Jeff Koonz Interview Transcript

The defensive backfield is another place where competition is wide open this spring. In case you missed the audio earlier this week, read this transcript of our interview with Jeff Koonz to find out the latest.

Q: Coach, how's the secondary looking so far? You have some guys back who had a chance to play last year. What do you think so far?

JK: I think they're coming along, right now they're learning system, they're learning the techniques, there's a lot of new stuff that we've thrown at them in the last couple weeks, and they're picking it up, and what we're asking them to do right is, when they're out there for an hour and a half or two hours, to stay focused on it, and just continue to get better. And they're doing that, and I'm really proud of them the way they're coming back right now. There's some ability back there, and we've just got to keep working on the techniques and learning the entire package as it goes together.

Q: Where are they in terms of their speed, their conditioning? I know Coach Sheppard's a big believer in teaching speed. Where are they in terms of their speed, their explosiveness right now?

JK: You know, I think it's a great building stage for them right now. Since Coach Sheppard got here in January, they've been doing a ton of work and a ton of great things and it's done nothing but make them better as an individual; it's going to make the team better, and they understand that. I think that it's a continuous process. There's never a finished product; they can always get more explosive, they can always get bigger, faster and stronger, and I think they are. And I think right now they're seeing so much improvement in that area that they're all just buying in, one after the other, and now it's when it jumps to the next level because they're just really taking it in stride.

Q: How physical are they?

JK: You know, even before I came here to Iowa State, I was in a position where I got to see these guys on tape from time to time, and I was always impressed with the physicality of these guys, and how they play football, and that has held true since I've been here. They are very physical kids and they really, really take pride in being a physical team and we're going to keep pressing that, and they're doing a great job of that so far.

Q: Who played with the 1's today?

JK: Right now in our red group we had . . . hold on, let me think here . . . we had Drenard Williams, we had Chris Singleton . . . James Smith and Caleb Berg. And right now we're telling our guys, we're stressing we don't have a depth chart; there is no depth chart. Our red group is the guys we have out there in that group, and we have a gold group and we have a white group. There's no depth chart; it is open season right now, we're not into inheritance and we want guys that are going to do it right and play hard, and they're all playing really hard right now, and they all understand that. So, in actuality there is no depth chart back there.

Q: What did you see in the scrimmage today that you liked, and what do you see that still needs some work?

JK: I think right now I really like the way the guys are understanding what we're trying to do. They're understanding that for those two hours we're trying to improve them overall, we're trying to continuously build in different situations. We're putting them in different situations throughout the day right now, whether they're backed up to the goal line, whether they're going in, and they're understanding that and they're playing smart right now. I think there's a couple of drives there where the offense got going and we've just got to remember to keep playing, keep playing and we're really trying to stress that. But on the whole, I think the effort was really good and I was pleased with where they're going today.

Q: Coach Chizik said that he is bringing in the JuCos with the hope that they're able to contribute right away. There's a guy that I have to ask you about. Allen Bell, talk about him and what you know about him and what your . . . at least hopes, are for him.

JK: Well, I know he's not here yet, and I know he'll be here this summer and we're looking for him to come in and learn these techniques and . . . the guys that are here right now have a head start and he's going to have to come in and learn that, and put his nose to the grindstone and work and if he's ready to contribute, then he's ready to contribute. If he's not, then he'll have to keep working. But Allen's a great kid and we're looking forward to getting him here and getting him as a part of the secondary, and we'll see how that goes. He's just got to get here.

Q: What do you think of his physical gifts?

JK: Obviously he's got a lot of physical gifts. He's a big, tall, rangy corner, he's played both, we're looking to him coming in here and playing the corner position, and he's got some things that I can't coach. He is a six-footer and he has some size to him, along with his speed. So . . . he has all the tools; now he just has to learn the techniques and learn what we want out of the guys.

Q: Is there one area where you've seen the secondary make a lot of progress this spring?

JK: In my opinion, one area that we've been stressing is just our overall pad level. We want our secondary to have a really good pad level, not play high, and I think they're making strides, they're understanding why it's important not to play high. And I think as a whole right now we're learning what pad level really is, and what technique really is, and I feel like in seven practices they've come a mile in terms of technique and pad level.

Q: Now, explain that for our readers.

JK: Well, right now as a secondary we're got to be able to play full-speed backwards. It's a special position. And we can't do that if our center of gravity is high. We can't change direction on the drop of a dime, we can't flip our hips, so you're got to maintain pad level at all times, and the guys understand that and it's just really important right now as a secondary because we have a very, very small margin for error, and if we make a false step here, or we get too high here, that receiver can burn us in a heartbeat, and everybody knows it. We're the last line of defense, so if we have one thing that's off, it shows, and the whole stadium can see it.

Q: Coach Chizik said that the guys back there have felt a lot of pressure, know that there's a lot of pressure and have kind of risen to the challenge. Do you feel that, that maybe they know that there's a lot of . . . a lot of people are counting on them to improve and be there once the season starts?

JK: Absolutely, and I think that goes for any football team. I think the defensive secondary as a whole right now is going to have more pressure on them, because if they make a mistake, it's a touchdown. And I think as a whole right now, they are understanding that. I think they really do, and I think they're understanding how to be a smart team, you know. "Is it a deep ball down?" You know what I mean? And they are responding to that. So yes, I would agree with what Coach said.

Q: In terms of where these guys are, mentally, right now, I had a chance to see after the second practice, Coach McFarland and Coach Sheppard had a couple of guys, they were running them, they were having them do up-downs, Coach Sheppard was pushing them as far as . . . you know, he said, "My chicken's getting cold." "I know you don't want any of this." And I mean he just worked them hard, and after they came off the field I watched them. They just looked like it was Christmas. They just really looked very excited, where in the past these guys might have looked a little down or dejected. Where are these guys mentally, and how much have they bought into the Chizik system?

JK: I think you kind of answered your own question. They came off and they understand what we're trying to get. And I think they all understand, to a man, right now that if they don't get it, we're going to hold them accountable for it. And I think they are really buying in, and you know we constantly talk to them about, "We're going hold you accountable to do the right things, whether it's technique, whether it's on the field, whether it's off the field." And I think they've bought into that. It starts with Coach Sheppard; he was the first one that got them when we were on the road recruiting and all that. And he's done a phenomenal job in the weight room and in that area, and I think as a whole now the guys are excited, they really are. They're excited, it's a new beginning and I really think they are buying in, to answer your question.

Q: How excited are you about being part of this team?

JK: I wake up every day with a smile on my face. I tell you what, I've got the best job in America; you know, I really feel fortunate to be doing this and to be doing this at a place like Iowa State, in a town like Ames. I'm really, really happy to be here right now. I know a lot of the staff, I've known a lot of the staff for a long time. We're very close. Obviously my past with Coach Chizik has brought me here, and just to be with him and his family right now is an awesome opportunity for me. But I really am just blessed to be here right now, and look forward to being here for a long, long time.

Q: What do you think of the facilities?

JK: I think they're great. I think right now you look at our stadium right now, it's one of the best in the Big 12 in my opinion right now. It's a great place to play, because of the people in the stands, because what I understand . . . I've never been here for a game . . . but what I understand is we have great fan support and I can't wait to see it. I can't wait to get off that bus and see those fans, and jacked up; and I think our indoor facility, I think our weight room is top-notch and what we need right now, and I'm pleased with where we are. Again, I think this is a great job and that's part of it.

Q: How did the scrimmage go today?

JK: It went great, it went great. The guys are competing, we're loving life, and they're really, really getting after each other but they're understanding what we're trying to do. We're putting them in different situations, they understand the different situations, we constantly talk to them about body language, and no matter what happens we've got to keep playing, and I think they're understanding that. So I was very happy with the scrimmage today.

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