McCarney Press Conference Part II

More from the head coach as he addresses the ISU media prior to the Cyclones season opener on Saturday.

On playing a I-AA school to start the season…


I just have never looked down at anyone, I guess it's because of the places I've been and the programs I've been a part of. When you've been an underdog so many times as I have been in coaching you go into games with the utmost respect. You respect them all, you fear none of them. Whether it's I-AA or you're going out and playing a No. 1, No. 2 ranked team in the country and I've done that through the years.


We just know they're very, very capable. The history at this place before I got here wasn't good when Iowa State played I-AA team. Every season as I mentioned yesterday day on the teleconference, every season you see I-AA teams beating Division I teams, why? Because they have more talent and more scholarships, no. Because they're not focused, they're not ready, they beat themselves.


That starts at the top with the head coach. It starts with the coaching staff that thinks they're just going to go out there and it's going to happen because they're Division I. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure it doesn't happen here. We're either 1-0 or 0-1 and it does count towards our postseason opportunities by winning the game Saturday night. That's been our focus.


We haven't had any time spent during the last 25 practices on Iowa. We haven't had any time put aside to Army, none put aside to Nebraska. We did break all those teams down in the [off] season, but we haven't spent a minute on them during these 25 practices. We worked Iowa State and then we zeroed in on Illinois State a couple days ago.


On whether it's easier to get a I-AA school to come here rather than a lower I-A…


Obviously they're all looking for financial opportunities as you know. That's the thing that Division I teams can do to help I-AA teams, but along the way you better have your team ready and your staff better be doing the work. Doing their job or you can get beat and that can really affect the confidence and the outcome of a season. The way you start and whether you lose a game like that. But that's why I'm as confident as a coach can be going into a first game - in that we believe that we're ready to go because we've spent so much time on Illinois State and we're not worried about anybody else.


On Scott Stephenson's physicalness…


He's physical is what I've talked about. He really is a physical presence. He has got that defensive mentality that you want to see. I know offensive coaches get tired of it - hearing about it and I did when I coached offense years ago. You don't want to hear ‘are they tough, physical and nasty on defense and they're not on offense.'


You better have that on both of your lines of scrimmage on game day, but Scott played defense as you know at Minnesota. We brought him here, we redshirted him, we didn't put him on defense, we moved him to offense immediately - trying to find out what position he can play.


With losing Stubbe and Vander Sanden our two captains in the offensive line, there's two vacant spots that were really wide open. Scott has really had an outstanding camp, he's a physical player. He still runs like a guy that can play defense and fast enough to chase down [players] but he's out there blocking noseguards, tackles, linebackers, safeties all those guys on defense. I don't know if there's anybody on our team more excited to play. It's been a long time since he played in a football game. He's a 300-pounder that can run and he's tough, he's relentless. If you ask any one of our defensive guys who‘s one of the most physical players on our football team and they're going to mention Scott Stephenson fast.


On kicking duties…


Bret will be our guy unless he has a real bad week of practice. This isn't Friday its Tuesday, so we'll evaluate all week long like we always do. We'll have two minute drills tonight and tomorrow. We'll work field goals, we'll work PAT's, we'll work all phases - punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff returner. So he better perform this week but if he does like he has he'll be our first guy out there for PAT/field goals on Saturday.


Edgar Arceo is a young man that's come in from Iowa Central was teammates with Banks up there, teammates with our Muscatine guys in high school and just quietly gone about his business. He gets the ball off quick and high, he's got a smooth stroke. He doesn't have the strongest leg in camp, but he's been consistent. Hit a 45-yarder with our No.1 defense laying out, the best block unit in the Big 12 last season, and they were coming at him on Saturday night and he still stroked one right down the middle. So he's our No. 2 guy right now and again we've got to evaluate all week long. If he swallows the apple and has a bad week he can go to three or four real fast. But he wasn't in the 105 when he started the first day of class until now he's been very consistent overall. Hitting over 80 percent of his field goals, all his PAT's and he deserves to be our No. 2 going into today's practice.


On Berryman's speed…


We haven't put a clock on him, but he's playing fast. He's had a real good camp. As I mentioned yesterday there's a real big difference between running a 20, a 40, a 100, a 300 yard shuttle and playing football with your pads on. So it's really taken him some time to get into football shape. It's been very competitive. We have a lot better players at defensive end that he was competing with than we did two years ago and he's ended up being a starter for us.


Cephus Johnson didn't throw up the white flag. He's a senior that wants to play good for Iowa State, have a great senior year and hopefully play in the NFL. He got beat out by Moorehead and Berryman but he's going to play a lot on Saturday night, you'll see 43 out there Saturday night. That's how strong we feel about all three of those guys.


On Steve Johnson


We're working him both on the varsity end and the scout team end. We're not sure right now. Obviously if we were sure he was going to be redshirted that means he didn't show us any signs that he'd be able to help us this year. He has shown signs of that and we're working him at both ends and then probably trying to protect him. You get a nick an injury, somebody goes out, a couple guys go out, and he's ready in the wings.


But that group of young defensive backs you can look at the roster and see the ones we've brought in, I think as a unit might be the best we've had. I don't know if there's a great one  - a Deion Sanders,  I don't know if there's a Ellis Hobbs, I don't know about all of that, but as a unit it might be the best group we've brought in since I've been here.


On the two first time starters at critical spots on the offensive line…


You have a piece of mind to a point that they've been blocking Leaders, blocking Curvey, blocking Dobbins, blocking Berryman, blocking Cephus and blocking Moorehead. So that's a pretty good test every day and that's the only evaluation I have - who they're going against and how they do against those guys.


Stephenson - him and Dobbins have been trading big hits all through camp, those are really physical players. That's the only way I can evaluate them. I've seen them against those players and it gives you some belief and confidence that they're going to go out there Saturday night and play some real good football. But what they do when the gun goes off and the lights come on and it's game time we'll find out at 6 o'clock, because that I haven't never seen with either one of them.


Against real quality players in practice they've really done some good things and that's why they're starting.


On the positive feeling heading into this season…


We know a lot more about this team; we know who can play winning football on gameday, because I know the guys that have done it on game day against real quality opponents and players. There's less of those guys right now. We just talked about two of them. We'll find out about Scott and Johannes, we'll find out about all those newcomers, we'll find out about those 18 guys who are going to play for the first time.


I just have more guys that I know we're going to go to the field with Saturday night that showed me last year. They respond to coaching, they won't beat themselves. We won't beat ourselves when they're on the field. They'll play with a passion; they'll play for their teammates. When something good happens they'll celebrate with their teammates and not by themselves which means their team oriented guys and they're real dedicated to winning and I've got more of those guys than I did a year ago this time.


On how LaMarcus Hicks has looked at cornerback…


Again it goes back to who he's going against and he's out there covering some pretty good receivers. Even though he hasn't been out there on gameday yet as a corner, he played real good football as our nickel back last year and then started last spring.


He has really done a nice job and I think everybody on the defense has got great confidence in him. When you have to go out there and cover Blythe and Davis and Flynn and Moses - I mean the list really goes on of guys we really have trust in. He's really done some good things.


If he was out there getting beat consistently out [you] probably would have seen two guys on the same line or you would have seen him up one week and down the next or a one and then second team, but none of that has happened. He's been our No. 1 since last March and he's never looked back so I'm real proud of him.



On whether LaMarcus' family was affected by the hurricane…


His brother is down at Southern Mississippi. Yesterday was a players day off so I didn't get to see LaMarcus but I'll see him today. I know they kept all the students in their dormitories yesterday, I did hear that and there weren't any injured.


But he was down there in Hattiesburg and you guys know that's the heart of where it's going on. That was one of those times you drop everything and make sure families are okay and those kinds of things, but it sounds like all his family is okay.


On expectations for Stevie this season…


I think Stevie should go be the back that we expect him to be. Not feel like you have to be a Doak Walker candidate every time you carry the ball, just go be the best you can be as Stevie Hicks.


I think the area I've seen him improve on more [is as a blocker]. He's even better now [than he was last year]. You ask any of our linebackers, on our one-on-one drills; it's hard to beat him one-on-one. He's really improved his blocking.


I don't think he's lost a step or quickness or speed even though he's a little bit bigger, not much. He's playing with great confidence. He's playing with his pads out over his toes, which means he's playing with good pad level. His durability, his ball security, all of those things are excellent but he understands and reminds me a lot of Troy Davis - as far as you're coming at me, you're going to have to knock me out of this game to beat me to go get my quarterback.


He's got that attitude as a blocker now and I'm real proud of him there because that doesn't come with most high school running backs. Coming out of high school they don't understand sometimes how important it is to be a blocker at this level with the defenses coming from all over.


On facing former player Brian Thompson


We know we're going to get BT's best shot. I'm proud of him and the job he's done. He led the conference in rushing last year.


We didn't run him out of here, he wasn't ineligible, and he's a great young man. He lost one of his parents while he was here, so we went through that supporting him as a team, you know how tough that can be. I just love him; he's a great young man.


I don't want him out there setting any records or making my defense look bad on Saturday night, but he's a good player. You know what it all worked out for all of us. BT wanted to be a starter and that wasn't going to happen if he stayed at Iowa State. That's why we worked this thing out for him to go to a good I-AA program and hopefully have success and he sure has done that.


On whether or not he looks different than he did as a Cyclone…

He'll make you miss, he has good speed. He doesn't have lightening, lightening speed. He'll make you miss. Iowa State fans will remember him in that Kansas victory the year we came off the Florida State game down in Arrowhead, he had a couple of touchdowns. He's a good football player. Brian Thompson is a darn good player and he has definitely improved since he left Iowa State, but he looks like the same style back as he was here.


On how Berryman won back the respect of his teammates…


I think he's done exactly what we've asked of him and I'm sure it wasn't unanimous when I made the decision to bring him back. There were lots and lots of players that wanted to give him that opportunity, but I'm not going to tell you it was 100 percent.


But slowly and surely he's garnered great respect as a man, as a person, as a citizen. All the things that I've spelled out to Jason and talked about in front of my team, I haven't been shy about - this is why he's here and this is what he has to do but he also needs your support so he can become one of the real success stories in college athletics.


Making real poor decisions and judgments, paying an unbelievable penalty but coming back from it and being a better man and hopefully being a productive citizen and getting your degree and helping your football program. And I think that's what he's doing. He's on task and I think he's making great strides towards that, but that's a work in progress as you know.


On Austin Flynn's move to wide receiver…


I never knew that he could be this good of wide receiver as I think he can be.


I just thought he could be a good, solid wide receiver but I just didn't know until I watched him practice, scrimmage. He's out there going against some good defense. He's exciting to watch, he's fun to watch play the game.


Baring injury I'll be real surprised if he doesn't have a tremendous year at wide receiver. He's got some real talents and knack and quickness and toughness. He looks like a guy we should have had a wide receiver a long time ago.


On Flynn's unique challenges for a defense…


Week one, week two, week three better be ready. He does have an arm and he's not bad. He has a better arm than I do and he's still may get that opportunity. So we're not fooling anybody, you got a guy who's playing quarterback now playing wide receiver. You better have a couple guys on your scout team run that play a couple times.

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