What is the importance of spring football?
"I would fight for spring ball with every ounce of my body, because I think it's a great time to develop your program, to develop your team. You go through four phases dealing with your football team. Right now the first phase is winter workouts, strength development, quickness, speed and conditioning. Winter workouts for spring football are a major phase in the development of your team. Those four or five weeks of 15 practices are live work to really evaluate your team. It's that next phase of development that togetherness, the chemistry the leadership, the toughness and the heart of your team is crafted. Zeroing in and watching your leaders really develop.
"Summer workouts, in which now everybody in the country has over 100 players working out in the summertime is important. Your guys staying there, being together, working out and developing as a team is important. This includes bringing in some of the newcomers and giving them the chance to learn the paces and work out with the upperclassmen. You let your young guys start to figure out how competitive this whole thing is and how hard you have to work.
"Then there are two-a-days. Leading right up into that preseason practice is the fourth phase you go through, so it's a major important segment of the development of your football team.
"Defensively (at ISU), there are so many jobs wide open right now with the graduation and the loss of so many starters on that side of the football. We really have our work cut out to find who will be the number one guy, who will be the swing guy, who will be the number two man this season.
"The offense returns 10 guys that have been starters. They have to keep elevating their game and improving, but we know on game-day what they've done, and they have helped us achieve some great things and helped take us to another bowl game. We know what they're capable of doing. For the starters that are returning, if they were good players, but want to become great, if they were just starters and they want to become all-Big 12 guys, if they're all-Big 12 guys and want to push for All-American, if they're guys that have never played a down and they want to play and want to strike helmets on Saturdays, spring is the time to prove that they deserve to be on the field come August 31st. (Spring) is a real important time."
What did the extra (
of all, bowl practices are an immeasurable help to your program. I think one of
the great examples of how important they are was demonstrated at the start of
winter workouts. (
Where are you in offensive line development?
a chance that we could start five seniors on the offensive line (this season).
We'll find this out in the springtime and during two-a-days. There were lots of
things we really did well offensively last season. We broke it down after we got
off the road from recruiting. We saw some really outstanding things we did
offensively. The big things we're going to try to hit on right now as
coaches, besides building all those good things and positives, is improving our
rush offense. Finishing 96th in the country is not what
What does tailback Stevie Hicks need to do this season?
needs to stay healthy. We did not meet the
What are you looking for from fullback Ryan Kock this fall and what about depth at that position?
"Ryan Kock is coming off a great season. He scored 13 touchdowns last season. He is a good blocker. Kock needs to come out and have a good senior year, like all seniors should, with more motivation, more confidence, more productivity and hungrier than anybody on the field because its your last year of college football. That's exactly of what I expect out of him. I know that's what I will get out of him. Ryan is so valuable. Those 13 touchdowns came a lot on third-and-short and fourth-and-short conversions. Our opponents knew and we knew Ryan was going to get the ball, but they still couldn't stop him and a lot of that was due to the determination, fundamentals and technique of Ryan Kock. So I am confident that he will come through this season. We don't know who is his back up right now. Greg Coleman has demonstrated he can play at fullback and tailback. But Ryan is far and away our best fullback and we are really glad he has one more year in a Cyclone uniform."
"Bret Meyer had a great sophomore season. He was just so much better as a sophomore than he was as a freshman. We don't have to be satisfied with that improvement. If he can improve that much his freshman to sophomore year, why not do that from his sophomore to junior year and then next year from his junior to senior season? I know that he can get even better and I believe that he will because of his pride, work ethic and accountability as a leader on this football.
has accomplished a lot. We have been in two outstanding bowl games with a
freshman and sophomore quarterback. He has two years left to play at
is just a great student of the game now. He has a great grasp of the big picture
and once you see that switch go on in a quarterback, when they really have a
great understanding, they get that look in their eye and I have seen it with
Bret throughout much of last year. I saw it in the bowl practices and yet
he clearly can improve. We want him to get bigger and we want him to get
stronger. He weighs 204 right now. Is that as big as he needs to get?
No. With more strength, more size and with that great frame and the
athleticism that he has, growth here will make Bret a more powerful runner and
he will be able to break more tackles. He will be a little more durable,
which is necessary because of the times you get tackled and blind-sided, as all
quarterbacks do in college football. But I just see nothing but fantastic
things in front of him and he has a chance to have an unbelievably memorable
career here at
Can you talk about finding Bret Meyer's backup?
have three scholarship guys in practice this spring and none of them have been
consistent in the program. Kyle Van Winkle, Nate Mechaelsen and Brice Beck will
all be competing. (2006 recruit and true freshman) Austen Arnaud is coming
in August to be a part of the team. He hasn't been coached yet by
(quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator) Todd Fitch. We know that
Bret Meyer is No. 1. We will protect him as much as we possibly can this spring
and in two-a-days. I don't need Bret to prove to me how tough he is.
I want him to run the team, run the offense and to keep improving. I'm not
going to let him get hit, blind-sided by our defense. That is not going to
happen. I have to figure out who my No. 2 and No. 3 are going to be. No
one has taken the job and run away with it. I don't even know if we will
know who our No. 2 quarterback is going into the fall. I hope someone will pull
away from the pack but it may take spring evaluations, summer development and
two-a-days before we really find out who the No. 2 QB will be for the
Does (2006 recruit) Austen Arnaud have a chance to be our No. 2?
"I think Austen Arnaud will definitely be in the mix come August for that backup position. And I'm not just saying that. I have just as much confidence in Austen coming out of high school as I did Bret Meyer when Bret came here out of high school. Bret was on the verge of playing as a true freshman (2003), but we decided to hold him out. But I just think that I have seen the growth, maturity, and improvement first hand in our summer camps with Austen Arnaud over the last three summers. If he continues to improve, I don't think there is any doubt that he ought of be in the mix. If (Austen) is not in the top three, we will hold him. If he is there we will seriously consider playing him."
Tight Ends: Talk about Barkema, Nickel, Tinlin and Catlett and what your expectations are at that position.
"Well, Ben Barkema and Walter Nickel have already showed me they can play football. We want both of them to get bigger and stronger and more physical as blockers. They need to continue to do a great job of running routes, catching the football and running with the football after they have caught it. We went to them a lot last season and this is easily the best PAIR of tight ends we've had at ISU. Both of them know that they need to be building on their improvements between now and the start of the season. They need to continue to get bigger and stronger and to get more weight on them. I don't care about being pretty out there. This is about getting stronger and more physical and more dominant as a blocker. Keeping our tight end speed, quickness, athleticism and being able to run good routes and to catch the ball and will be a real factor in our passing game.
"There is no question coming out of bowl practices that Derrick Catlett is our third best tight end. He will have a lot of chances to prove that and to earn more looks in spring football. He is one of those many guys coming out of a redshirt for whom spring football, the summer and two-a-days will be absolutely vital."
At wide receiver, former quarterback Austin Flynn was a great story last season.
"We had tremendous success and leadership from Austin Flynn last season. His unselfishness, his work ethic, his leadership, his heart, his character, his toughness to start at that position and excel at it like he did makes him the ultimate yard dog and he is a coach's dream. Every coach wants an Austin Flynn on their team and thank God we have him on ours. He will go back on kick return, he will help you on special teams, he'll do anything and everything you ask him to do at wide receiver like running routes, blocking, stalking, and running the ball. He is just a special kid and I am so proud of him. He is one of those three senior wide receivers this year with Jon Davis and Ryan Baum that have shown examples of leadership and the way you are supposed to practice."
Talk about wide receivers Todd Blythe and Jon Davis.
players, both of them can improve. Todd Blythe has already reached all-Big
12 status and deservingly so. He already sits on top of some of the
records here at
"Jon Davis has been real solid in his career and I expect him to be better and more solid. He needs to come out and play like a senior as I mentioned with Ryan Kock. Jon needs to make it memorable, make it special and make it better, and make it different than any other year. He is a very solid player and very solid receiver and needs to take it to the next level to be on top of his senior year."
do you expect wide receiver RJ Sumrall and players like Marquis Hamilton and
"We are really excited about R.J. Sumrall, the man's got a case of talent and was a huge contributor last year. He has been running track for (
"Everybody on our team will say that Marquis Hamilton is a guy that fans will want to keep an eye on next year. They call him the "Big Body." He is a 218-pound wide receiver, but he doesn't want to be a tight end and he doesn't want to get moved to another position. He wants to be a big-time, Big 12 receiver. I think he has got a chance to have a real neat career here. Some years here, he would have played as a true freshman. But because of our talent and depth at wide receiver, we were fortunate enough to hold him, and now he has got four years to go.
"Another guy that I just love on this team is senior wide receiver Nick Campbell. I just hope he can play in addition to special teams. He is just a great team guy and really cares about this team."
In your offense at tailback and wide receiver, how important it is to be a good blocker and to be able to protect the quarterback?
"Yes, there's no doubt about it. I couldn't have a better running backs coach to emphasize and to teach the fundamentals of blocking than (running backs) coach Tony Alford. He takes great pride in that and we have very competitive practices in which we go best against best, not all day every day but we will do enough of that to get better at blocking. Our running backs will be blocking inside linebackers, outside linebackers. There were plenty of drills last year when (tailback) Stevie Hicks was matched up with (2005 starting linebacker) Tim Dobbins and (2005 starting linebacker) Jamarr Buchanan was matched up against (fullback) Ryan Kock. It was a best against best blocking drill. The defensive guy was trying to blitz and trying to beat you and the offensive guy tried to protect our quarterback. So we really find out that there is no place to hide during those drills. You see it right there, its on tape, you are out there in front of your teammates and coaches and you're not going to duck and hide in a protection drill with a running back.
have got to step up and be physical with fundamentals and take pride in
it. But pride is part of it. We talk about the wolf pack at
offensive balance aid rushing the football?
"One of the goals of this program this year is to be more physical and more effective running the football. We have done it before and we can do it again and for various reasons we were not as effective as we needed to be last year. We absolutely want to be two-dimensional every time we go out next year. We know we can throw the football. We were second in the Big 12 in pass offense last year. We were third in pass efficiency and third in third-down and fourth-down conversions. But that's not all throwing the football.
"We know we can throw the football and a lot of guys are involved including our backs. But we've got to be more efficient and more physical running the football. We are going to challenge the heck out of our kids. We will do it against a more inexperienced defense but a no less competitive defense this spring. I think our guys will line up and compete their tails off and that's the way we want it. We need to get a good measure this spring of whether we are getting better at running the football. We must be more physical running the football on third-and fourth-and-short. We need to be more consistent and get into more second-and- short and second-and-medium because our running game is improved."
With 10 starters back on offense, is there room for newcomers to make their mark?
"It's going to be real hard for any of those guys to break into the starting lineup because of the experience that we have returning. But it won't be impossible. I am real anxious to get all of those guys here and I think it's a real classy group of newcomers and I'm excited to coach them. You just never know. Every year that I have been here, there have been some surprises. So, we'll know more about this during two-a-days."
had a great defense last year and those (2005) seniors left a great legacy and
great examples for this year's defense and many more to come. We have had
some real good defenses here, but in my estimation and my evaluation, (the 2005
defense) was the best group I have had in my 11 years here at
Takeaways have been a huge part of your success the past two seasons.
"It's the biggest play on defense. It is even bigger if you score on a turnover. And if you can't score you're still giving your offense good field position. It's just so huge and I start to think about how many games we won or had chances to win because of our takeaways. Last year was the best of the best. No doubt about it. We forced 13 fumbles and made 22 interceptions. Our 22 picks led the Big 12.
We were national leaders in turnover margin, just a fantastic job. You've got to have speed and athleticism and the ability to make the play and you have to do it within the framework of the defense to have a chance to make that type of play.
"Once you get there and you're in that position, you have to have the confidence and the ability to make that play and take it away, and stripping it and pulling it out of the arms of the receiver, running back or quarterback. We want to continue to break on the ball when its in the air, tip it to a teammate and be in the right place at the right time. We want to make sure that our players understand the coverage concept and are not just running around with their heads cut off like some guys do in college football. We don't need a bunch of robots on the field. We do not want to limit our players' athleticism. We just want to take that talent and toughness and challenge players through our system to mold it into a finished product, a winning defense out there every Saturday. We saw a lot of that last season."
The interior defensive line took some hits.
did not have a more consistent player in our program over a four-year period
than (first-team all-Big 12 nose guard and departed senior) Nick Leaders.
His consistency was amazing. He has been in the middle of that defensive
line since that (2002 season opener)
Defensive tackle Brent Curvey and tight end Shawn Moorehead:
"There is no question that (Curvey) is a 300-pounder who has athleticism, foot speed and quickness. I expect him to go out and be one of the better defensive linemen in the Big 12 this year. Anything less than an all-conference effort would be a real big disappointment. Shawn Moorehead is one of the many real success stories on our football team. He came in as an undersized walk-on, a skinny bird. We beefed him up and told him ‘Put your hand down and play at rush and play at end, fill out and get stronger and go help us win a bunch of games.' And boy, has he done that. (Curvey and Moorehead) have to be great examples for younger players. Beyond those two, it is wide open competition. It's Kurtis Taylor (Jr., DE), Nick Frere (So., DE), Matt Berg (RS Fr., NG) Bryce Braaksma (Jr., DT), Travis Ferguson (So., DE), and Stephon Dale (RS Fr., NG), who need to pick it up and improve. These are tremendous, young talented guys and they just have to learn to play winning football in the Big 12. There are some real capable guys. This winter, this spring and this summer are going to be so important in their development."
"Two of the three starters are gone. Jamarr Buchanan started for us last year at SAM linebacker and Tim Dobbins was our starter at MIKE. Those guys had outstanding senior seasons for us. When you write it down, you wish for your seniors to end their careers the way they did. They just had tremendous senior years and we are going to really miss their experience, toughness and the passion that they brought to our defense.
we do have two guys coming back. Matt Robertson has been a real good,
solid starter for us and I am hoping that he will take it beyond that in his
senior year. He has a chance to be a great player. Adam Carper has
all kinds of potential and athleticism and he really started to figure things
out the last few games of last year. I saw it in the bowl game and bowl
practices that his level of confidence was really going up. He came in
with a young boy's body and he is starting to look like a young man. Adam
came here with quarterback body and is starting to look like a Big 12
linebacker. To start out, we are going to put Matt Robertson at Mike (MLB)
and Adam Carper at Sam (SLB). Alvin Bowen will be at WILL
linebacker. He played a lot of football last year and he is a real
talent. And then were going to take a look at Brandon Hunley, who moved
from safety to SAM linebacker. Tyrone McKenzie, who transferred from
How will your replace departed veteran in the secondary?
"Our secondary was hardest hit by graduation than any place on our football team. Secondary coach Chris Ash did a wonderful job with those kids last year, three senior starters, and all of them had magnificent senior years and did a wonderful job. And again we were left behind, as Ellis Hobbs did a year before, with some great examples of here is how you work, here is how you produce, here is how you prepare in the meeting room, on the practice field, in the weight room, and how you play on game day. There is no doubt in my mind if that DeAndre Jackson, God willing stays healthy, could be one of the better cornerbacks in the Big 12 and in my estimation and belief he should be one of the better corners in college football next year. Tremendous talent, if you look back to last year and look at passes defended, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles, interceptions and tackles; all of those things you want a defensive back to do, you will see DeAndre Jackson's name. He was involved in all of those categories. He is just a big playmaker and we are real excited about him and he needs to step up and be the leader back there in the secondary. He is the most experienced and the best player back there and should be a real good corner. From there it's wide open. Caleb Berg, Jon Banks and Chris Singleton have all been on the field on game day, more on special teams than on defense but all those guys have at least been on the field. And then all those young guys coming out of redshirts, James Smith, Houston Jones, Steve Johnson and Reggie Rock all have really got some talent but these next few months are going to be so important because they should be no doubt in the heart of the competition and heart of the two-deep in that secondary next year. We have to bring them along fast because none of those redshirt freshmen have played a down. They've practiced and they have been in the program, but we need them to be ready to play winning football for us and compete for those number one spots."
Bret Culbertson has been a very accurate place-kicker for you. Where does he sit with you now?
Culbertson has to defend his job everyday in practice. He did a lot of
real good things last year and he ended up 32/32 on his PATs 12-of-16 on field
goals. He did a lot of fabulous things for a sophomore and he was just a
walk-on last year. He will be on scholarship in 2006 and deservedly so and
the confidence that he should bring to the practice field and game field should
be really high. He has made many, many kicks and he has had a lot to do
with us going to two bowl games the last two years and helped us win a lot of
games. But I would like to see him develop on the strength of his leg, not
only on kick-offs but also the length of his field goals. But I just think
that he has a chance to have two outstanding seasons here in the next couple
"It's as wide open as any other position on our football team. Mike Brantner, based on fall practices and bowl practices, is our starter going in. But it's really wide open at this position. We've got some priority walk-ons coming in that will battle for it. (Scott) Krava can punt and so can (
Holder and Deep Snapper:
best we have available right now is Brian Perry. He has got to be more
consistent. It's all about consistency and more zip and accuracy on the
ball and he has potential, but we just lost the best long snapper in the Big 12
Conference in Landon Schrage. That's one of the reasons I brought in Matt Purvis from the kicker/punters/snapper camp in
Can anyone that is coming in definitely make a contribution right away?
"Yes, you know I would be really surprised if (2006 recruit and former Cyclone defensive end) Collins Eboh is not in the mix right away. Because he played as a true freshman on a good football team and he is bigger and stronger now and we hope he has more maturity. But I would be really surprised if Collins can't come in and fight for some playing time. Beyond that, there are a lot of good, young athletes. A number of high school defensive linemen and a number of high school DBs and linebackers, so it should be a fun group to evaluate and to see what happens in August and who and how many guys might be ready to help our team out in 2006."
a season of opportunity and a schedule of opportunity. Nine bowl teams,
six bowl champions, the NCAA Division I-A national champion (
Where do you see your team fitting in with the rest of the Big 12 North next year?
"Obviously, we have been in the thick of the Big 12 North race the last couple of years. I would be very disappointed if we were not in the thick of the race for first in the Big 12 North Division next year. I am hoping to build a program that is built on such a great foundation that we can continue to make a run at the Big 12 North championship every year, which means you're making a run and shot at the Big 12 championship. We have come a long way and we have taken this program places where it has never been. Yet there is a lot of room to get better and improve and to move up. That's what this is all about. Keep climbing the mountain, where we have not gotten to the top. We have gone a long ways up the mountain, but we're not there yet. So let's keep climbing and help each other get there."
Did you ever imagine that you would have a program that has made five bowl games in six years and own a Big 12 North Division title?
"Yes, I really did. I knew that it was going to take some time to build the kind of program that we needed. Earning the commitment, building the facilities, bringing in the student-athletes, putting together the best staff, extending the fan base and bringing up the level of expectations -- I believed it could be done. Building the confidence in a program where everyone believes that we can win and here are the reasons why. So, there was no doubt in my mind we would achieve. I thanked God many times over the last 12 years that this administration has shown me patience, which has really paid off because every Saturday fans can come to Jack Trice Stadium or watch the television or come to the visiting stadiums and be really proud of the team that we put on the field. I think it has a been a win-win situation for all of us and yet, in my heart, I really feel that the best years are still to come."