Cyclone Football Camp Q&A

With the start of Iowa State's summer camps just a few days away, caught up with director of football operations Don Knock for a question-and-answer session. ISU will be hosting more than 400 kids in next week's padded camps. The nine-day session opens with a kicking camp this weekend, and will conclude on Sunday, June 13, with a team passing camp.

CN: Let's start by talking about this year's numbers, and how they relate to recent years.

Knock: They are pretty close to where we've been. Last year we had such a great year after three straight bowl games and that stuff, which plays a factor in your numbers. But we're over 400 kids (in the padded camps), and the last four years we've been over 400. Last year was the best and we were up about 30 to 40 athletes. But that's probably a reflection on what had happened the years before that. Our kicking camp is way up. We're up about 20 in our kicking camp. Then the passing camp is still about a week ago. I think we're still going to be OK.

Our numbers are really good. You look at the way the economy is today and everything else that's going on – that pulls kids away.

CN: What are some of the advantages of hosting a ‘padded' camp?

Knock: Mac was the first one to bring in the padded camp when he came here. No one else in the state of Iowa had it. Others have taken note of that after he started it. But having the helmets and shoulder pads on give you a better evaluation of the talent that's here. You also find out about the heart of a kid, that intestinal fortitude, and competitive desire when you put them in those situations.

Not only are we able to evaluate them as an athlete, but also as a competitor and football player. A lot of times there are kids out there that can run fast, jump high, and do those things, but will they really stick their nose in there and hit somebody?

CN: How do the camps compare to what other Division I institutions have to offer?

Knock: It's quite interesting, because we were sitting in a meeting with Barney Cotton, who came from Nebraska, and talked about how they ran the camp there versus how we run ours here. He made the comment that kids that came here and then came over to their camp at Nebraska always talked about how hard we worked them. It's a much more physical camp than what he was accustomed to, or seen at other places. We give them their money's worth. We keep them busy and they eat well. We provide a pretty good environment.

CN: It sounds as if this is a very football-specific camp for players.

Knock: Absolutely. We cover a lot of other things in camp. We get them in the weight room with Getty. You cover the recruiting aspects of being a student-athlete. We also talk to them about academics. We have our players jump in and talk to them. Jason Scales will talk to them about the adjustment of being a high school senior and coming here, the rigors of academics, and those kinds of things. It's an awakening somewhat for a high school kid that comes here.

They get the chance to be around our coaches, be around our upperclassmen, and how they react when they're in camp. It's a good role model for them

CN: This experience has also proved valuable for Iowa kids hoping to earn a scholarship or walk-on bid.

Knock: I think that's true. Some of the kids are no-brainers. The kids that are top-ranked football players in the state of Iowa that maybe have offers and are being recruited by a lot of Division I schools, it's going to reinforce what we know about them. It's also going to give us an opportunity to evaluate them more than what we can do on tape. We're so restricted. It's hard for us to watch them run track or play basketball. It's a very small window that we're able to do that, and this also gives us an opportunity to evaluate that.

But who it really benefits is the marginal kid who maybe doesn't have a very high ranking coming out of his junior year. He can mature an awful lot since last football season. He grows, gets faster and starts to excel, especially over the summer. There may be a kid in there who's a sleeper that we'll really like and will want to keep an eye on him.

The other thing is our walk-on program, because we already know how important that is to us. We know the success of that. There a lot of kids in there that may end up walking on here.

CN: What about the benefits of having a hands-on coach like Dan McCarney working with campers?

Knock: That's one thing that's commented on a lot. A lot of parents and recruits that come in here talk about our staff, how personable we are, and how they go the extra mile with a caring attitude. Coach Mac is always around the camp, constantly coaching and getting involved. He doesn't miss a beat. Those are factors that help make our camp something special.

CN: Go into the method of using high school and junior college coaches as instructors.

Knock: We bring guest coaches in and have guys that want to come back every year. We have high school coaches, Division II coaches, and junior college coaches. When you bring 20-some guys on your campus to help work camp, it sends a positive message amongst the high school ranks.

There are no lines here. You go to a lot of places and they only allow that college staff to run the drills. What we do is meet with our guest coaches, and explain what drills we're doing and how we're doing. Kids are getting coached, getting reps, getting better, and learning the fundamentals of the game.

The other thing people need to realize is the high school coaching in the state of Iowa is pretty dang good. These coaches do a great job of getting their kids ready to play.

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