Cyclone Pregame Quotebook: Ohio

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney met with the local media for his weekly Tuesday press conference. Here is a complete transcription of his comments.

Dan McCarney:

Opening comments:

"Todd Miller will be our special teams captain for Ohio. He really played well and with a lot of confidence. He had a 25-yard return and a 15-yard return. The biggest play of the game, as far as I'm concerned, was knocking down the fake punt. We had our defense on the field, but you still have to have a return guy on the field anytime you anticipate a fake. He looked like an All-Big 12 defensive back on that play."

"Tyson Smith's recovery is going real well. He's back home. It was a major surgery and a major injury. In the big picture, he understands he'll come back and be as good as ever. The rehab that we'll provide and hard work he'll put in, hopefully he'll have a chance to come back and be one of the better players in the Big 12 Conference."

"Mike Wagner will start at running back for us Saturday. I'm real proud of him. He played Saturday like he's been practicing. He did a real good job and made some things happen and made a few guys miss. UNI's defense was a real good tackling defense Saturday night and it was hard to get extra yards out there, but Wags was able to do that and rushed for nearly 90 yards."

"Eight players started their first game Saturday night with varying performances, but overall I think they all did a solid job."

"I really appreciate our fans coming out. That was the best season opening game we've had since I took the job, and it was great to see that. I know there are a lot of things going on, but our fans set the tempo for us for the season that we're going to have great support in the stadium."

"Ohio University is a very big challenge for us. They're nationally ranked in rush offense every year and have been every year I've coached against them. Last year they came very close to having a darn good season. They finished 4-8, but it's 14-6 down at Florida at halftime last year, and 21-6 after three quarters. They played Marshall 24-21 on the road, which was a heck of a team. (Ohio) has given us all we wanted and then some in the two games we've played here and the game over in Athens."

"We really have tremendous respect for them. They know what they're doing and have a great system. It's a very different preparation for our defense, and a little bit different preparation for our offense. The dramatic difference is when you take your defense and try to get ready for this type of offense. They have big line splits, double slot, some one-back, some two-back and do a great job of executing."

On Wagner's return to starting lineup:

"He's just a team guy all the way. He's the epitome of a team player, an unselfish player. He had a great attitude all through camp. (Hiawatha Rutland) was on suspension, and Stevie (Hicks) was scrimmaging a little bit better in the spring and two-a-days and earned that number one spot. But when the lights came on and it came to gametime, Wags was more effective and did a better job. But we're not about to desert Stevie Hicks and still know he's going to have a great career here."

"Hiawatha Rutland will definitely play the game on Saturday and he's had a real good camp. That's never easy. What he did, he did to himself to get on suspension. He knows that and has handled it like a man. There's no question he'll help our offense and rush game. He's inspired and motivated for a lot of reasons right now."

On possible revolving door at tailback:

"I don't want to get into musical chairs at running back. We did that last year a little bit because of Hiawatha's ankle injury and because we weren't as effective as we normally are running the football. But I'd rather find out here just as soon as we can who our gamer is and our best back and starter, then we know we're going to have real quality backups."

On what lose in Tyson Smith, but could gain in Berryman:

"It's a major blow. You lose 20 pounds, all those starts and that experience. Tyson has been out there starting against Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and played real good football. Jason's never started in a game and played one the other night. He did some good things, but he's never started a game."

"He's one of the fastest kids on the team and even faster than Tyson. His athleticism and quickness would rival Tyson. He's real good that way. He's just so green and inexperienced, but he's relentless from an effort standpoint and has the maturity level of a young man beyond 18 years old. He plays older and we hope he'll continue doing that."

On any comparisons to Smith three years ago to Berryman now:

"I'd say they're pretty similar when they came in as freshmen. Jason is just faster and hasn't had anybody beat him in a sprint since we reported to camp. He runs with the linebackers. He has linebacker speed and maybe safety speed, and we have him playing with his hand down at rush end."

On fourth quarter offensive problems against Northern Iowa:

"That was disappointing. We had seven three-and-outs in that game and some of that came in the fourth quarter. We just kept missing on some things. There would be a mental breakdown, a missed assignment or we just missed making a play. We won the game, won the fourth quarter, but it wasn't because of a great offensive performance. We played great defense, the special teams were strong and we won the field position. We've got to finish stronger than that offensively."

"Looking at the tape, it was a combination of things. There wasn't any one person, Austin or Stevie, but we've got to execute a lot better than that. Seventeen points is not what we're looking for when we line up to play on any given Saturday. We definitely need to improve."

On improvement against better teams down road:

"That's an easy comparison to look at and make. Northern Iowa has a heck of a football team and program, but they don't have as many scholarships and we're going to see better defenses. We've got our work cut out to improve immensely this week, and that's what we've challenged our kids on."

On defensive strategy versus Flynn:

"He's going to see lots of looks. I were a defensive coordinator and defensive coach for most of my career before I got this job, and if you've got a redshirt freshmen over there at quarterback, you're not going to let him settle in on the looks he's going to see. Confuse him, try to make it real hard on him and put that quarterback in a position where he's got to beat you. That means load up and try to stop the run, and then let a guy that has hardly ever played or never played make the plays to beat you. He made enough plays."

On Ohio's offense:

"In our conference there isn't anyone that does it – not even close. It's real different. You'll see these huge line splits that no one else does that we play against. We've really challenged our scout team. They're going to have to do a great job. We've got a guy with the #15 on his jersey that will get our defense ready – Bret Meyer. He'll do a great job and was our scout team MVP last week. I've got a feeling he'll be that a number of times this year."

On Aaron Brant's performance:

"Of the guys that have never played before, I would say he and Austin did the best job taking the field for the first time. He wasn't All-Big 12, outstanding or honorable mention MVP, but what he did Saturday is what he's been doing in practice. If you can carry that from the practice field in a scrimmage to the game field, that says a lot about a young man and his maturity. He's special and did a real good job for his first game."

On balancing rushing and passing games:

"We definitely want to improve our running game and still almost rushed for 170 yards. It still isn't what our goal was, but it's not bad considering we took our best offensive lineman out of there in Bobby Montgomery. We need to continue to improve on that, but the more playing time, snaps and experience Austin gets, the more we'll give him. That will be a weekly progression. We limited it last week and were not going to try to get Austin in a situation where he's overloaded with lots of things. I think in the end that was a pretty good decision. I really credit Steve Brickey, because he and I sat down and talked a lot about that last week. We didn't give him too much, let him perform, get off to a good start and gain some confidence."

On progress of indoor practice facility:

"I walk out there and stare at it every day. The practice fields go right by there. It's something I've wanted since the day I took the job. It was real necessary. It gives you such a great feeling. I'm so thankful to the Bergstrom family, because they were the lead donors and the building is named after them. It's every bit what we thought it was going to be and more. It's a good feeling knowing this is the last year I have to worry about weather, whether we can prepare on time and prepare the way we want to without completely changing the schedule. It sounds like things are going well and it would be nice if we're fortunate enough to get in there this year."

On influence of Nebraska players in program:

"There were a handful of players that were here from Nebraska when we got here. That's an area I felt like, if we're going to try to close the gap on great programs, we needed to recruit an area that's not too far away with quality players. For whatever reasons, I felt like we could attract some quality kids over here whether Nebraska recruited them or not."

"Mike Grant is in charge of that state, played there and really has done a great job of developing relationships with high school coaches and the families of the recruits we recruited over there. We've been close on some other ones, but we know we have a real good influx of players from Nebraska that are making a fine contribution to the program. I think they know that we're serious about recruiting over there and have a presence there. Winning last year gave us some credibility in that state and we'll continue recruiting over there."

"We're trying to go after any of them. It's just that some of the high profile kids, for the most part, are going to Nebraska. We're not just believing they're going to Nebraska and let's forget about them. We're trying to make it a battle on any of the kids. But some of the kids we've gotten in the program were not heavily recruited by Nebraska or other people."

"(Caleb Berg) is the latest one and a real dandy. Even though we will probably redshirt him this year, he'll have a real career here."

On latest word on Anthony Forrest and academic ineligibility:

"There's nothing new, other than I don't feel good about it. He's right now going through the process of trying to see if he has a chance to still be eligible. I don't feel good that he'll be with us. I don't have any final word at this point. He has not practiced with us since last Wednesday."

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