Part II

Here's the second installment from Dan McCarney at Iowa State's annual media day.

On the offensive line…


It's proven in three spots. It's completely unproven in the other two. The backups are all a work in progress. I know we can win with Zehr, Brant and Kory Pence. No doubt we can win with those guys. But those other two positions are wide open; those other two starting positions and all the backup spots.


And you'll walk out on that field and you'll see the Fisher twins and go ‘oh my God, look at the size of those guys.' They're big, they're strong, they're good looking guys but that doesn't get you any touchdowns on game day. You've got to play, you've got to learn how to play. You got to learn how to play with great relentlessness and great effort and great toughness and those are things they've got to develop and that's what Barney Cotton's paid to do.


Those aren't the only guys, we've got these big, good looking offensive linemen but as you know it's one of the toughest positions to play in all the game of football. I know three guys I can go down the dark alley with right now and I got a number of those other guys who look good in uniform and look good in the weight room, but they need to show us these next 29 practices that we can go down the dark alley with us. We can go out there and play Illinois State, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and everybody else and have a chance to win on game day. So that's truly on of the most important areas of development the next couple of weeks.


On how the team will react to the great expectations…


It's a great question – how they will react? I don't know. People still aren't sure about the Cyclones and I shared that with the kids yesterday. I pulled out a couple three magazines and showed them and talked about them and then I threw them on the stage up here. Because you know what It's worth not a damn thing, it's preseason. It's talking about it. We've seen magazine pick us as high a winning the Big 12 North, and I've seen five teams picked to win the Big 12 North which means they think we're all mediocre and there isn't really a good team up here yet in the north.


I've seen teams mentioning five or six or seven of my guys to keep an eye on and I've seen magazine where they listed the top 35 players at every position and they didn't even show one Iowa State player. People just aren't sure. So it's not like the whole county [is saying] ‘you better get your butt to Ames to watch the Cyclones. They have it all figured out in Ames.' That's not happening yet. Should we be a better football team, there's no doubt in my mind. We should be. Do we want to pick up where we left off last year being the second most improved team in college football? There's no doubt in my mind. Do we have some question marks on the team? No question.


Do we have some guys right now that everybody in this room can put their paycheck on and say you know what if I was a betting man or woman which you may be or may not, and I'm not don't get me as a Neuheisel. I don't do that, but I know who I'm going with on game day with at number of these positions and I know that I can win with them on game day because they've done it already.


So there's a real blend of experience/inexperienced. There's no question we can win with some of these guys and some guys we have no idea if we can win with them, because that's our job to develop them and to get them ready. When we get out there September 3rd a lot of those questions will be answered for some of those guys who have never played.


I do like the leadership, I like the chemistry. I like the togetherness. I like the accountability. It's been a real quiet summer. It's been a quiet summer in Ames. It's been a quiet summer in Iowa City. It's been a quiet summer in Cedar Falls. It's been a quiet summer in Des Moines. All the football coaches are sleeping a bit better right now because it's been a pretty quiet summer. It's not one of the easier jobs to make sure it's quiet and we're all aware of that.


On the position of players on the O-line…


That's exactly right we'll mix and match and Barney will view those things. We don't know right now if Stephenson is a center or is he a guard. If he's healthy and if he goes through all 29 practices I'll be real disappointed if he's not one of our starting five. 305 pounds. He runs like a defensive lineman, he's got the temperament of a defensive lineman who's been out there, but we want him to play within the structure and the assignments of the offensive line.


Both of the Fisher twins, lets see how they develop. Let's see if Brandon Cook, John Tjaden, and Anthony Walker, these guys who've been around here and given a lot Monday through Friday, but stand around on watching on Saturday. Are they ready to make a move? We'll find out.


Can Fabian Dodd after his career of being a great young man off the field a great team guy is he ready to step on the field and help the team on Saturday? Let's find out if he's ready. And let's see if any of the newcomers are ready.


Fiacco you'll see when you walk out there. He's a 300-pounder, strong and tough, but he hasn't blocked a Big 12 defensive linemen or linebackers ever. So that's an area that really there could be some movement, some jockeying.


We know Seth Zehr can play every positions across the front. He can play either tackle, either guard, or center. Which is neat and we know he'll be one of the five. As soon as we can we want to get him settled in and leave him there.


We know Brant is our starting right tackle and we know Kory Pence is our starting left guard. Barring injuries that's the way it will be all season long. Those two we know are two of our best but those other spots are really wide open. I trust Barney as my offensive line coach and I have a feeling when it's all said and done that's going to be a pretty good group, but they're not there yet.


On the facilities at Iowa State


The facilities right now have improved immensely as you know. It was the dark ages. It was a laugher when you mentioned the facilities at Iowa State. You pulled out drawings and pictures of something that may not be built but you just threw it out there and let the kids look at it anyway. Hopefully there'd be something here someday. Honestly that's the way it was. Slowly but surely, there hasn't been a facility or a bit of a facility or a part of the facility that I haven't been involved in the fundraising.


Because I knew if I didn't get involved I wasn't going to sit around and wait for everybody else to do it. So everything we've done here since I came to Iowa State I've been involved in every single phase of the fundraising. Maybe some places you don't have to do it as the head football coach but here at Iowa State I had to do that.


I'm not making excuses, I'm not patting myself on the back. We've slowly but surely improved the atmosphere so that when young people come in and letter people come in, letter men and letter women from the past, coaches from the past come in, when fans come in, when the media comes in they sense a commitment to football. A commitment to excellence and who we kidding it was missing a long time here. And we sure aren't there yet, but it sure is getting better. The indoor facility has been a great addition. It was a tremendous addition and it will be a long time before I see one better than here and I don't have time to go look at other indoor facilities but I've seen a lot of them and it'd be hard in the NFL or college to find a better one than here, it's special. It's really special.


On replacing Ellis Hobbs


I don't know that we'll have one as great as a leader. I hope we can find one as great as a player. DeAndre Jackson definitely has the talent to be that type of player. The confidence, the ability to come out of a back peddle, to a pick, to a big play. I don't know if I'll ever have one like that. He set the standard, he set the bar real high as a leader. Boy everybody is pulling for him out in New England aren't we? Hoping things go good for him in camp.


As a player we have to replace him, but as a leader hopefully those young guys who watched him last year and saw him lead this team and his example of how you be a man, how you be a leader, how you be a student. How to handle adversity, how to handle success. And then the legacy that people will want to mention your name for years and Ellis did a great job of that.


On defensive scores…


The first thing you do is we'll have a defensive meeting and we'll put every defensive turnover, every defensive score on tape. It's on tape and we'll let them look at that. We have guys out there that have never played before, that have never been to a practice or a game, but we'll let them see – this is how it's done and the guys that have done it before some of them are coming back and they can see this is how its done, I did that.


And for instance 10 of the kids who blocked kicks, nine of the kids are back. Ellis blocked one of them in the Northern Illinois game. All of the rest of them are back, so if you did it once why can't you do it again. So if we can be second in the country to Miami (Fla.) in non-offensive touchdowns, lets do it again.


If we can be one of the best in the Big 12, let's do it again. But first of all you've got to do it, you've got to see how it's done and then they've got to try and emulate it and try to repeat it if they've done it before. And if they've never done it then its our job to teach them, rep them, give them the exposure and then turn them loose so they're not robots on game day.


But that's one of the many things we're trying to build on from last year because when you look at our defense, we're the best rush defense since World War II and you block 10 kicks and score seven non-offensive touchdowns. Those are things that we've done it and we're not going to sit around and block two kicks this year. That's not acceptable.


The expectations, the standards, they get raised. Ellis Hobbs isn't here to do that but a number of those guys are. And we're going to ask DeAndre Jackson, ‘hey are you going to be just a guy, are you going to be out there just hanging out or are you going to go out there and make plays because I know a guy that graduated on the other side he made those plays that we needed to win games.' So we've got a good enough team right now I think to get into the fourth quarter with a lot of teams. Are we good enough to close teams? When the game is on the line we'll find that out in the weeks ahead.


On Tim Dobbins….


I think Tim Dobbins he can be much better than he was last year. I told the team last night we didn't know if Tim Dobbins was going to back up, how good he was going to be. At the beginning of the season he had a lot of mental errors. He struggled, he had problems. He lost his confidence but we didn't desert him and he ended up being the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and very deservingly so.


So he's got all kinds of room to improve. He has a lot of room to improve and there's no question he can improve as a player and we hope he starts this season and plays the season the way he finished the season last year, with zero or hardly any mental errors. Real good tackler, explosive tackler making big plays when the game is on the line. The victory over Nebraska, somebody's got to rise up and make the big plays and that was Tim Dobbins, make the play. He has the ability to do it. Some guys have the heart, the perseverance and the loyalty and the work ethic and the attitude but God didn't give them that talent to really make a play and turn the game around. But Tim Dobbins is one of those guys who has all that. You don't hear his name mentioned much nationally at linebacker but his name is mentioned a lot in our meetings as a guy that we can win with.


On Bret Meyer


He'll ask more of himself, we'll ask more of him, but don't feel like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders. Because you're going to have a supporting cast. You'll have good players around you. But you know this time last year he was trying to be No. 1. He was trying to get more playing time each Saturday knowing he's splitting time with Flynn and now there's no doubt he's our starter. The only question is who's his backup and whose going to be first coming off the bench behind Bret if he gets hurt.


We'll expect more and he'll except more of himself. He really improved as the season went on and when you take care of the ball and respect it like he did. When you can make plays in the throwing game from a placement of the throw accuracy and you can still make people miss. He doesn't have to show me anything this fall so we'll wrap him up. I don't want him on the ground once unless he's sitting there stretching out. I don't want Bret on the ground one time all through camp and we're going to make sure we try to avoid that. I'm hoping the first time he really gets hit is the Illinois State game and hopefully there won't be too many of those.


On Terrance Highsmith


He was a two coming out of spring, but he's got a long ways to go. We got Van Winkle back and ready to go. W've got a couple of newcomers Nate Mechaelsen is still in the program. We're trying to see if he can step up and show us he's a Division I player, so that's where the competition is. Terrance did some good things. The one best measure in the spring is the spring game and he did good things. 29 practices and four scrimmages that I have scheduled whether they're full or half or 50 plays it's going to be real important for T-High and all those quarterbacks behind Bret to go out and execute.


On the running backs…


Stevie is going to be our starter. He's a 1,000 yard rusher as a sophomore. He did a lot of great things. Great durability, a great ball security back, great blocker. He's put himself in that position. We want him to improve his foot speed do a lot more big runs like he had in the bowl game where he's pulling away from people and that's a speed issue, but I think he's improved that this summer.


Jason Scales is definitely our No. 2. And the gap between two and three and four and five is pretty strong right now. We'll start evaluating in practice and see if its been closed much but in spring Stevie was way up at No. 1 and Jason Scales was way up at No. 2.


Keep an eye on Jason Harris. I haven't watched him yet, but what I hear this summer and from watching his high school tape is that he's a big strong athletic back and one of the better incoming recruits. We'll see if he can get in the mix with Coleman. Rocker's not here. David Brown is a senior. I sure feel good about the competition and the depth there, but Stevie's definitely our starting running back.


On Blythe's ACL injury…


We haven't seen him in football yet we've just hear about how he's running, but all those other things he is coming back as fast and as strong and as good as anybody I've heard of. We've got kids who have ACL's that were not able to come back; Corey Wierson was one of them. By the way he's had his last treatment with the cancer and doing great. He appears to be cancer free. He's very close to our program we kept him on medical scholarship but he had a real serious knee injury and never came back.


Taylor Schrage, Landon's brother has taken a medical scholarship. He had an ACL injury in high school and has really never recovered. He'll stay close to the program but it will be as a student assistant and not as a football player and that was an ACL injury.


Not everybody comes back no matter how good the surgery is or how good of attitude they have, but Todd's recovery so far from what I've heard and what I've seen and knowing that he's ready to go and got clean bill of health and a green light is as good and as fast as I've ever heard of.

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