It's great to be in game week as all coaches and players will tell you this time of year. It's a long time since that bowl victory. Eight and a half months is a long time. So we're ready to play a football game. We got some preparation obviously this week. You just want to go out and find out how good, how bad, your strengths your weaknesses. You're not going to get all your answers in the first game but you'll get a lot of them. And we're looking forward to that.
I'll give you an update like always, just give you a little information on what's been happening and then open it up to questions like we always do.
I did put two former walk-ons on
scholarship, defensive back Broc Debout and running back David Brown as we broke
camp. I think they're the 47 and 48 players I've put on scholarship at my tenure
The health is real good of the football team. Jason Scales of course is out, no secret there. He's making progress but definitely won't play Saturday night. Nick Howe an interior defensive lineman walk-on had anterior cruciate ligament that was torn he had surgery last week, doing real well, but of course he'll be out this season.
I think all the No. 1's are set for the first game based on the last month of evaluation. The only thing we've really got to decide right now is whose going to be our starting punter because Yelk and Blankenship are having a great battle going on there. Pretty much everywhere else those No. 1s are set. We still have to answers some No. 2's but we'll use the next three nights to finalize those decisions but we're pretty well set who's going to start the game Saturday night.
It's a good blend of guys on this team, of guys that have some starting experience I counted 16 or 17 guys that have at least started one game or more and that includes a kid like Barkema that started the bowl game. That's the only start of his career but he did have one. And there's 18 kids that we anticipate will hit the field for the first time in the two deeps. So good blend of experience and guys who are going to go out there for the first time that have never played a down of college football. That need to play good football for us to win Saturday night, so that's exciting for those guys.
Newcomers the ones that I anticipate will definitely play, Paul Fisher, Scott Fisher, Walter Nickel, Alvin Bowen, Jon Banks, Chris Singleton, Derrick Catlett. Those seven of the newcomers' class should definitely play in the game Saturday and then beyond that we're still trying to finalize a couple three decisions on the young kids this week, whether we're going to hold them or redshirt them, but most of those decisions have been made.
Ticket sales are going great. We're about 27,000 season tickets as of today. We put aside 7,000 for student tickets, they've sold 6,300 so we're getting close to selling all of those out, hopefully that will happen by Saturday night. I'm real, real thankful and appreciative to our fans and the students and the publics for their response getting ready for this season.
I'm really proud of the four captains that were elected with Bret Meyer, Kory Pence on offense and Tim Dobbins and Nick Leaders on defense. Four really, really outstanding young guys that will lead this football team as captains and it's one of the really neat things. A captaincy is an amazing honor and sometimes it almost can be staggering when you realize that you have been selected by teammates to lead your football team. But these four guys are really on and off the field just fabulous kids and leaders and I'm real excited for them.
So there's a lot of tape we watched on them, but that's the one that really caught our eye because we know the quality of Minnesota's program and they put up nearly 500 yards offense on Minnesota's defense last year a year a go this time. So we're going to do everything we can to make sure our kids are locked in, ready to go, focused, excited, but not out there trying to beat ourselves. Let's go try to and win our first game and be 1-0 after Saturday night.
I'm very you know excited about Saturday night, it's always apprehensive. You don't know what to except in that opener. I know a lot more of what to expect from my team than I do their from their team. They have four new coaches on their staff – o-line d-line, defensive backs and running backs. So what kind of an impact on those new coaches will have on what they'll try to feature we don't know. But that's why you have to be good on your feet as a coaching staff and make adjustments. Communicate and when problems arise as they will and when adversity hits as it does then you've got to be able to handle it and I've got a lot of faith and trust in my coaching staff that we can do that when adversity hits on Saturday night.
I'll open it up questions, I appreciate everybody being here, it's great to be at Iowa State for my 11th season and I look forward to getting this thing started.
On what the players are feeling as the first game approaches…
There's no doubt there's electricity in the air, its game week now. We're four days from kickoff you know it's that way. America comes alive with football season beginning, especially college football and especially here at Iowa State right now. It's an exciting time you can feel it all over this campus. We get here early and leave late, but you can still, we don't live in a cave. We can sure feel the excitement that's out there for the season.
So it's a lot of fun. I think our kids are real excited. We've got to make sure they're ready and focused and anxious but not too excited that they're out there making mental errors, throwing the ball to the other team, turning it over, so excited you blitz the wrong gap and all of a sudden they get big plays, they get juice, they get confidence and they start playing a game where they really believe they can win a game as the game goes on. We've got to do everything we can to try and get off to a good start and take control of the game as soon as we can, but always in openers it doesn't matter what level, high school, college or NFL there's a lot of questions you want to get answered to go play a game.
On the anticipation of the season with all of the expectations…
I'm excited every year, I was excited when seasons didn't turn out the way we wanted them too. It's just a lot of fun right now being around this football team and my staff. We still know we've got eight starters that aren't with us that were with us in the bowl game. We know eight starters we've got to replace on both sides of the ball and those guys stepping in I'm anxious to see how they'll perform. The 18 guys that will hit the field for the first time, anxious to see how those guys perform. And just want to see since last January everybody's hard work hopefully pay off with our first victory Saturday night. It's a lot of fun, a lot of excitement but you know it's kind of that way every year to be honest with you. I don't' sense anything real different in my approach to this game or this season.
On the most inspiring thing from the last three weeks…
There's a lot of them. I think it's a good question. Watching the emergence of some of our young kids. Those newcomers that have never been in this environment - our structure, our tempo, the intensity of practice, what we demand, the tempo of everything we do and then you see some kids arise and emerge. I don't know if it's inspirational but when you see a true freshman that can come in and join a team that's been to four bowl games in five years like Chris Singleton and not be outta place out here against a tremendous group of wide receivers every day at practice that's fun to see.
Derrick Catlett, a young man from Colorado is our No. 3 tight end and to see that young man to come in and show that maturity he has. He's not ready to go challenge for a No. 1 spot or an all-Big 12 selection at the end of the season. But he's a three; he's a guy that's going to play Saturday for the first time. When you see those young guys come in – Alvin Bowen has opened a lot of eyes around here, won't start, can't beat out the starters, but he's going to play a lot. Those things you really like to see.
Seeing Jason Berryman's accountability to the team, the program, we all knew he could play good football but what he's doing as a citizen, as a man, as a student. What he did this summer with all of his, his expense. All the things you have to take care of, he did it at his own expense and to come back and earn respect slowly but surely one man at a time is a great sign.
Then just as far as most inspirational thing to be honest with you is those two senior walk-ons who got put on scholarship. That's as good as it gets. Whether they play a little bit or not at all or a lot that's one of the great feelings I have. My tradition is to take care of guys who take care of me in this program and give back to the program and I want to give to the program and I want to give back to them, but I also want to take care of guys that aren't always in the limelight, under the lights, making headlines, but that have real inspirational to me and this program and it was real inspirational to see that.
On the left tackle position…
Johannes Egbers' been so consistent. I think no one has said less but did more than Johannes Egbers. He's been very, very, very consistent, very steady and he's held off both the rush of the Fisher twins that have come in. They're good, solid players, they're a work in progress, they're giants, they're coachable, they're mature, but they can't beat out Johannes Egbers right now. He's hung in there, he's a walk-on that's really persevered and I'm real proud of him and I hope he can go have the type of senior year I think he can.
He's not going to the NFL; he's not going to play more football. He's got whatever games Iowa State plays this year, however long our season lasts, that's how long he'll play, but I'm really prod of Johannes and the job he's done. He's definitely our starting left tackle on Saturday night.
On if it's Egbers first start…
Yes, first start
On if Egbers is a walk-on…
No, he's been on scholarship for a while, but it's definitely his first start. I'd have to check with Tom but there's not many snaps in his career as a PAT/field goal. He's been out there a few times in protection but basically his career begins Saturday night and it will end whenever our season is over this year. So we want the best for him.
On an improved redzone...
We've tried to really emphasize that since last spring. We've just had more redzone match-ups with our 1's-1's, 2's-2's, than ever. We've always done it and we emphasized it last year because we all know how important that part of the field is. To have success on offense and stop them on defense. We've done it even more this year. Scrimmaged more down here, had more opportunities, talked about it more.
I don't think it's gone in one ear and out the other with my players. They've heard it so many times from me as a head coach that we've got to improve because many, many, many of our statistics that we had last season and evaluated were much better than the year before, but the redzone wasn't much better. And whether its touchdowns or field goals when we get down there, touchdowns are our preference, but we've got to score points and we were not efficient down there and we were not good defensively as good as we were all over the field and we were much improved in the top half in every defensive category. We still weren't very good in redzone defense so we put a lot of time into and hopefully it will pay off Saturday night when you see us play the first time.