Todd Fitch Post-Spring Q&A

Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer took his game to another level this spring, but the position struggled early. Austin Flynn moved to wide receiver, forcing Terrance Highsmith and Kyle Van Winkle to step up their play. Quarterbacks coach Todd Fitch evaluated his position coming out of the spring.

CN: How about some overall comments on the position coming out of spring and heading into the summer?

Fitch: I was fairly pleased with it. The move of Austin Flynn created a little bit of a depth situation for us. We had two guys that played some football in Bret Meyer and Austin. That made it harder to find out who was two and three. I don't think that's a settled issue right now after looking at 15 days of spring practice, between Kyle Van Winkle and Terrance Highsmith.

They both had their days when they did some good things, and some days when they struggled. Those two guys need to have good summers. Obviously, with Kyle his injury in the spring will set him back about a month and a half. They need to watch tape, learn the offense better, and physically improve themselves.

CN: What was your post-spring evaluation of Meyer?

Fitch: Bret improved fundamentally and cleaned up his release by quickening it up. On a more consistent basis he's throwing the ball better than he did in the fall. But we still have a ways to go there, too. He's making decisions a little bit quicker. Good or bad decisions, he's making things more decisively. He's not by any means an experienced quarterback yet, but I saw him get better at making quicker decisions and anticipate more with his throws.

CN: We saw him start to run more during the open spring practice and spring game. Did you make a concerted effort to coach him up in this area?

Fitch: He did that in the bowl game and made some good runs for us. It's not something I've made a major emphasis, but it's an attribute that he has and we want to use it to our advantage. When you get a guy that's a runner, you want to use it to your advantage but you don't want him to just take of running to run sometimes. The better teams will be able to rally to you.

When you're playing a watered down opponent, like in the spring game when we split the team up, it looks like you're doing something amazing. In reality, during the season it won't always be that way. I want to use it and we talked about seeing certain looks and taking advantage of it. If the throw is there and the route is run right, we still need to take advantage of the throw down the field.

CN: Mentally, were you able to add more things to Meyer's plate this spring?

Fitch: In the run game he's very comfortable with the simpler things that you do. Seeing certain looks you want to run against and don't want to run against – he was much more comfortable this spring than he was last fall.

In the passing game we changed a few things this spring. A portion of the passing game was new to him, because we changed some reads and things that we did. The things we did a bunch of in the fall, I thought he was sharper and crisper and understood more completely.

He understands more now of what it takes to be a successful quarterback. He still needs to improve physically this summer, throwing and catching with the receivers and the weight room stuff. He needs to become a better student of film, and understanding that can be as good a tool as throwing and catching sometimes.

CN: This was the first length of time you've gotten to spend with Highsmith as a quarterback. What was your evaluation of him?

Fitch: Terrance feels comfortable at quarterback and that's what he's played his whole life. There was a comfort level there for him by the nature of the position. That helped him somewhat. He has a lot of good leadership characteristics about him and he's a good communicator.

He needs to improve in the day-to-day performance. He started spring pretty good and we thought this guy had a chance, but he hit a lull about practice 10 through 13 and played poorly. He finished with a decent spring game. I think he has the potential to help us.

A lot of his problems in the passing game was just not feeling comfortable with the reads, being hesitant, and being late. When you're not sure mentally, everything looks terrible. We can get by on those things. But he's got to prove to me in two-a-days that he's mentally tough to play the game in tough positions.

Can he handle the pressure of running the team, taking the criticism and praise, and doing everything it takes to be a Big 12 quarterback. I'm not sure he has that. It doesn't mean he doesn't have it, but I haven't seen it consistently yet. I'd like to play him and have him be ready to step in and be the guy.

CN: Did the final drive of the spring game at least encourage you that he's capable of leading the offense?

Fitch: Seeing how I was coaching the white team, I was real encouraged by it. He is not a real fast guy, but he's got good feet, quickness, and elusiveness. I think he used those to his best ability in that drive. That's something we would definitely use during the course of the season if he was playing. That would use his talents the best.

CN: What did you see out of Van Winkle this spring before he went down in the spring game to a broken collarbone?

Fitch: The last two weeks of spring ball he had passed Terrance. His talents are different than Terrance's. He's more of a drop-back guy that's cerebral. He's got to be very smart with his mind and make the decisions with the ball. He was throwing the ball pretty well. When we go twos versus twos, which levels the playing field, he had some nice drives. He had some pretty good days out there.

My concern going into the spring with two quarterbacks was they wouldn't have a chance to be evaluated. Out of the first five snaps, four of them were bad snaps where he's back there chasing the ball around. It's tough to say, ‘He played poorly,' when he didn't get into a rhythm and didn't have a chance. The injury was more disappointing, because it sets back his summer program, in terms of getting better physically. But just because he can't throw doesn't mean he can't become better mentally by watching tape.

CN: So there's still no clear-cut number two quarterback heading into the summer?

Fitch: Those two guys have to battle it out in the summer. If we played tomorrow and had to play or wanted to play a two, I would play both of them right now if they were healthy. I'm not sure either one of them is ready to play a whole game.

CN: In lieu of that, is Flynn still a possibility to move back there in case of emergency?

Fitch: There are so many scenarios. Today, yeah I'd have to say that. If we had a long-term situation where Bret had an injury and it was going to be three, four, or five games. You have to look at what's the best move for your football team. I might not say that after two-a-days. We'll have a better gauge of that after two-a-days. It's definitely an option if those guys don't come along well enough and we don't think we can win with them on a long-term basis. If Austin is our best option, we would have to do that.

CN: Is incoming freshman Brice Beck a serious consideration to play a second-team role?

Fitch: Physically he has a chance, because he has some intangibles you can see by film evaluation and meeting the kid personally. But how much does he pick up and how quickly does he get comfortable with it?

If you're not comfortable in what you're doing, your physical talents will never shine through because your wheels are spinning up top. There are a lot of things that slow quarterbacks down. If Brice is physically heads and tails above anything we have at two or three, then it would be up to us to pair down the package if we had to use him so he doesn't have to think too much.

CN: Have you made a final decision concerning true freshman Houston Jones and the position he will be playing?

Fitch: We haven't made any final decisions. We'll look at all our young guys in the best position that they can be. He can help us on offense as a quarterback and is athletic enough to help us at receiver or defensive back.

We'll have practices where we move guys around offensively and defensively and take a look at them. What are the best talents he has and what position do they fit into? What needs do we have as a football team, in terms of depth? Let's do what's best for the football team and individual.

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