CN: First question I want to ask is just . . . talk about what's been happening since the end of spring ball to now.
Blythe: Well, basically they've just got us back in the weight room and lifting and running real hard. We've been going four days a week this summer with Wednesdays off as kind of a rest and recovery day, and we lift and we run every day and, I'm not going to lie, it's a lot different than what we've done in the past, in past summers, as far as how we're running and the things we're doing, but we're definitely . . . I think we've had a great summer so far.
CN: Well, talk about what's different.
Blythe: Right. I think just the overall philosophy of what Coach McGettigan had compared to what Coach Sheppard and the rest of the guys here right now have. With Coach McGettigan I think it got to the point where we were hurting for depth at positions and things like that, and I think we almost got into a more . . . I don't want to say just ‘injury-prevention,' but we kind of got away from just lifting a lot of heavy weights and just getting in the weight room and moving weight, which is really what we do now, I mean, we go in there and, you know, Coach Chizik has said from day one, "The two things in the weight room are gravity and steel, so go move ‘em." And that's what we've been doing, I mean, he piles as much weight as we can handle, and a lot of times more than we can handle, and they tell you to get a spot and go at it, so that's what we've been doing all summer.
CN: Now, Coach Sheppard talked about explosiveness. Talk about what you're feeling in terms of those two goals of developing speed and developing explosiveness.
Blythe: Yeah, that's something that we work on every day. Every day we have an explosive movement, at least one, in the weight room. A lot of days we'll do plyometric work whether it be squat jumps, split jumps, jumping over hurdles, things like that in the weight room, and then we'll go outside and we've done a lot of work on the hills this year, trying to build explosiveness and build speed. So we've done a lot of hill work; we've done a lot of stuff . . . just all-out, just quick-starts and carrying your sprint speed through as far as you can, where in the past we did . . . more long-distance running, like 300-yard shuttles and things like that, where this year we're doing all that stuff but we're also incorporating a lot of shorter 30-40 yard sprints, where we're actually just working on speed and explosiveness. He says the only way to get faster is to run faster, so that's what we're doing.
CN: So how are you feeling personally? I know Bret mentioned that he's put on about 10 pounds. Talk about how your body's transformed under this process and how you're feeling.
Blythe: Oh, it's night and day what I looked like when I got here. They took pictures of us when we first got here in January and they took pictures of us last week, what we look like now, and my body's changed completely. I mean, when we weighed in in January, I was 205 pounds and when we weighed in this Monday I was 215.8 pounds, so almost 216 pounds and my body fat percentage has actually gone down, so I was about 3.6% body fat. So, everything that we've been doing, just I think the philosophy being different is something that my body could really take and could really adapt to, and so I've definitely seen a lot of change in my body and my explosiveness and just my overall performance in the weight room and also out there running on the field.
CN: So you're bigger, faster, stronger, more explosive.
Blythe: Yeah, definitely, I mean that's their whole goal, as it is with any football team, I think. But it's definitely paid off just because our bodies were kind of used to one way of doing things, how I've done it the past three years, and all of sudden switch things up and your muscles are doing things that they aren't used to and you can definitely see the change right away.
CN: So then . . . and I've got to ask this question . . . deep down, you kind of believe that this is going to get you to Sunday, don't you? I know that's not the ultimate goal, the goal is this season, but deep down, you're kind of believing that this is going to help you get to Sunday, aren't you?
Blythe: Well, I think this will definitely take me in the right direction as far as that goes. Obviously, like you said, I'm all focused on what we can do this year and this season, and to be honest, having a good season on the field and winning a lot of games is going to help me to be able to reach that ultimate goal of playing in the NFL, more so than lifting a bunch of weights and stuff like that, but yeah, I definitely think that this is going to improve my performance on the field. Obviously I've already noticed a lot of difference as far as strength, just how my body looks, how it's put together, and speed-wise, also. So yeah, I think it will help me a lot.
CN: Now they've talked about the players have really done a lot of work on their own. Talk about some of the efforts that have taken place amongst the players to really organize workouts, to really provide leadership in the off-season.
Blythe: Yeah, they . . . the coaches have really turned a lot of things over to us. I mean, we stretch every day when we go out to run, after we lift, when we go out to run, the coaches just leave us alone and we stretch ourselves. We go through a real detailed stretch and make sure everybody's real loose and they leave everything like that up to us, just trying to build leadership with the seniors or just the guys that have played a lot and have the experience. And then also twice a week we're having mini-camps where everybody's coming in for an hour or so of film, and having a meeting with no coaches, just players watching film, breaking down tape, and going out for a just players-only practice for about an hour, hour-and-a-half. And that's gone really, really well this whole summer; it's real organized, and I think all the players have really bought into this is what we need to do to get over the hump and, you know, get to the elite level and the high level of the Big 12 where we want to be. And all the players have really done a great job with that so far this summer.
CN: Now are these things that they did in the past?
Blythe: We've had, as far as here at Iowa State, we've had 7-on-7 and things like that in the summer that we did . . . nothing ever this organized. We've never come in and broken down tape. Guys have come in on their own and broken down tape and just watched some film but never really would we come in and all get together as a position group and as a unit. Like for me, all the receivers will come in at 6:00 and watch film for a solid hour and just make sure we know exactly what we're doing that day before we go out to our little players-only practice, which we're calling mini-camps, and then we go out there and we run through drills; it's not just, you know, go out there and stretch and then get into 7-on-7. We make sure we go through drills and we work on all the little things that we can before we get into 7-on-7 and actually fly around in a competition setting.
CN: How are the receiver group looking? Walk us through some of the individuals because clearly this is a strength of the team.
Blythe: Right. Well I think for the most part people are going to be surprised. I think we'll be a lot bigger and a lot faster than we were last year. I think as a whole unit . . . myself, I already know I can feel . . . and from what people are telling me and the coaches and things, I already know I'm a lot faster than I was last year. Obviously, I've put on about 10 pounds, 8, 9, 10 pounds. Marquis Hamilton, I mean he's about 217, 218 pounds and, you know, he's a big kid. Milan Moses is about 205 pounds now. R.J. Sumrall's right up there. Euseph Messiah's a guy that's going to surprise a lot of people, I think. He got his feet wet a little bit last year at the end of the season; he's a guy that . . . he's got super-quick feet and he can make guys miss in the open field and we're going to try and exploit that and give him the ball early and see what he can do with it. He's put a lot of weight on and he'll surprise a lot of people, how strong he is, too. And we've got young guys like Houston Jones and guys like that coming up that should really help out this year.
CN: One guy that I think a lot of us are excited about seeing what he can do . . . JUCO All-American who was really heavily recruited . . . Wallace Franklin. Give us your impressions of him.
Blythe: ‘Crazylegs‘ . . . He just got here, I'd say probably two weeks ago, and that boy is skinny. (Laughing) He's got to go home and eat some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but he can fly. I mean, we've seen just in a couple of 7-on-7's what he can do, and he can really get out there and run. He's a guy that's going to able to really back the safeties up and blow the top off the defense if they're sleeping on him, because he's a guy that can flat-out run and he's going to be dangerous, I think. You put him on the other side of the field and people aren't going to be able to cheat to one side or the other; they're definitely going to have to respect what he can do, because he can go deep, that's for sure.
CN: You're thinking you're going to see some man-to-man this year, aren't you?
Blythe: I hope so, I mean I'm going to go into it thinking I'm going to get probably doubled like I did last year, and if I don't, then I'll definitely . . . I think I'll be able to capitalize on any kind of one-on-one situation. But I think we definitely have the receivers this year, across the board really, the depth to make sure people can't just single out and double up on one guy, that they've really got to respect everybody out there on the field that we're going to line up, because we've got a lot of playmakers at wide receiver this year.
CN: How are the QB's looking?
Blythe: They're looking sharp; they're looking real sharp. Bret . . . he came in, he looks like he hasn't missed a beat from the season to spring ball to now. He's real crisp on all throws, he knows the offense. Just being a three-year starter and coming back for his fourth year, you can just tell he's been through the fire and he knows exactly what to do and what reads to make. Austen Arnaud has made a big . . . he's made leaps and bounds of where he was last season, to where he was in the spring, and then to now, as far as just understanding the concepts and understanding how fast the game moves. And Phillip Bates is a guy that's in here right now and he's . . . I think his head's swimming a little bit as to where to throw the ball and where to look, but when he lets it go, he's got a cannon on him and he's super athletic, so he's going to be one to watch out for in the future, too.
CN: He's got some physical gifts?
Blythe: Yeah, he definitely does. He can move around, he's a big kid, he's pretty strong for coming in as a high school senior. I think he's only 17 years old right now, to be honest, he's pretty young but he's definitely got a big arm on him and he's going to be a player.
CN: Has his mom been sending him care packages?
Blythe: If she is, he hasn't let me know. I could use some cookies or something, so I'm going have talk to him about that.
CN: I interviewed his parents at the spring scrimmage and she was missing her baby already.
Blythe: Oh, I'm sure. Well, he is the baby; I think he's about the youngest one on the team, so I'm sure he's probably calling home every day right now.
CN: Now, in terms of the running backs, I just interviewed Jason. We hear he's looking good, but . . .talk about how the running backs are looking.
Blythe: They're looking real good this summer, just watching them go through drills. Jason Scales has always been a guy that's had super-quick feet and he's strong, he knows how to finish a run; he always finishes going north. So we kind of know what he can do after seeing him healthy, finally, in the spring and if he can stay healthy this season he's going to . . . I think he's have a real big year for us. Jason Harris is a guy that . . . you get him out on the edge and nobody's going to catch him from behind, that‘s for sure. He's definitely . . . he had a real good spring, he can lift a ton in the weight room and he's super fast, so it's going to be interesting to see what he can do. One guy I'm real excited to see what he can do once we get pads on is J.J. Bass, just got in a couple weeks ago. And I mean, that boy's put together; it looks like he can run, he can cut, so he should be special to watch this season, too.
CN: What about Cameron Bell? Coach McFarland mentioned him. He said he's a big kid . . .
Blythe: Yeah, he is. I think he's about 225, 230 right now. He's real big and he's definitely probably the bruiser or the thunder of the crew. But he can move, too. People will think . . . you look at a back that size and think he can't run, but he can definitely run, too, so he's definitely another guy that's got a bright future ahead of him. We've got a lot of young guys on this team right now that should do some things in the future.
CN: Sounds like when Coach Sheppard gets done with him, he's going to be about 235, 240 . . . a rock.
Blythe: Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised at all. Coach Shep definitely knows how to get you stronger and get you faster. I've seen that just in the few months that I've been here, and to be honest I wish I had another year with him, but I'm going to put in my time right now and get as much out of him as I can.
CN: When we talk about the line that's been something that folks have really been curious about. I want to begin with that part of the line that can contribute a little more on offense, and those are the tight ends, and then talk about the other linemen.
Blythe: Okay, well as far as tight end right now, you know we've got Ben Barkema coming back. This'll be his fourth year playing a lot, third year starting . . . and I mean, he's like a coach out there when we get to 7-on-7 and stuff. He knows the offense better than anybody out there, so he's a huge asset to have. And he's a great blocker; we've seen that in all the years, and he's really a threat in the passing game, too. People sleep on him because he's just a good blocker, and think that's all he can do, but he's really good as a receiver, too. Derrick Catlett is a younger guy that will really be a receiving threat for us, I think. He'll get there and he'll be in the weight room and he'll learn how to get better as a blocker, especially learning from a guy like Barkema, but he's definitely dangerous in the passing game for us.
CN: What about Collin Franklin from the College of the Canyons? Has he been in?
Blythe: Yeah, he's another kid that just got in and he should do some good things for too. I mean, we've got . . . a lot of the juco guys that have come in I think should play a lot this year and really help us.
CN: Now, let's get to the other linemen.
Blythe: Well, so far we've got the JUCO guys in right now. Dedrick is a guy that's really impressed me this summer and in the spring, just as far as what he can do, athletically, on the line. He's a real quick guy and he's pretty strong, too. I think they've got him up to about 285 or so right now, so he's putting on some weight, and by time we get to the season he'll actually look like a Big 12 lineman, but he can definitely move around and pull for us, and get after some people. And then we've got guys like . . . you know, the big, heavy guys like Tibbs and Stephens and . . . they get their hands on you, you should be locked up with those guys.
CN: Now, we've heard a lot about Schmeling as emerging in terms of leadership?
Blythe: Yeah, he really is. He's had a real good summer; he's a guy that kind of stepped up in the spring and did some good things, and then this summer stepped up even more, and you can see him kind of taking a leadership role with that group of linemen. And he's a guy that can play a lot of positions for us; he can play guard, he can play center . . . so I'm sure they'll move him around and find the best spot for him. But he's a guy that will definitely be out there fighting for us.
CN: How are we set at center?
Blythe: Well, it depends on who we've got out there. Like I said, we've had Schmeling, we've had Anthony Walker. So there's quite a few guys that they're rotating in and out, just to find out best group of five and where that five is all going to fit right now.
CN: You mentioned that Dedrick's put on some weight. What about the other linemen?
Blythe: Well, I'm sure they're all . . . well, whatever they need to do, whether they need to slim down or whether they need to beef up, I'm sure they're taking care of business. Sometimes I don't really know exactly what-all's going on with that group, other than when I see them at 7-on-7, so . . .
CN: What are your expectations for the season?
Blythe: I'm just excited to get started. I think . . . we've talked all along this summer in the locker room just as far as what we've been doing, the work we've been putting in, the kind of shape we're in . . . I think we're going to surprise a whole lot of people. I'm not going to go out there and say a number of wins, whether we're going to win six, seven, eight games, but we definitely as a team, we have our goals and we definitely expect to do real good things. And you know this is my last year; I've got to get things right this year, and I don't think we'll be sitting at home in December, I'll tell you that.
CN: Last question, then. What do you-all need to do between now and the beginning of two-a-days to really be ready?
Blythe: Just keep doing what we're doing, just keep working with Shep and Beck in the weight room and keep getting stronger, keep running and stay in shape, and . . . get healthy and get ready to go for tour days.
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