McCarney Big 12 Teleconference

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney met with the Big 12 media via teleconference Monday morning to discuss his season-opening game against Illinois State. Here is a complete transcription of his comments.

Opening statements…


It's great to be back with you again as always in a first class conference like the Big 12 and it's as good as it gets in America.


We feel like everybody I'm sure this time of year. You're anxious, your excited, wanna play, we're all undefeated. We feel like we've had an excellent preseason and there's so much to be accomplished…we just finished 25 practices we've already had and yet we're in game week. We sure have some work to be done prior to Saturday nights' game with Illinois State.



Denver Johnson has done an excellent job over at Illinois State and we know an awful lot about them. We've been studying them since last winter and they've got some real fine players, like all Division I-AA schools have. We know we're going to get their best shot and we look forward to playing a game.


We have a good blend of experience I think on this team. I think 14-16 guys that have had some starting experience and I think I counted 18 players in the two deeps who are going to be playing for the first time under the lights Saturday night. So it's an anxious, exciting time for all of us but we're truly looking forward to the game and getting started with the season.



On Jon Davis' development as a wide receiver…


He's just really slowly but surely developed in to an outstanding wide receiver for us. I really like his consistency now through camp, through 25 practices, four scrimmages and a mock game. That's the thing we were looking more from Jon this year than anything was to be more consistent. Because he got a lot of big plays for us, he has good Big 12 speed, he's a big tall athletic wide receiver, he passes the eye test when you look at him - when you're looking for wide receivers who can play in this league.


But there's always more to it than how you look. It's how you play, it's how you perform, it's your consistency, it's your blocking. It's making the easy catches, making the tough catches and I just really think he has developed. There's no doubt if this group can stay healthy though the season our wide receiver group as a unit might be the best it's been since I've been here.



On consistency being the biggest improvement he has seen from Davis over the years…


When you look at spring football, the 15 workouts we did in the spring and now the preseason work we've done before the season begins and I believe it will carry over. It needs too and Jon's very aware that he needs to be more consistent for our football team and that's the area we want to see more. He's made some big plays in his career already as a young guy but with two years left to play we're looking for bigger and better things out of him.



On one particular player or one specific unit he's most interested in seeing play on Saturday…


You're offensive line is so important to the performance of your offense and your abilities. We feel with Steve Hicks, with Bret Meyer, with Todd Blythe, Jon Davis, Austin Flynn just to name a few of our skill players and offensive players - we think can make plays for us, can only go so far without an offensive line working together as a unit and playing well together, communicating well and being physical. So with two new starters up front from our bowl team last year with Scott Stephenson at center and Johannes Egbers at tackle, that's an area we're really looking forward to see how good we can be.


We're looking forward to seeing how good we can be. We feel we've got a pretty good supporting cast around that offensive line with some kids that have already proven they can play in this league. They're working hard to improve and get better, but that offensive line is going to be very important as you know to the success of our offense.


On what he likes from the special teams…


We improved immensely from the year before. We couldn't be the second most improved team in college football if had we not improved our special teams and we did. But we missed some kicks obviously that were very important to the outcome of a game.


Bret Culbertson is our No. 1 PAT, field goal guy right now. Tony Yelk and Troy Blankenship are having a real good battle right now at the punter spot. There's so many players involved that can impact a game and affect the outcome of a game on special teams.


We blocked 10 kicks last year. We scored on some situations in special teams. We really improved our efficiency. We ended up leading the Big 12 in kickoff returns, so some areas we improved immensely last year, but we still have plenty to be desired and left plenty of room for improvement going into this year.


So far I like what I see but you know now the real test is go play in a game and we'll see where we're at. But unlike this time last year we know we have some guys in critical areas. Landon Schrage, I think is as good of snapper deep/snapper as there is in the Big 12. We've got some proven guys at key positions and hopefully it will help our possibilities this year.


On who will start at defensive end…


Jason Berryman will start at one position; Shawn Moorehead will start at the other. Cephus Johnson is going to play a lot as I've told you all along. We feel we've got three starters at those two positions, but those two will be the first ones that [see] the field barring any injures this week at practice.


On Berryman's preseason performance…


He worked into it. He was clearly not in any football shape at all. He was in running shape, but there's a big difference from being able to go out and run 40's, run 100's, run 300 yard shuttles and go play football. It's part of the process to get ready but to go play football and to go through two-a-days and to go through conditioning with your pads on and to go through scrimmages and all those things - it's a process to get ready for the season. But the last week I think Jason has really, really been playing outstanding. Him and Shawn Moorehead and Cephus, I think all give us a real good chance to win games from those outside defensive positions.


On his thoughts when the Big 12 first started and how he's seen it grow…


I think it's become the kind of conference we all dreamed it could be some day. You take the Big 8 Conference as you know which was a tremendous conference for many, many years and a lot of those years it was dominated by two or three teams and then along came Bill Synder and the phenomenal job he did at Kansas State and every now and then some other teams. But all of a sudden you bring in Texas, Texas A&M, and Baylor and Texas Tech and you throw them all into a conference and you starting saying ‘you know what, go have success, go win, keep your job; good luck."


That was what the challenge was when I got here, because I was in the Big 8 for just one year and then blended into the Big 12 but when you look at the leadership we have from an administrative standpoint in the Big 12 Office with Kevin Weiberg and Donnie Duncan all the way through the head coaches. The unbelievable tradition with some of these programs through the years and then there's some schools like Iowa State that are trying to build a new tradition that's been missing for decades.


But these are some of the unbelievable storied traditions in all of college football and we're brought in from two separate conferences and put into the Big 12 and run with great character and great integrity and [it's the] kind a conference we all dreamed it could be and it's a pretty special place to come to everyday, to come to work and be a part of this conference.


On Scales' availability this weekend…


No, he won't be ready. It's just a day-to-day thing trying to get that knee back after the scope and getting stronger. He definitely will not play this week and I would put him at questionable right now for the Iowa State-Iowa game the next week.


On the backup tailback situation…


We're working two guys - Greg Coleman and David Brown. Both of those guys are listed as backups. We'll continue to evaluate this week, but I'd anticipate both of those guys playing in the game regardless of what happens with the score. Stevie Hicks is our starter and we're going to work both of those guys into the game also.


On playing a Division I-AA opponent…


We just signed a new contract for the future to play [Northern Iowa] three times. They're conditionally one of the top 10 or 15 [Division] I-AA teams in the country. Illinois State obviously is our match up this Saturday night.


There's not a lot of differences then what I see [between Division IA and IAA] and it's just my experience from coaching against them. [We have] 85 scholarships I believe they have 63. You see good players, you see good coaches. Check the NFL rosters, you've all seen a number of former I-AA players that are on NFL rosters. You see a number of transfers, some Division 1 programs that can come in and immediately play. So there's a real good talent level.


We're going to go in [with no other] thoughts than we're going to have our hands full. They're [going to] be well coached, they're going to come in hungry, they're going to come in loose, they're going to come in ready."


Before I took the job here at Iowa State, my associate head coach Terry Allen came down to Jack Trice Stadium and beat Iowa State twice. So there's some very vivid memories for the Iowa State fans of what a I-AA school can do to Iowa State if you're not ready.



On if playing a Division I-AA hurts power ratings…


I haven't seen it affect us. Of course we have not been in contention for BCS yet in the program. All I know is there's great players and coaches out there. You better be ready. I don't [think I can] remember a season where a I-AA hasn't defeated or just about defeated a some really outstanding or good overall  Division I teams and I'm sure this year will be no exception and we just hope it's not Iowa State Saturday night. 

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