CN: Now, let's start off, first of all, with what's happened over the summer. In our last interview, after the spring scrimmage, you talked about making sure these guys got in to do what they needed to do. Did you get them in and did they do what they needed to do this summer?
Bowen: Oh yeah, by far, yes . . . by far. You can see it in the workouts, you can see it in where we're conditioned and stuff like that. You can see the improvement in everybody.
CN: So, just in terms of . . . we've heard a lot about the offense from Bret and Jason and Todd. Talk about the defense, defensive players, and what they were able to accomplish over the summer, and actually what I'd like to do is go kind of unit by unit, so let's start with the defensive line. Tell us how those guys are looking and who some of the key guys are.
Bowen: Well, the defensive line is looking real good. I could start with . . . we call him ‘Bubba' - you know him as Rashawn Parker - but you tell from the weight room he's real strong, real strong on the bench, real strong on squat. So then moving over to ‘Tuba' (Ahtyba Rubin). I don't even think Tuba knows how strong he is, the way he puts on weight sometimes. Then moving over to the Killer . . . we call him ‘Killer' of course, his name is Kurtis Taylor, but he's far advanced as far as his knee injuries, he's coming on real strong, running fast, running strong, running hard, and then throwing the weight up as well. You know, Killer was always strong, but you see the improvement from just a few months ago ‘til now. As far as the conditioning goes, Braaksma's probably going to be one of our quickest D-linemen. You can see by . . . the running he does is just outstanding . . . outstanding. Braaksma's just real conditioned and real . . . he has another speed - I'm going to put it like that- he has another speed. And then moving on to the linebackers . . . Banks is just lifting the house, Banks is lifting the house. Every day, Banks is lifting the house. And he was already fast, but he's gotten faster. They've gotten our techniques down, as far as running and ‘40' times and stuff like that. And special, individual drills that we needed to learn how to do things, they've worked on that with us as well.
Moving on to Freddy (Garrin). Freddy is coming along, you know, and due to the fact that he was only a freshman last year, we have this mini-camp that‘s really helping everybody, the whole defense has come along, you know, learning the scheme and trying to adjust to different things from last year ‘til now. And myself, I believe I'm getting myself faster; I raced one of the running backs the other day and I wasn't too far behind him at the finish line, so I believe I got a little bit faster as well. But I'm working on getting stronger as well, my bench was one of my weak things but for the most part it looks like it's getting up there. My squat is real good, my power clean was alright. Besides that I'm just . . . repetition is what all of us need, repetition at the defense, getting better at it, seeing it, going through it, learning it on film. They put a lot of stuff on film for us to learn, due to the fast that they can't be around us for the summer, they left a lot of stuff on film for us to go in on our own, and just learn the defense, kind of teach ourself, and then when two-a-days come around, even if we don't teach ourself exactly how to do it, we're familiar with seeing it and how it's done.
And then moving on to the secondary, you know, Chris has done outstanding as far as the summer. Bret's been throwing over there, but I don't see too many passes getting caught on Chris's side. Chris is doing real well. We have rotating safeties coming in and out, working with ones and twos, and Berg, of course you know, is a great hitter. He's working on his cover skills, and Berg is another great, great secondary player for us. James' (Smith) ankle looks like it's 100% and he's out there running all over the place as usual. You know, we've got Devin (McDowell), we've got Drenard (Williams), we've got three or four different corners coming in over on the other side that's rotating in real well, and showing the same type of results as Chris. But yeah, some of the JUCO players that we have coming in, they're showing how hard they can work and how much they want to just add on to what we already have, collectively, as a team.
CN: So, run down some of the JUCOs and how they're looking and doing.
Bowen: Well, Chris Weir is . . . I don't even know how much he weighs but he's a big guy, damn near has a six-pack (laughing). You know . . . but he's real fast, big and in shape, strong from what I hear . . . they lift at their own time in the morning . . . from what I hear he's kind of a big-time lifter. But yeah, Chris Weir is real big and strong, and from what I've seen he's running around pretty good as well. Another guy that sticks out in my mind is Bates, the quarterback. I've seen him run and it's real good, he's running real superb . . . keeping up for the most part, not totally due to the fact that he's been here . . . not as long as we have, but he's running pretty good. Another guy on defense is Allen Bell. Allen Bell is a real good guy I think that's going to be able to come in real early and help us in the secondary, as well as Curtiz (Mathis), as far as on defense, a linebacker, I believe Curtiz is going to be able to help us. I believe Bibbs, Michael Bibbs, is going to be able to help us as well, you know he's catching on real quick, due to the fact that he was a more cover linebacker in junior college, he's coming along real well as far as the run scheme and everything like that.
CN: When I talked to Coach Farrar, who had kind of discovered him, he said that this guy has just really outstanding speed.
Bowen: Yeah, that's what I'm saying, like he's so used to being like a strong safety, covering wide-outs . . . because he's my roommate so of course we talk all the time . . . and he constantly tells me that how he's used to covering wide receivers. I don't know if it was the number one, or the number two or number three wide receiver in junior college that he locked up for the whole game, you know, so just getting him able to stay in the box and come up and hit when he needs to hit will be a big thing, and that's what he's grasping real quick right now.
CN: Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a linebacker that can cover the little guys. Now, in terms of what some of the expectations for this year, I know you've set high expectations. In terms of the work put in, how focused are these guys, or how much do these guys actually expect to win the Big 12 North this year?
Bowen: How much do we expect . . . ? We expect to win it. We expect . . . I believe that's every team in the 12, though. Every team expects to win it. Any team that doesn't, I mean . . .
CN: But you know, when we got a chance to talk to players last year, I can honestly say that we didn't get the sense from the players that they really were expecting to win the Big 12 North last year. Hoping . . . I could say we got the feeling they were hoping, but I don't know that we got the feeling they were expecting, whereas when I talk to guys this year, I'm 100% convinced that they believe they will win it. Does that make any sense?
Bowen: Well, I guess that could hint to why we were 4 and 8 last year. I mean, I can't really understand why people wouldn't think and want to win the Big 12, instead of hoping. But right now, we're just determined, we're determined . . . because of how much work we've put in and how much sacrifices we've made as far as a team, collectively as a team, we just . . . we're not taking no for an answer. We've kind of got that in the back our mind, we're not taking no for an answer. Like, no team is just going to come in here and whup us. That's our thinking, that's our mentality right now. I mean, we work hard, we give ourself to this game of football, to Iowa State, so we've expecting very big things, you know. I'm not saying we're going to go 12 and 0, I'm not saying anything like that, I'm just saying every game is going to be a fight. Every game is going to be a fight, a dog fight.
CN: A couple of last questions . . . between now and the beginning of two-a-days, what's going to take place in terms of the team and the effort?
Bowen: Well, you know for the most part, we're not shutting it down at all. We might have a week off at the end, but hopefully everybody doesn't go out of control and just kind of blows off what we've already done, and . . . everybody I know, I know we're not going to do that. But for the most part, everyone's going to finish up this week and next week with the weights and whatever running we have to do, whatever conditioning. Go home, to their families or whatever, get their home-cooked meals for a couple of days, and then . . . honestly, that's a great time for break, because you get your mind right, because you know when you come back it's time to go to work for real. Because once two-a-days pop off, two-a-days go so quick, next thing you know you're at game week already. Because our first game is what . . . the 30th? So it's going to pop off real quick, so our mentality is to finish off this week and a half, whatever the case may be, go home, you know, get our minds right, come right back and get ready to go full speed ahead, I mean there ain't no looking back after that.
CN: Final question . . . One of the challenges, it seems, to a lot of college athletic programs is folks just . . . whether it's basketball teams or football teams . . . is off the field. As one of the leaders of this team . . . I really believe that this team will win the Big 12 North, if they stay healthy and there's no off-field foolishness. How do you as one of the leaders, and how do the other players ensure that off-the-field issues don't become an impediment to this team realizing its potential?
Bowen: Well, what I get from your question is basically how do we plan to control off-field distractions and stuff like that?
Bowen: I mean, me being put into a role as a leader, you know . . . I'm not going to say I'm going to watch everybody because it's kind of like you've got to police yourself at the same time. I'm going to make sure, if I'm around a group of teammates, I'm going to make sure to do my best to control the situation, if there becomes a situation. But, honestly, everyone on the team has this goal in mind, to do big things, so I seriously doubt that someone on this team is going to damage that, damage the goal of many for the goal of one, to do what that one wants to do that night or that afternoon. We all have that same mind-set right now, that we are trying to accomplish something big, that's probably never been done here in Iowa State history, so we've collectively, as a group, decided to have no distractions. And there's many leaders, I mean, I'm a leader because, I guess, I'm a starter and whatever the case may be, but there's many leaders. I considered myself a leader last year . . . or the year before when I was just maybe more of a role player. I mean, you can be a leader from any standpoint, and I would hope that if anyone else, even if not considered a leader by the public or by the team itself, but someone on the team, if they would see something negative happening that might damage the team as a whole, to step in and say something, or do something within their powers to stop whatever's going to happen.
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