Gene Chizik Transcript: 3/31

Saturday was the first big scrimmage of spring practice. In case you missed our audio of Gene Chizik's press conference afterwards, check out this transcript of what he had to say.

Q: How's the energy level here?

CHIZIK: Great energy level! You know, right now we're halfway through spring ball and the thing you worry about as a coach is what is the tempo going to be like? What is the energy level going to be like? At this point in time they're beat up, they're tired, it's been very physical and the energy level was high and the tempo was good, so we're right where we need to be in that.

Q: Is it anything like what they may have expected coming in? This being such a new relationship between you and them, do you think it's a lot tougher than they had expected?

CHIZIK: You're going to have to ask them; I'm not sure what they expected. Our expectations and our standards are very high, in everything they do. That's effort, that's being physical, that's being responsible for doing your job the way we're asking you to do it. So there's a very high expectation in everything we do. And if they're not doing that, we're putting pressure on them to get that done. And so they're trying to respond; obviously there's a lot of new things going on, but again, they're doing the best they can. It's never a problem about effort. When they get tired, it's concentration. It's little things that you battle, that everybody battles all the way across the country, but it's certainly not effort.

Q: What about, as you go through now, you've had a couple weeks to evaluate players, who's maybe a couple guys on defense that are kind of catching your attention or making some strides?

CHIZIK: Well, I hate to single anybody out. I think our defense, as a whole, is gaining ground. I think they're trying to play physical, which the first thing we're asking them to do. Next thing we're asking them to do is play within the defense. If they'll play physical and play within the parameters of what we're asking them to do on defense, then we'll have a chance to be okay on defense. But without me singling out a guy, just overall as a whole, I think the last two practices we've definitely gained ground.

Q: Have you been pleasantly surprised by anything that you've been learning about these players, pleasantly surprised about maybe how good they are, about how dedicated they are, anything like that?

CHIZIK: I really am. I hate to use the word ‘surprised' because that means I didn't think it was that way to begin with, but these are tough kids and they've been through a lot, as I said before, but their effort and their ‘want-to'. . . I mean they want to do it right, they want to be good, they want to be physical. That's where we're the most pleased, because they're trying to please us as a coaching staff. And again, we're always going to have mistakes that we've got to correct, but I'm very pleased, I don't know if ‘pleasantly surprised' is probably the way to put it, but very pleased with their toughness, and their enthusiasm and the tempo that they're able to keep up in practice.

Q: Coach, on Monday, you stated that developing depth in the defensive line was a top priority. How's that coming along?

CHIZIK: We're getting there. Again, we're making sure that we're working a lot of people in practice. We're trying to develop eight, but we've got to work on our first four, and then we'll move to the best six, and then we'll find our best eight. So we're working in that direction. I think they've made a lot of strides; Coach Pelton has done a great job with those guys, with them understanding tempo and being physical down there, because that's where it starts and if we don't have a defensive line that can play two-deep, then it can be a long day for your defense.

Q: How about Rashawn Parker? He had kind of an up-and-down year last year?

CHIZIK: Doing a nice job . . . doing a nice job, really trying to pay attention to details, and really trying to do what we ask him to do. Obviously he's undersized, and those are some of the challenges he'll face every week in this league, but pleased with his effort and pleased with his attention to detail.

Q: What was the scrimmage structure today, Gene, and how many plays did you get in?

CHIZIK: Well, we went about 90 plays, and we started out with a short skel and then a blitz period and then we went about 90 plays, so today was a physical day. We put them in all different kind of situations that we feel like they're going to have to play every week. That's red zone going in, that's ball coming out on the one, that's sudden change issues, things that we just know during a ball game that they've got to face and they've got to be good at. They can't be good in situations and understand what we want them to do unless we're putting them in those every day in practice, and so that's what we tried to get done today.

Q: Did Meyer continue to work with the ones, then, as a quarterback and about how many snaps did he take?

CHIZIK: Bret, it was probably . . . he probably took 50 or so today. It's pretty close to half and half. Bret's doing a nice job and he's working on picking up the offense and, again, a guy that really cares about football and wants to be good, and that's who he is.

Q: You said coming into training camp that this team had a lot to work on. How do you, as a coach, how do you approach that? How do you try not to do it all at once?

CHIZIK: Well, I think it's baby steps, you know, our football team has got to work in baby steps, and you know that's not just offense and defense, that's special teams, it's technique issues, it's a lot of things. But we're progressing step by step; we won't move to step B until we feel good about A. And so if we were looking to put in more offense or more defense and we're not ready to do that, then we just backed off, and we'll put it back a day. So we're not going to jump the cart in front of the horse, until we're ready to move in that direction.

Q: Is there more progress on one side of the ball than the other right now?

CHIZIK: I wouldn't say so; I'd say right now we're both progressing. Again, it's baby steps. You know, there's issues that happen in a football game that we've got to get better at. Turning the ball over, explosive plays on offense, we're not getting enough of them. Defense right now . . . getting more turn-overs, being more physical. So, everybody's got their issues that we're working on getting better, but everybody's got issues that we've really improved on. So to say one's really ahead of the other right now, I wouldn't necessarily say that. We've got a long way to go with both, but again, we're taking baby steps.

Q: Coach, with all the recruits coming in in the fall, you know, a fresh new batch of players, isn't it a little bit tough to make a concrete statement about . . . you know, "We have these guys that are going to play D-line," and etc., etc. Because a lot of the team that might be on the field next year isn't here yet.

CHIZIK: Oh well, absolutely. And what we're trying to do is solidify a two-deep so that when the guys that are coming to compete for a job, we know who they have to beat out. And so, yes, in answer to your question, we have to be able have something here for them to come in and beat out, so that's what we're working toward. Then when the new guys get here, again, it starts all over in the fall, and may the best man win.

Q: What about you, are you feeling more comfortable here in Ames these days? I mean, are you feeling like you are at home?

CHIZIK: I really am, and it's . . . you know, football practice, once everything started, and we're kind of getting into the football end of things, it just kind of puts you where you want to be. And you know, this job and being in touch with the players every day and being around the coaches every day, and us mingling with the players every day, that's what makes you feel at home. And we feel good about that, we feel good about Ames being our home, and you know, everything's pretty much going on time, like we thought.

Q: What kind of coaching do you foresee as you go through? Will Bolt and McFarland kind of have autonomy to call plays a little bit, or how do you picture yourself handling that on a game-day situation?

CHIZIK: Absolutely. I have to have somebody to blame it on. (Laughter) So, they'll have full autonomy, but . . . yes, the offense and defense is theirs. You know, I have my input, I have my input on personnel, I have my input on what we're doing and what we're running. But game day . . . it's their show. I don't feel like there can be more than one chief, there's got to be one chief to call it, there's got to be one chief that gets the feel and the rhythm of the game, so that's their job on Saturday, my job is the overall management of the team and management of the game, but again, during the week I certainly have input on what's going to happen, but on game day they've got it, it's theirs.

Q: As an old D-coordinator, will that be tough a little, because you're used to being that guy?

CHIZIK: You know, I don't know. That'll be interesting. I've got so much faith in Wayne, and we're doing on defense exactly what we're both comfortable with, so . . . I'll have a little input here and there, but I just think that if you meddle too much on game day, that you can get those guys out of a rhythm and they've got to get in a rhythm calling plays on both sides of the ball.

Q: What about practice here, do you still get that itch on the defensive side to say, "Oh . . . I want to step in right now."?

CHIZIK: You know, you do, and I still coach them now out there; I still coach them when I see things that need to be coached, on both sides of the football, but again, in practice it's really . . . it's what we're doing in the game. I mean, he calls it in practice, he scripts it, and I kind of coach on the run.

Q: Coach, you have a couple of West Des Moines kids, Zac Sandvig, also Patrick Neal was on campus as a student. Has he been in practice this spring?

CHIZIK: Absolutely. Yes, both of those guys are doing a nice job for us and again, just trying to work for a position.

Q: Coach, do you have a guy, maybe on both sides of the football, who has really kind of stepped up in a leadership aspect?

CHIZIK: Yeah, I do. When it comes to leadership, they're the guys that you would think. ‘Ace' has become a really good leader on defense, and the more comfortable he gets with the scheme, you know, obviously everybody knows that he was a good football player last year, but he's starting over. And the same thing with Todd and Bret on offense. But you know, leadership isn't a position, it's an action and you have to earn that. You can't select a leader and expect everybody to follow him; so those guys have earned it, and it's starting to come out a little bit more in practice every day as you see it build. So those three guys, if you just stand back and watch, those are the guys that are capturing the leadership of our team right now, and the players are listening.

Q: You've broken down their comfort level a little bit. Have you seen them start to get back into that comfort level where they feel comfortable stepping back into those roles, where maybe before they were a little bit hesitant because of the new relationship?

CHIZIK: Right, and I think that's what it is right there. They're getting comfortable with being able to lead. Again, you lead when you feel comfortable leading, and I think they're getting to the point with the coaches, the schemes, and the football team to be able to lead, and I think that's why you're seeing a little bit more as practice goes on.

Q: Coach, I know you weren't here last year, but secondary had a lot of inexperience, a lot of guys playing out of position. How much progress have they made this spring?

CHIZIK: We're proud of the secondary right now. They've really caught on to what we're trying to get accomplished and we really feel good about the strides that they're making as a whole. I don't think anybody's just stepped to the forefront and just won it outright, but . . . very attentive to details. They understand, right now, that the pressure is on them. The bottom line, there's a lot of pressure on them, and they've responded. So we're happy with where they're at. Obviously they're like everybody else; we've got a long way to go, but we're pleased with where they're at at this point.

Q: You talked about Alvin Bowen, he led the nation in tackles last year. How does he improve from that?

CHIZIK: He's gotta get more tackles. (Laughter) Again, I think with Alvin it's a matter of him playing physical football. He's got to play like an All-American. I mean, that's what he's got to play like. So, if he's going to do better than he did the year before . . . stats don't always tell the tale. You can play and have a lot of stats, and not play within the defense, and get your defense killed, so what we're working on with Alvin is we're working on him playing within the defense, and playing physical, and still making plays like he did last year, which right now he's really working in that direction.

Q: Coach, you talk about his job being different this year. Just briefly, ISU's been known for defense in the past years. What is going to be the main difference between previous years' defense and your regime?

CHIZIK: That's really hard for me to say, because I haven't studied exactly what they've done in the previous years, so that's hard for me to say. I just know that we're going to play one way, and that way is going to be physical, and it's going to be attacking defense, and that's not an option.

Q: Are you going to get captains picked before the end of the spring here?

CHIZIK: We will not. No.

Q: It won't be until in the fall?


Q: Coach, Jason Scales and Milan Moses . . . Coach Boulware talked about Jason Scales, Coach McFarland talked about Milan Moses this week after practice. How are those two coming along, in your estimation?

CHIZIK: They're coming along well, and . . . as everyone knows, Milan had a freak deal at the beginning of practice on the first day, but he's doing well, and without me trying to comment on an injury, because I don't think that's fair, he's coming along right at the pace we think he ought to be.

Q: And R.J. Sumrall, he's been a champion hurdler and obviously can run, but how is that translating, in your system, to his performance on the field?

CHIZIK: R.J.'s doing a nice job for us. He's in a pack of receivers that they're all vying for a job and he's competing and doing what we're asking him to do and he's trying to be a physical receiver that catches the ball, and that's what you have to be in this league.

Q: So Milan's not full go this spring then?

CHIZIK: Right now he's just, we're continually getting him better.

Q: Last year at the Spring Game, it was the ones and fours against the twos and threes, they spotted the second team 20 points. How will you run your Spring Game this year?

CHIZIK: Well, we haven't got a chance to talk about it in depth right now, simply because, we'll call that closer to the time. Because, injuries will play a part, and see how banged up we are, but right now that's going to be a 14th practice for us. It's a practice and we have to use that as a practice; it's not going to be a dog and pony show. So will it be done in the nature of a game? I don't know, we'll wait and see and we'll play it by ear as we go.

Q: Is everybody else healthy?

CHIZIK: We're good to go.

Q: Was Jason Scales running with your ones?

CHIZIK: Yeah, Jason Scales obviously is the top back coming back, simply just because he's been there and done it, so that's where he is.

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