not your typical freshman. He's 314 pounds and had a 3-point in the classroom this spring. He earned a number one spot. He and Seth Zehr are two of the better offensive linemen we've recruited since we've been here. They've got four years of eligibility, which is great, but neither one of them have played a down."

"Some of these kids can handle it. It's up to us to make sure we make good evaluations, of can they handle it from a mental standpoint and will they get out there and execute? Some of those answers we won't know for a while. We'll have two major scrimmages, one mock game and some other segments of practices where we scrimmage them. We've got to make some decisions as fast as we can."

On decision on starting quarterback:

"We'd love to have it done before game week, if it takes up until that time. I sure don't want to go into Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of UNI saying we're finally going to name a starter. Hopefully somebody has emerged. We've got five scholarship players in camp, but I really think it's a two-man race going into that first game. It's Waye Terry and Austin Flynn."

"They really looked good out there this morning. We didn't have pants on and didn't blitz, it's not full speed, but the retention was excellent. For missing the last 10 days of spring ball, Waye was real sharp. But they've got a lot to learn. Whoever steps on the field, we expect them to play winning football for us, lead and do a great job stepping in that huddle."

"They're real good athletes and good football players, but have just not played. We've got to do all we can to get them into situations in practice and get them ready for a game."

On dividing practice time at tailback:

"We'll split time, but Stevie Hick will definitely be number one and Michael Wagner will be two and Brian Thompson three. We'll roll those guys through. Hiawatha Rutland will be taking snaps with the threes, along with Brian Thompson, so he stays on top of the system.

"It's nice to have a security blanket like Michael Wagner who doesn't want to sit around and watch Stevie Hicks and he's unselfish enough to help him. When he makes a mistake, he helps coach him but at the same time is trying to get his job back and be the starter here."

"I have a lot of faith in those kids. Whoever we put out there, we'll be better than we were last year at any time. It's the same guys plus Stevie, but we'll be better in the offensive line and running back."

On chances of Hicks becoming something special:

"I think he'll have a shot. Tony Alford's got to get him ready, not show any favortism and coach him like he will anybody. He needs to make sure that he understands that with repeated mistakes you're not going to play. Ball security is important. If you turn the ball over you're not going to play and you'll stand around and watch. We know he'll make some mistakes, and so will the new quarterbacks. But don't make the same one again. If you do make a mistake, make up for it with a great play. I think those kids are capable of doing that. They have the athleticism to do that."

On offense becoming more balanced:

"We were effective running against below average and average defenses. But when we got against top-10 or top-15 defenses, we weren't inept but we were bad. We were poor and didn't run the ball the way we needed to."

"Position by position, I think we'll be better. Our tight end position will be better than what it was last year. Our top three will be better than last year's top three, and we're going to play three every game.

"Barring any more major injuries, the offensive line will definitely be better. We look better and will play better. We look a lot more physical. (Cale) Stubbe is over 300 pounds, Casey (Shelton) is up there pushing it, Luke Vander Sanden is 310, Aaron Brant is 314 and Zehr looks a lot better. We're a better-looking offensive line."

"Then the running backs, I'm sure we'll be better than we were last year. Will we have a 1,000-yard rusher, I don't know. Frankly, I don't care. We just need to be better rushing the football, be better in the red zone, goal-line and short-yardage situations."

On outside predictions for this season:

"Outside we see a 62nd, 72nd, 56th and fifth in the Big 12 North. We see everybody else going to postseason play, except for Iowa State when you read magazines. I don't have to fabricate the lack of respect from the outside or lack of notoriety or faith they have in this program. That's what it is. It isn't one coach, player or staff member, they just look at it and say you can't reload after Seneca Wallace and they've peaked out. We're not even close to hitting the peak of this program."

On attention Seneca Wallace brought to program compared to Troy Davis:

"Just based on the feedback, conversation and talking to players, they all know about Seneca Wallace. How could you not after what he did the last couple of years? You get the name out there, uniform, program and Iowa State's name and fans. Ten television games last year will help. Troy and Seneca had great impacts, and we hope there are more and more of those players in the program that will continue to bring notoriety and attention to the Iowa State program."

On possibility of four freshman starters (Austin Flynn, Stevie Hicks, Ryan Kock and Aaron Brant):

"I wouldn't be one bit nervous about it. I've been around it a long time, 33 years in Division I football. Those young guys, we can go to Texas, California, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Minnesota and Nebraska, and can't get enough kids like that. They can play for me and a bunch of teams in America."

"It's just a matter of how soon they'll be ready. We've got them on the fast track right now. Kock is clearly the starter. Brant has a solid edge over Seth Zehr coming out of spring. Austin is in a battle right now for number one and he had a great start this morning. It's just a matter of when for Stevie Hicks. Is he the backup or starter? Does he get 10 carries or 20 carries? He'll leave his mark here at Iowa State."

On changes to practice schedules this preseason:

"We have made some adjustments. When you only go one-a-days, which we will, practices will be a bit longer. Once we get into two-one-two-one-two, you're trading a morning practice for a walk through, which is legal. You can go out and walk through, just so long as it's not full speed and you don't have a ball."

"So we're lengthening the one practice we have and doing some conditioning on those one-a-day practices that we didn't do when we were going two-a-days. The days that we go two, the only ones that will run are the ones that didn't make their shuttle time or had any pre-snap penalties or penalties in practice. Other than that, our two-a-day practices will remain very similar."

On outlook of defense this season:

"Hopefully we'll be better than we've been. We have clearly improved and we finished in the top half of the league last year in total defense, pass defense and turnovers forced. I'm expecting marked improvement. We've definitely gotten better. We have a lot of room to improve from a rush defense standpoint, even though we improved again last year with that. We definitely have to get better in short-yardage and goal-line, because most of the time we were below average and poor."

"Watching our defense today like I did in the spring, I think our speed is better than it's been. I will be anxious to see how some of these young guys come in. Jason Berryman was all over the place this morning. Most of the time in the wrong place, but he is really athletic and quick and fast. We've got to bring those guys along. Ron Prelow jumped out there and it looks like he's real quick and fast. It's a good group of kids and we're really trying to put a premium (on speed)."

On Hicks' rushing style:

"He's 214 pounds and is one of those guys that can lower his shoulder and run over you or he can make you miss. He's got great open-field moves and light feet. A lot of times you get those big backs and all they want to do is run over you and slam at you. He'll do that, but the next time he'll come out and finesse you and make you miss. He's got outstanding hands and is real coachable, but still hasn't played yet."

"Going against our defense is a great test for him, to block them, make them miss, make plays and get yards after contact."

On talent, experience to return to postseason play:

"I think we do. You stop and think about sitting at home over the Holidays after this school had 22 years without it. Just to think about that makes me sick to my stomach. I don't even want to think about it. We've got tradition in place now. The players and coaches expect it."

"Put the Raiders, Ravens or Packers on the schedule and we still want to go to postseason play at the end of the year. The administrators in our conference have worked hard to make sure we have these opportunities at the end of the year. We've got to find a way and hopefully have a choice at the end of the year where there is not just one possibility and there are a number of teams that want us to come. The tradition is there that we'll travel fans and that we're an exciting football team."

On disciplining of Hiawatha Rutland and Cris Love recently:

"I almost get physically sick when these kind of things happen. I mean that from the bottom of my stomach. It's not a whole lot different from my three children. I haven't had those kind of problems with my children yet, but when your kids make that kind of mistake in judgement it tears you up. When you're real close to your players as we are here as a coaching staff, you feel the same way."

"I'm sick, frustrated and disappointed, but I'm not going to let one or two players take away what we have here. Two guys stepped out of line, made a mistake in judgement and then we all have this reflection that there are problems and a lack of discipline and character in the program. It couldn't be further from the truth."

"You're going to pay a price if you embarrass this program. The standards are high from a behavior standpoint and performance standpoint, on and off the field. I send this message all the time to my players and coaches – be a reflection of the program on and off the field. Make your family, teammates and fans be proud of you."

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