Q: Are you figuring out the depth chart . . .
Bolt: Yeah. Yeah, we're starting to . . . you know, everybody's still competing and we won't make a final decision, of course, until right before we get ready for Kent State, probably. And we've got some kids coming in that we hope can help us. But you can't count on those. You know, hopefully you can count on the junior college kids because they're a little bit older, but . . . you know, it's hard for freshmen to play in this league. But the kids we've got now, they're starting to get a hang of the defense and, you know, every day and every meeting and every rep that we take, they understand . . . what's the good part of it and what's the bad . . . the strengths and weakness of the defense. And what we try to tell them is what's . . . this is the weakness of it. Every defense has a weakness and every defense has a strength. And they're starting to learn the concept and that's gratifying.
Q: Secondary looks like it's wide-open.
Bolt: Yeah, I mean, they're battling every day. Up front we've got three corners and, you know, we've been hurt at safety a little bit, which has hurt them a little bit. But the thing we hadn't done, we hadn't lost many kids at all to injury. Usually in the spring . . . and that's a tribute to Shep, you know, Coach Shep and his people getting them ready for spring and getting their strength up . . . But you know you hate . . . you don't want to lose people to getting reps, and we haven't done that. We've been very fortunate. And I think that's a tribute to going full speed, too. When you get hurt, you're not going full speed and I think the kids are learning how to play full speed.
Q: Talk about Alvin Bowen.
Bolt: Alvin had a great spring. He's our leader, Alvin's our leader. He's a heck of a player. And he's playing within the defense now. He's learning the strengths and the weaknesses and he's the leader of our defense and he's the leader of our football team . . . And I think our kids are taking his attitude now on defense and the football team. And that's what I've told him. You know, he plays with emotion, he plays with passion, and he's a heck of a football player. He just needs to get better at the little things and he'll be fine. He'll have a chance to go on to the next level, I believe.
Q: If you had to play today, who is next to him at linebacker?
Bolt: Matt Leaders . . . Matt Leaders is behind him right now. Right now Fred Garrin is our starting Mike. Him and Jesse Smith have been going back and forth at Mike. You, know, one day one and one day the next. And Jon Banks has really done a good job at our strong-side linebacker and Derec Schmidgall, a walk-on, has done a good job at Sam linebacker, too, and we're sort of moving them around now to . . . just to see what they can do as far as playing all of them. We kept them at one spot for the first three weeks and now we're sort of moving them around to see what they know . . . but right now Alvin and Fred and Jon are the three guys that are lined up number one right now.
Q: I know you won't know until months from now, but I would think Adam Carper could fit into that mix too.
Bolt: I hope so. Adam played a lot last year, before he got hurt, and you know he's had that bad knee injury and he's doing great, he's doing great. I just hope he'll be able to get it straight and get back in tour days. I had a chance to watch him on film and he's a good player . . . So we get him back and get the junior college kid in here, Michael Bibbs, and the freshmen we got and, shoot, we'll throw it out there and see what happens.
Q: Coach, October 2005, "American Football Monthly," you had an article. Talk about that article and . . . you remember it? (Laughter)
Bolt: You know . . . there's no big secrets in this game. You know, it's blocking, it's tackling. . .There's no big secrets in scheme or anything. If a coach wants to talk ball, I'll talk ball. And I've always said, when I was young if I could get guys to talk ball with me, shoot, I'd sit there for hours. And that's what we do now with these high school coaches that are coming in; they want to sit down and talk, shoot, I'll talk to anybody. But I like to help people, you know. Our way is not the only way; there's all kind of ways to skin a cat. We believe in what we believe in and if somebody can get something out of it that'll help their situation, that's great. You know in this profession you learn something every day. I do every day. Every day, every single day you learn something, and if you stop learning you need to get out of it, that's the way I feel about it. And I think that's the way, in life, in anything, whether it's your job or my job or whatever, you learn something. So that's sort of been my deal, is if folks want to . . . if somebody will read an article and get just one thing out of it, I think it's worth doing it.
Q: How much do the other players, and even some of your defensive coaches . . . I know some of them work with you. How much do they pick your brain? Or how much just pure strategy . . . I know a lot of the spring ball has been technique, it's been conditioning, but beyond that, how much of it gets into the X's and O's?
Bolt: A bunch. We put in . . . We've probably put in 80% of what we're going to do. Of course, you tweak things every week. We're putting in our base defense and . . . of course we talk every day as far as making sure we're on the same page, you know with verbiage, making sure we're all teaching the same thing. So if I say something, it's not a surprise if the defensive line coach . . . if Mike Pelton says something, we all want to be on the same verbiage. Which we have, for years, but at the same time, we've been at different places, and it may be the same thing but it's been called something different. So we all want to be on the same page and when we tell a kid something, we want him to be able to say, "Alright, that's what it is." So we just make sure we're all on the same page, and talk about the things that we've got to talk about and go from there.
Q: Following spring ball what is going to be the regimen for the players? I don't know how many hours you can have contact with them. So how many hours can you have contact with them, and then what will you as coaches be doing between now and the beginning of fall ball?
Bolt: Right now, we're basically done with the players. Coach Sheppard's got them. They'll go into their finals, we're fixing to have finals . . . and we're fixing to go on the road recruiting in the month of May. We recruit the whole month of May, the end of April and into May, so all the coaches will be on the road recruiting all over the country, you know, for next year. So we've got the last of April and the month of May where we're recruiting, then we come back and we've got camps; the first couple of weeks in June we do our high school camps. And then we'll be breaking down the film of the people we play; we'll take a look at all the people we play just to . . . you know, we don't know much them, so we'll do that in the summer. And then after camp we'll take a break, we'll go on vacation, and then we'll come back in July and get ready for tour days, and then we go into tour days.
Q: And when do two-a-days days start?
Bolt: We start in August, early August. We've got camps up until the last week of June and then we'll take, you know, a couple weeks off and go on vacation with our families and whatnot. And then we'll come back at the end of July and get ready for pre-season football practice.
Q: Now do the players get to have, once spring ball ends do they get to have formal contact with the strength and conditioning staff?
Bolt: Sure. Sure, Shep's got them. Shep's got them the whole time. He does the off-season program and . . . he's in the weight room with them, he's running with them and . . . we get ‘x' amount of hours, I think it's eight hours a week. . .
Q: Does that include the summer?
Bolt: Sure. Sure . . . He's got them. . . so they're basically with him, and they're in and out looking at film, they're in and out studying film themselves. It's 365 days for the kids. It really is, it's all year round now. They'll get a little time off after exams and come back for summer school.
Q: Now, I want to talk about four of the JUCOs you've got coming in, and obviously you won't know how they fit in until they get here, but Bell in the backfield, Bibbs, Weir, and Lyle. Can you talk about those four players. . . and Tate?
Bolt: They're all . . . we think they're heck of a football players. We expect them to come in here and contribute, and whether they do or not, that's going to be up to them. They're going to be here in the summer and so . . . they'll be working with Shep in the off-season program, and getting with our kids and that type of thing. So at least they'll be here, acclimated and at least it won't be a true surprise. Most of the freshmen will be here all summer, too. We can pay for their summer school. So most of them will be here and so it's not like the old days when the freshmen and the junior college kids came in during tour days, and it was a shock to them when they first got here. So they'll know everybody and they'll be acclimated, they'll know how we run our program, you know, through Coach Sheppard because he does a great job and we're looking forward to that.
Q: Now the team has had very few injuries and one of the philosophies of Coach Sheppard was a lot of flexibility, a lot of things that . . . he had a fancy term for it, I think it was plyometrics or something . . . that really minimizes injuries, but how is the team doing academically? What's happening on that front?
Bolt: Chad Grotegut is our academic guy, him and his staff do a great job as far as tutors and keeping up with the kids and letting us know how they're doing. If they're not doing good, then we can help them with that as far as going to class or whatnot, but our kids basically . . . there's not been any problems as far as that kind of stuff. But he keeps tabs on them and he lets us know how they're doing, and if they need a tutor he takes care of that. But our kids, academically, seem like right now are doing good. Of course, we'll see after exams, but I think we're fine academically.
Q: Who else other than Bowen has emerged on the defense as a leader?
Bolt: I think Braaksma, he's a guy that played end for us last year and we moved him inside to a 3 technique. And you know he just, he doesn't say much, but he shows it by working. You know, he brings . . . I told him the other day, I said, "You just bring your lunch here and you just eat it, don't you?" And you know, he's that kind of kid. So . . . we're looking for leaders and we're trying to get more and more kids to do that and . . . but Ace is our leader and, like I said earlier, if they'll all take his personality, I think we'll be fine.
Q: In terms of . . . obviously you haven't made any redshirt decisions, but in terms of the philosophy, the general philosophy behind redshirting, what's the philosophy there?
Bolt: If they're ready to play, we'll put them out there, but if they're not, we're not gonna put them out there. Some kids want to be redshirted, some kids . . . or course most of them want to play. You know, they all come in from high school, they were the stars of their team, and they want to play. And sometimes they can, sometimes they can't. I've seen quarterbacks, and I think quarterback is the hardest position there is to play . . . but I've seen true freshmen come in and play. Offensive line, it's hard to play as an offensive lineman because they're not developed, you know; skill folks are a little easier to play because, if they can run, they can run. How well they pick up the offense or defense, that's the other thing. But we won't put them out there unless they're ready to play, and if they're ready to play, we'll play them.
Q: Are there any goals in terms of . . . just physical size or . . . that you've set for some of the defensive players?
Bolt: One of the best linebackers that I ever coached was 210 pounds. Coach Chiz coached a kid at Auburn, a middle linebacker, weighed 205. He was All-Conference, all-SEC, so size . . . of course you like to have them big and fast and strong, but a football player is a football player and you know, if he can run and he'll hit . . . some of them don't have to run, if they run fast with pads on, that's the key . . . some of them run faster than other ones, but, you know, size doesn't make that much difference.
Q: A couple of last questions . . . I know that speed has been a premium, what does their game speed, what does their game quickness and explosiveness look like?
Bolt: Looks good, looks good. I think, you know, the thing that we talk to them all the time about . . . once you learn the defense or the offense, you always move faster because it's all reaction. If you're sitting there thinking, then you're not moving very fast, and . . . once they've got a feel for what they do on run, pass, there's a lot of stuff going on in there, and . . . them big linemen are coming off . . . and you've gotta play run, you've gotta play pass, you've gotta play screens . . . I mean, once they learn the defense and recognize what's going on, then they play faster. And that's why I think it's gotten better as the spring's gone on, because they've learned the defense, and now instead of thinking and reacting, they're reacting and going.
Q: Last question, Coach, and I know you're not going to give any recruiting secrets away, but just give us a general overview on how recruiting's looking, what the response has been like, and where that's going.
Bolt: I think it's great, you know. Of course we've got to make a stand here in Iowa, you've got to take care of your home base first, and our clinic . . . we've had great response; we had all the high school coaches in here . . . and you know, the recruiting deal is two-fold. We've got a good list right now and we've got a chance to get some good players right now. Now, Signing Day's not until February, and kids change their mind . . . and they're back and forth, but Scotty Fountain, our tight end coach/recruiting coordinator, does a super job, coordinating our recruiting. And our coaches do a great job. Coach Chiz has said that before, when we got here . . . our staff is unbelievable as far as just work. So that's all you ask. And we're ‘people' people, and that's what recruiting is; it's salesmanship, selling our school and selling our football program and selling our head coach, and if we can just keep doing it and keep getting the ones that we think we can get, and get some of the ones we're not supposed to get, then we'll be fine.