CN: You guys had a chance to put on pads the other day, Saturday. What was that like?
Blythe: It was good. It was nice to be able to throw the shoulder pads on again and get out there and do some hitting. I know the defense really liked it because they get to do the hitting and we've kinda got take it. But it was nice to be out there in full pads again and it felt like football again.
CN: Now, what is the offense looking like? I know it's only three days in, but what is it looking like so far compared to last year at this point?
Blythe: Well, first off, it's a different kind of offense, it's a different
scheme than we've run in the past.
CN: In what way?
Blythe: Just so far this year we've focused a lot on throwing the ball. I'm sure we'll get more into the running game, but at this point the throwing stuff is maybe more complicated at this point so they're trying to put that in early and get us used to it, and that's something that we've really been emphasizing in practice so far.
CN: Are you one of the primary targets they're using, are they using all the receivers? I just talked to Ben, is the tight end being integrated more? Give us an idea of some of the specific things you're looking at so far.
Blythe: Specifics is kind of hard to do at this point. We've only had three practices, but I will tell you that I know that this is going to be a wide-open offense, and everybody's going to get involved. It's not going to focus on just one or two guys, you know, at times we'll have three, four, maybe five wide-outs out there and when we do have tight ends out there, they're out there running routes, catching balls too, so I know that the ball's going to get spread around. The great thing about Bret is he doesn't just lock into his first read, or one or two guys, he always scans the whole field, and he's going to hit the open guy regardless.
CN: How's Bret Meyer looking so far?
Blythe: He's looking really sharp. He's actually surprised me, I mean, just the whole offense has surprised me, just on how sharp we look for the first three days of spring ball. You know, coming off a long layoff, we didn't have a bowl game this year so we had about an extra month that we sat around and didn't throw the football a whole lot, just lifted weights, but I think the whole offense has looked sharp and we've had three, I think, really good practices. Obviously there's room to get better and there's a lot of stuff we need to work on, but I think we've been pretty good so far.
CN: In terms of as a unit, obviously the offensive line has been one of the big questions, but also the coach has stressed being able to run the ball. That's going to be critical. What's the running game looking like from your perspective?
Blythe: I think it looks good, you know, we moved Jason Harris back to
running back, he played DB last year, and I think that he's got great speed and
I think that'll add a little more pop to our backfield. Obviously Jason Scales
is healthy again and he's been running great, and he's just a real quick,
powerful runner, and Josh Johnson got a little experience last year and he's the
same kind of guy, just quick and powerful and can get to the outside, too. But
running the football is something that you have to do in the Big 12 to win, you
can't just rely on throwing the ball all the time, and I think the coaches know
that and as we get farther into spring practices we'll put more of the running game in and we'll really emphasize that, and I'm not worried about it for next year.
CN: Coach Sheppard talked about teaching speed and explosiveness. I
talked to a former Iowa State player, I interviewed Coach Sheppard for about 40
minutes Friday, and I talked to a former Iowa State player afterwards, and he
said he was actually faster as a senior in high school than he was as a senior
at Iowa State. With the emphasis on speed and quickness, explosiveness,
what have you seen so far in terms of their ability to help develop that
and what are your
expectations regarding that area of emphasis?
Blythe: Well, Coach Shep is . . . he's proven in his being able to develop strength and speed. I think he was real involved with getting the Mack Brown speed camp started down when he was at Texas, and that's kind of his specialty is developing speed, and I think that's something that we're really going to get into. We did some of it in the wintertime, but a lot of what we concentrated on in the winter was just building strength. I'm sure we'll do a lot of that in the summer. I can already feel myself getting faster, just from the drills that we've been doing and the lifts that we've been doing in the weight room. I mean, it's proven his track record; he knows how to make guys faster and get guys ready for the next level.
CN: As a receiver, how does that make you feel? And I heard that ‘next level.'
Blythe: That makes me feel great, just because as a big tall guy a lot of
people lump you into the category that you're just a possession receiver, and
although that's not really been my M.O. since I've been in college, the idea of
building speed always sounds good to any player, but especially to a receiver,
DB, or somebody like that, just because you know that you rely on speed a lot in
that position, and I know working with Coach Shep and Coach Becton and all the
back there in the weight room, that they'll be able to do that, they'll be able to make me faster.
CN: In terms of, you know Bret had made the comment about the first
shock in terms of 4:30 in the morning, and obviously Coach Sheppard, he takes a
very scientific, very diverse approach to conditioning. What was that experience
personally for you, and just in terms of the difference between last year and this year?
Blythe: Well yeah, like Bret told you, it was a shock to get up that early.
You have get up early, you actually had to get up a little bit earlier than you
thought you would, just because you have to be up and ready to roll at that
time, because you can't walk in there with sleep still in your head and your
eyes still low, you know, you've got to be up there and you've to be ready to
roll, because as soon as that whistle blows they expect you to be moving a
hundred miles an hour. And I think that's something that we got used to and
something that we've really . . . I think as a team that kind of thing
really brings you together, getting up that early, and I think it definitely
team and made us come closer together. It showed us how to work when you're tired and showed us how to work . . . just together. That's one thing that we always preach is, you know, never leave a fallen teammate, and Cyclone family and things like that, and getting up that early and helping guys make things through and finishing drills, that really, that definitely benefited our team.
CN: Are you guys going to win the Big 12 North?
Blythe: That's definitely the goal. At this point . . . I'm not going to go out there and say any predictions about wins or winning the Big 12 titles or anything like that, but obviously that's our goal every year, and that's something we're focusing on right now.
CN: That's a goal, but obviously there are no guarantees. Is there a sincere expectation and belief that you guys are going to win the Big 12 North?
Blythe: Absolutely. I think everybody in the locker room believes we can, and
if somebody in the locker room doesn't think that we can win the Big 12 North,
then they don't need to be in that locker room. That's kind of the attitude that
we're taking. We definitely believe that we have the players and we have the
skills and the talent to do so, it's just a matter of putting it together.
We've been on the doorstep two of the last three years, with the exception
of last year, and it's time for us to get over that hump and we need to break
top group of teams in the Big 12.
CN: Final question, how has the competition . . . you know everybody says, "Well, they lost all these offensive linemen." But how has the competition and the opportunity for the guys up front, how has that affected their work ethic, their enthusiasm, their excitement. Have you noticed or observed anything unique about them you can share with us?
Blythe: Yeah, I think the guys up there right now, they always worked hard.
You know talking about guys like Anthony Walker, Tom Schmeling and some of those
guys, they always worked hard, but at the same time they always saw the Aaron
Brants, and the Fishers in front of them, and those guys probably weren't going
The thing now is, it's wide open, and they're not given a spot, but at the same time, nobody in front of them is given a spot. And so I think the intensity is probably definitely turned up, they still have the great work ethic that they've always had, but I think the intensity and just the excitement to have a chance to go out there on Saturday and perform for 12 Saturdays in the fall is really exciting for them and exciting for us, just because we get to see what they can do on the offensive line. They've done a great job so far in these first 3 practices.
CN: And Brandon Johnson?
Blythe: Yeah, he's doing real well. We actually had a great day, they protected Bret real well on Saturday when we had the pads on; I don't think Bret got touched once when we were throwing the ball.
CN: Alvin didn't get to him?
Blythe: He says he did, but you know Ace, he's going to tell you he got to
him, even if he was 20 yards away, so I don't know. I'll have to go check that
one out on film.