ISU's Offense Gets Back to Basics

As the Cyclone coaching staff spent the bye week critiquing the play on both sides of the ball through three games, CN caught up with offensive coordinator Steve Brickey for some thoughts on his unit.

CN: Start by discussing the pluses and minuses of your offense through the first three games.

Brickey: The positives and negatives have been a little bit by the week. The first week we weren't real pleased with some things and thought we would play better. Obviously we kept it somewhat conservative, because of having a number of young, new guys out there, particularly the quarterback. But we still felt as though we would play better.

The second week we felt as though we did improve and showed improvement in some areas. There were more positives, certainly. We ran the ball better that day and didn't have any turnovers. We felt we were making progress.

But then this third week against Iowa, obviously we weren't real pleased again. It's been a rollercoaster thing, in terms of positives and negatives. We've got to get better and are doing all we can to improve. Against Iowa, we felt like we got out-physicaled and got away from our basics, fundamentals and techniques. We got manhandled to some extent. Iowa's got a darn good team and good defense, but we've just got to get better.

CN: On the positive end, you have gotten good play overall from your redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Flynn, as well as the cast of receivers led by Lane Danielsen, who became the all-time receiving yards leader.

Brickey: I'm not saying it's been all bad. We've got some guys that are playing pretty well, but have to get more of them. Austin Flynn has played reasonably well, given the circumstances and that it's his first time out there. He hasn't made too many crucial mistakes, but did make a couple this past weekend. We've got to eliminate as many of those as we can. Some of them are going to happen. We know that and understand that, but we've got to minimize them.

Yes, we have gotten pretty good play out of our receiving corps. Lane is certainly a guy that's been a good player for us for a long time now. You feel a little guilty of taking that for granted. He's playing at a real high level now. Jack Whitver and Lance Young have also played well and made plays.

CN: How much of you as a play caller and offensive coordinator been handcuffed by the offensive line and being without a Bob Montgomery?

Brickey: First of all, we don't make excuses around here. You play with the hand you're dealt and you have to do the best you can with it and find ways to be successful. There's no question we can stand to get some guys back healthy, particularly up front. That would give us a nice boost and jolt. But we've got what we've got and have to do better with it.

There's no doubt we look forward to getting him back. Bob is one of our best players, so there's somewhat of an ability level dropoff. He's a senior that has played a lot of snaps and is one of the best leaders on offense. The cohesion of the unit being in the same spots, instead of mixing and matching guys, will certainly help. That has been a disruption.

CN: You ran the ball relatively well against Northern Iowa and Ohio to open the season, but then struggled against a solid Iowa defense. Against some of the other top defenses you'll see, is there still the thought of trying to pound it out, running the ball on first down to set up the pass? Or would you try to feature your receivers more and spread defenses out to give the running backs better looks?

Brickey: We always try to be balanced and diversified to where we're not too predictable. One of the things that happened to us last year during the second half of the season was we got kind of stagnant and predictable. I think that hurt us. So we're trying very hard not to get into that rut, but at some point you have to go with what's producing results.

We would like to be able to run and throw equally well as each particular game wears on. But if that's not happening, then you certainly have to adjust. To some extent we did that this past Saturday, but we didn't do enough of anything good to pull our weight.

CN: Going back to the Oklahoma game of last season, the team has a minus-13 turnover ratio. Is there anything the staff can do over the bye week to help improve in this area?

Brickey: The turnover margin is a team thing. We've got to work very hard and do all kinds of work in drills and emphasis and stress holding onto the ball. I know the defensive coaches do the same, in terms of trying to get a hold of it. We haven't been real sloppy with it on offense – three in three games isn't horrible. But two of them in the same this past weekend, particularly both of them in our own end of the field, was not good.

But I'm sure if you talked to John or any of the defensive coaches, they would tell you that they don't feel like they're getting quite enough of them. We have to keep working. The off week is a great opportunity to have more time to work on those types of things.

CN: There was some talk about Todd Blythe taking his redshirt off for next Saturday's game. Any other younger guys you're giving an extra look to this week?

Brickey: The other thing you really love about the off week is to have more time to spend with your younger players. There is no question that we're doing that and are going to do that this week. You're crazy if you don't. We've got some young guys that we think are really good players and are anxious to work with them a little more. We want to see their progress and see where they're at at this stage. Sometimes you can see them improve almost overnight.

CN: Any particular players that you have been impressed with?

Brickey: This whole group looks like, from top to bottom, a really strong group. We've got a couple guys on defense, particularly Jason Berryman that looks like he's coming along. A few of the other defensive linemen, Matthew Scherbring and Brent Curvey, have been real impressive when we've gone against them. On the offensive side, Aaron Brant is still a new guy, even though he was here for spring practice. He's still a true freshman.

Both of the receivers look like they've got a lot of ability, Blythe and (Milan) Moses. With the work we've been able to give the freshman quarterback Bret Meyer, he looks like he's got a chance some day and has a bright future here. Bastian Schober is showing us some things that are encouraging for the future.

CN: After starting the first game against Northern Iowa, Stevie Hicks saw his role drastically reduced against Ohio and Iowa. Could he play a bigger part in your gameplan against Northern Illinois?

Brickey: There is going to be a place for him with this football team. You hate to put a timetable on it and make predictions about those things, but when it all happens we think he's going to be a fine player. I just can't tell you when that's going to be. (Turf toe) has really set him back. Those things can be very difficult to deal with. It's been an issue with him and can be a lingering thing.

CN: You have yet to get a reception from the tight end trio of James Wright, Brett Kellogg and Kenny Segin. Will the tight ends get more opportunities in the coming weeks?

Brickey: I don't know if anybody noticed, but we tried to throw to the tight end on Saturday and we overthrew one of them. I believe it was Segin and he was open. We did make the effort. Those guys have a role in our passing game and hopefully at some point will start seeing some balls.

CN: What are some challenges for this offense in the short term – some areas you're trying to addressed during the bye week?

Brickey: We felt like we got away a little bit this past week from some basic fundamentals, some pad-level issues. We felt as though we were playing too high in a lot of instances. This open week is going to be a big drill time for us to get back to doing some habit things that you have to do to be an effective football player in all areas.

This is the time when we need to work on some technique things and get them sharpened back up. Looking at the tape from Saturday's game, there are plenty of instances where we got away from some of that. We didn't deliver quite as much punch as we need to in some things.

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