Robert McFarland Interview Transcript

We talk with ISU's offensive coordinator/offensive line coach as spring practice kicks into high gear.

CN: Coach, just some questions here that our folks wanted answers to. First of all, how's Brandon Johnson developing at center?

MCFARLAND: I've been very pleased; Brandon's come in here and the offense . . . really he's the coach on the field for you and I think he's really been assertive in trying to learn the offense and run that offensive line, and I've been pleased so far with his effort and the things he's given us so far. Obviously there's areas that he's going to have to improve in and he knows that, but he's working to do that. So I couldn't be more pleased so far with his effort and everything he's given up, and we're hoping he's going to be able to fill that spot for us this year.

CN: Any sleepers or surprises that are . . . pleasant surprises?

MCFARLAND: You know I think overall we just, we need more opportunities on the field to really make decisions on some people, but I know some of the opportunities given, I think Doug Dedrick, the offensive tackle we brought in here in January, I think has been a pleasant surprise, and you know Doug has come in here and been what we thought he was going to be, like the other ones, his head's swimming right now, but he's giving us great effort and shows great athleticism and does a lot of good things for us. You know we have a couple of players that have experience coming back, Schmeling and Stephens, and I think those two right there have shown maybe more maturity than the rest of them for the game. But right now I think that those are the ones that have kind of stuck out so far . . . Lee Tibbs so far has done a good job; I'm pleased with him out at tackle, and we're once again just giving these guys as many opportunities as we can to improve what they're doing, learn this offense and get better, but I've been pleased with those few guys right there, mainly.

CN: How are the hands of the wide receivers and the running backs?

MCFARLAND: You know, I've been very pleased. We haven't had that many drops in spring. You know I think the first day we went out everybody was so excited and running around so fast, sometimes your body gets to jumping and you don't see that ball as well, but we've really calmed down since that first day and I've been pleased overall with it, we've had a couple of drops but really we've done a great job catching the ball so far, I think, and I've been pleased with that and hopefully we'll continue that and just get better with some routes and understanding of what we're trying to get accomplished.

CN: Coach Sheppard said this is going to be the most physical team in the Big 12. How is the physicality of the line coming along so far?

MCFARLAND: You know, I think it's improved from each practice, we just finished our third one with pads on, and I think they're understanding the pace, them flying around and giving effort has not been our problem at all, and so we've got that every practice and I think they're getting an understanding more of technique and getting physical and learning to finish things, and you see it picking up all around our football team so the competition's picking up and once you pick it up on both sides you improve both ways, so you feel us slowly getting more physical as we go along and hopefully that will continue throughout spring and we'll get this thing peaked towards the end.

CN: How are the redshirt freshmen from last year's class looking so far?

MCFARLAND: You know, so far those guys have stepped in like these other ones. They've come in here, learning the offense as well, too. Obviously they don't have experience. When you come in you pretty much get a couple of weeks, if you get that much, and then you're pretty much thrown on a scout team so those guys have been reading cards and being told what to do for their careers so far. So for the first time they're learning an offense and getting coaching as far as preparation to play, and see if they can play, and so we've had a great response from those guys and I think for redshirt freshman, where they're at right now, their first spring, I think they've caught up to pace, I think they're in there competing and fighting and trying to get themselves some positions.

CN: You have a couple of Ankeny kids that people ask about, Matt Hulbert and Evan Vencil. How are they coming along?

MCFARLAND: Matt Hulbert has done a really great job as far as, in the last three months, just really getting in that weight room and getting strong. He's changed his body just in three months. We've been very impressed with his work ethic and habits. You know, he's a typical freshman; he's just very raw, and what he's doing, it's his first time learning plays, learning the intensity of the college game and being held accountable. He's going to play tackle which is a position that's . . . you're kind of out there on the edge, people know where you're at and who you are. But you know, I think he is going to have a bright future here at Iowa State and we're looking forward to him being a contributor this year and being a factor down the road.

CN: Ben Lamaak, where's he going to be slated, tight end or O-line?

MCFARLAND: We're playing Ben right now at tight end; he's an athletic, big man and right now we feel like he can give us a little physical play right there at the point, so we're hoping he's going to be able to do that and handle all the things that a tight end has to do versatility-wise, and he's been able to so far handle that pretty well, and we'll see how he adjusts to all the running and route running and all that stuff, but so far we've been pleased with him as far as his blocking aspects at tight end.

CN: Beyond Johnson and Walker, is there additional depth at center in terms of experience and how's Doug Dedrick coming along?

MCFARLAND: You know, right now, you're going to always develop centers, you want to get three to four on your team for sure, we have Knapp that's in there, we're getting him reps added, once again another redshirt freshman that's in there trying to do his best to learn things, get things done. Nick Slobidsky, he's in there as well snapping the ball and he's shown some things. We have a bunch of linemen here, trying to get them all opportunity is sometimes tough and you don't want to settle too quick until everyone's had an opportunity to prove themselves. So we've got to make sure we do a good job of giving everybody opportunities to go in there and show what they can do. But those guys, I think will hopefully be able to help us. And then who else did you ask about?

CN: Doug Dedrick.

MCFARLAND: Doug Dedrick, yeah, we've been pleased with Doug so far. He come in and he's playing left tackle for us right now, and he came in from junior college, lost some weight and we're putting it back on slowly. I think Coach Sheppard and his group's doing a good job of getting him bulked up again, but for a guy coming right out of junior college, coming in here, he's obviously played against some good talent so he moves more to the pace of some of those guys with a little bit of experience and that's what kind of helps you a little bit.

CN: A couple more questions . . . Harris has been moved back to running back from defense. How's he coming along?

MCFARLAND: He's someone we really wanted to get a look at there and see what's going on. Our tailback position is wide open and so we wanted to see what he could do and you know we've got to get him some more reps, we've got to get him some more plays as well, I think as an offense we've got to give him more space blocking-wise as far as an offensive line, and see what he can do. But right now we've been pleased with his progress and we're looking forward to him putting himself into a position to compete for that spot.

CN: Last question, Coach. When I got a chance to talk to Ben Barkema, he said that his top priority at tight end is run-blocking, really becoming a good run-blocker. But how do you envision utilizing him or the other tight ends on offense? And then finally, everybody asks about Alvarez and Blaes and you've already answered Dedrick, but they always ask about the three JuCo's and those are the two we haven't talked about.

MCFARLAND: You know I think our tight ends, we're going to have to get them in the game just to help us with our run game, and so, whether it's one or two of them in there, you know, the more the better. But right now we plan on utilizing the tight end more, and hopefully those guys will be able to get us a little more physical point of attack around the game, give us a few more options with the ball, running it. And then . . . we look forward to utilizing them in that capacity. As far as our other linemen we brought in here, Joe Blaes and Alex Alvarez, just like Doug they've come in here and I think we've been very pleased with their athleticism, their moves and their strength and all that stuff, and so we're looking forward to just keep giving those guys reps, and they're in there fighting for positions right now. You know, Joe Blaes is there fighting right now with some little more experienced guards, but he's in there fighting those guys for a spot right now. Right now we're just very unsettled up front. We've got a lot of guys we're trying to get reps for and Alex Alvarez is a very talented young man that has a redshirt year and three years left to play, so he's a young player still. But I have been very pleased with his progress so far and we'll see where he takes his game here in the next 10 practices.

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