CN: I want to just start off with getting an idea of your assessment of spring ball, basically three months removed. As you look back on the first spring ball season, give us some of your thoughts as we head into summer.
Bolt: Well, I think we put in our basic defense, of course, in spring ball, and our kids did a good job with it. We got in our base, which was our 4-3 . . . and since the summer has been going through, our weight coach . . . of course, we cannot meet with them or anything like that during the summer, but our strength coach has done a good job with our kids, and they're getting stronger, and they're doing everything that we're asking them to do and, you know, we're excited about the upcoming fall and what we have a chance to do. Now, how are we going to do? We're going to take one day at a time and go through the same thing during two-a-days that we did during the spring and try to get better. And that's sort of been our philosophy, with Coach Chizik, on both sides of the ball. We put our base in, and we go back in two-a-days and do it again, and then we game plan for Kent State. So that's sort of been the plan here for the last three months.
CN: Now, Coach, as you mentioned, you couldn't have contact with the players, so what have been the things that you've been working on since the end of spring ball?
Bolt: Well, we can't do anything with the players, matter of fact. The only thing we can do with the players is they can lift and our strength coach can run them. We can't do anything as far as football with them. And so they can come in and look at film on their own for the spring, and that's what they were doing, and they can go out and throw and catch on their own. But as far as us getting together with them and doing anything, we can't do that. They've got to basically do it on their own, and you know, they've been doing it; we've got all of our kids here for the summer. But the main emphasis that we've gone through this summer is the strength and conditioning part, with our players with Coach Sheppard, and . . . getting in shape. You know, he can run them and do those kind of things. So that's what our kids have been doing, and going to summer school.
CN: And I understood that; we had a chance to talk to Coach Sheppard the other day. What I meant was what things have you been working on, as the defensive coordinator.
Bolt: Okay, we've got together and what we like to do is, we like to game-plan our first four opponents, which is Kent State, Northern Iowa, Iowa and Toledo. And then we go through and we look at every opponent that we play. But we basically do a game plan on the first four, a summer game plan, and look at what they're doing and try to formulate a game plan. And then, of course, we've sort of sectioned our season off into three four-game sections . . . Kent State, Northern Iowa, Iowa and Toledo being the first four. The second four being, in a stretch, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska, that being the middle stretch; and then the last stretch not in any order or anything, but Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Colorado. And that's sort of the four segments that we look at in coaching, and that's the way it sort of came down for us. And we've looked at every one . . . of course Coach Chizik has played them when he was a Texas and so he's got an idea about those people, and me coming from Birmingham, I played Missouri when I was at Troy, but hadn't really studied anything that the other teams in the Big 12 have done. We played Nebraska, of course . . . But that's sort of what we do, we sort of take in as a three-segment deal and study our opponents and try to familiarize ourselves with them.
CN: In terms of the reports that you've been getting from Coach Sheppard . . . we had a pretty extensive breakdown of the offense. What reports have you been getting from Coach Sheppard about the defensive players? Let's begin with the guys who were here from the spring. What are you hearing about them in general and then we'll go through some specifics.
Bolt: Well, our leader on defense is, of course, Ace Bowen. He was the lead tackler in the nation last year, and was an All-American. . . and the thing that he's done, he's put on weight. We got here and he was like two hundred and . . . oh, I'll guess eight or nine pounds, and now he's over two-twenty, and he's got a chance to go on and make some money. But he's our leader on defense, and he's done a good job this summer, matter of fact he's fixing to graduate, in December, which is probably the number one thing for him, and so he can move on to that situation. Jon Banks is our other linebacker, that was moved from safety, and he's gotten bigger and stronger. And then our two inside mike linebackers are both young kids, Fred Garrin and Jesse Smith, are two kids, and Jesse being a walk-on, that . . . they've changed their body types, and Coach Sheppard's done a good job with them. In the secondary we've got a lot of young players. Caleb Berg has been a kid that's played for us, at safety, so he's back and we're excited about him; he‘s our leader at secondary. We've got about four or five guys that are competing right now to be the starters, and we look forward to them to get back and compete in the fall . . . Singleton and Dre Williams and people like that, that we're looking to come on who have played a little bit. And then probably our biggest surprise has been up front.
CN: Well, Coach, before we get to up front, you talked about what Ace has done in terms of his body. What are you hearing in terms of the other guys, the secondary, as far as . . .
Bolt: They're all doing what we asked them to do, and they're all getting bigger, and they're all getting . . . you know, they're in shape because he's been working them out . . . and it's an everlasting process, you know, it goes from day to day, and they take one day at a time, and they'll be in shape when we get them July 31st, when they report.
CN: Now, how are they doing as far as . . . I know speed and explosiveness were two of your priorities. What are you hearing as far as those developments?
Bolt: Doing good . . . we've got kids that can run, it's just getting them bigger, you know, getting them bigger and changing their bodies, and that's what Coach Chiz talks about all the time, and getting stronger . . . and the thing that I think Coach Sheppard's going to do when we come back is . . . we took a picture of them when we got here, in their shorts and whatnot, and we're going to take another picture of them in July to see how their body has changed. That's a big thing for them kids to see, how their body has changed with the weight-lifting and the running, and all that kind of thing. So that's going to be interesting to see, once he does his final results at the end of July, right before we get started, to see the progress that they've made. And so that's the exciting part for us here the next two weeks.
CN: I know a lot of people have an interest in how Adam Carper is doing. What's the word on Adam Carper?
Bolt: Right, Adam Carper did not go through spring. He started fourth last year for us and did a great job, and he had a devastating knee injury, and he hasn't been able to do anything. He's getting better; we're hoping to get him back sometime . . . I don't think he'll be ready for when we get started, but I hope we'll get him back as the season progresses and for him to come on, because he was a really good player for us last year and we hope we can get him back, but right now he hasn't done anything. His knee is getting better every day, but that's a wait-and-see-situation as far as when he gets back, but I don't think he's going to get back at the beginning of fall camp.
CN: Now is he somebody who could possibly be redshirted?
Bolt: He's got one year left, he's got one year left after this year, so no, he's already had that situation, so . . .
CN: So he can't get a special medical redshirt or anything?
Bolt: No, we've looked into that . . . but no, he got hurt after the fourth game last year.
CN: One of the other kids, too, I know some folks are interested in . . . Zac Sandvig.
Bolt: Right, right. He had a good spring and a good fall camp and he's probably our best catcher returning punts. He started off as, I guess the number five corner. Of course they all started off . . . we didn't know anything about them, and he's fighting for playing time, and had a real good spring and he's doing good this summer so we're excited about seeing him, you know, he's a local kid from Des Moines, and he may be our punt returner. He's an exciting player that can run . . . he can really run and he's getting nothing but better.
CN: I'm curious. I look on the roster and they've got about 15 D-backs. I know one of your primary concerns was getting two-deep. How do you manage that many D-backs coming into two-a-days?
Bolt: Well, you've just got to see which ones are the best and get them reps, and of course you want to try to see everybody. And of course the thing that we're excited about is getting the junior college kid in here, Allen Bell, in the secondary. He's a kid that we signed that we think's a really fine prospect, and then at linebacker, Michael Bibbs, who came from a junior college over in Mississippi. Those are the two kids in the secondary and linebacker that we think got a chance to come in and help us . . . and how quick just depends on them. Allen got here this summer and Michael's still taking some classes, but we look for them to come in and compete, and hopefully they can help us, and then we've got the up-front guys that we'll talk about here in a minute.
CN: Just curious about Allen and Bibbs, what reports have you heard from Coach Sheppard and his staff about these two young men?
Bolt: I think they're good; they're doing everything we ask. They're just like the rest of the kids, you know. They're just like the rest of the kids; they're in there and they're working and they're getting used to the way that we do things, and so it's a situation that we just throw them in there and they're good.
CN: Now, the line. The line is just so vital in terms of the ability to control the game. We heard Coach Chizik talk about it in his early press conferences, how important two-deep was, getting these guys 35-40 reps and being able to bring other folks in. Talk about the line, and you mentioned at one point . . . a pleasant surprise, so let's begin there and then we'll go from there.
Bolt: Okay, at the defensive end spot, at our strong end, Kurtis Taylor and Braaksma, Tuba (Rubin) and Rashawn Parker are the four guys that are line-ups as starters. And they're all working hard and they're all doing good and they've changed their body and they're doing everything we ask and Coach Pelton's really doing a good job with them. Probably a surprise this spring was Bailey Johnson, who came on and he's playing both nose guard and 3-technique and he had a good spring. The Frere brothers have both played and they've done good, and then we've got the junior college kids coming in that we look to come in with Chris Lyle and Weir and Mike Tate, and those are the three kids that we signed to come in and hopefully they'll get in here and compete and make us better there. There's a lot of competition everywhere on defense, you know, really the only guy that has . . . all of them have played, but Ace Bowen is the one guy that we can hang our hat on, and we're trying to get more leadership on defense, and they're doing it . . . they're doing it in the weight room and that kind of deal, so . . . it's an ever-going process but the guys up front have really done well, and Mike Pelton's done a great job with our front guys and Shawn Raney and Jeff Koonz coach our secondary, and they're very energetic and do a super job. So, we're going to take it day by day and try to just get better every day and like Coach Dye said . . . I was raised by Pat Dye, played for him and coached for him . . . and he always said, "You either get better or you get worse." And we think our kids are getting a little bit better every day, so we'll see once we get going.
CN: How are they . . . we've heard they've been doing their camps and they've really been taking a lot of initiative. One of the thinks we've heard from Coach Sheppard is that Bibbs has sort of taken charge of the incoming class. What have you heard about some of the intangibles . . . when I interviewed Coach Farrar he was really high on this kid, and what have you heard about some of the intangibles with him?
Bolt: Well, I think, you know, he can run. That's the main thing, you know; Michael Bibbs can run and that's why we signed him. The number one thing on defense, at any position, is speed, whether it be up front, at linebacker or in secondary. And that's the one thing that we're really excited about, that he can run. Now, how fast he picks up the defense, we'll see when we get started. But he can run, he's a good kid, and seems like he's pretty sharp, so we'll see. I don't really know right now. He's an unknown because he's new and I haven't seen him, so we'll just have to wait and see.
CN: Now, Tate and Weir came in here with some size on them. They were listed with size; have they . . . do you have any reports on how much they may have bulked up? And then a couple of guys, Kurtis Taylor and Braaksma, you had some high praise for them. . .
Bolt: Yeah, yeah, they've done well. They've done really well, and they've gotten better. Braaksma was probably our best defensive lineman in the spring, as far as . . . and he's an undersized guy, that plays inside, and of course he played last year, but he‘s one of them guys that brings his . . . you know we talk about bringing their lunch pail to work every day and that's what he does, and he doesn't say anything, he just goes to work. And that's the kind of guy that he is, and he's not a vocal guy, but he leads by example, and he's a guy to look forward to . . . when the time gets tough, he's the kind of guy that you want in your foxhole.
CN: Where do you-all as a coaching staff see these guys in terms of their motivation? A lot of the publications have picked Iowa State toward the bottom; I think they're going to be proven wrong. But how are the players approaching the season in terms of their expectations and being motivated?
Bolt: Well, I think our kids are . . . of course when the change happened they were a little . . . they didn't know us and we didn't know them, but the thing that we've said is . . . Somebody asked me one time, "You didn't recruit them, so they're not your kids." Well, that's true. We didn't go in their home and talk to their mamas and daddies. But now that we've been here, we've met their mamas and daddies, talked to them, we put them through an off-season program that . . . not everybody made it; we had some kids leave. . . and now, these are our kids. And Coach McCarney did a good job of bringing these kids in here. They're hard workers, they want to do good, and now that Coach Chizik and the new staff has gotten in here, they're our kids and they're our players and they're what we've got and that's what we've got to go to war with. And hopefully some of these junior college kids can come in and give us some extra . . . player-wise and whatnot, but we're going to win with what we've got here, and motivation-wise, I think these kids are hungry and I think the Iowa State people are hungry, and the thing that I attribute it to is . . . when I went to Auburn in 1981 it was the same situation. The coach had been let go and the Auburn nation was just like the Iowa State nation, it was hungry and wanted to win. And it took us a little time at Auburn and it'll take us some time here at Iowa State, too. The Big 12 is a great conference to recruit to, and we're excited about our relationships with the Iowa coaches, getting to know them, and of course we've got great . . . our bases in Texas and Florida where we've got a lot of contacts . . . we've got contacts all over the country, you know, we signed a couple of kids from California, we signed kids from Florida, Texas, we signed them from Maryland, that's where some of our other players are from. So we're going to go all over the country to find a player, because Iowa State . . . you can recruit to Iowa State. We've got a good campus, we've got a good school and we play in the Big 12, the best conference in the country, so it's a good selling point, and we're excited about getting this thing going again.
CN: One of the things that you mentioned is that you can recruit to Iowa State. I had a chance to meet with some former players last week and they loved Coach McCarney, absolutely, but they were impressed with some of the things going on . . . but we got into a conversation about the offense and defense, and the offense, at times the line wasn't always recruited as heavily but the defense seems to be ‘next man in' a lot; someone would get hurt and a Berryman would step in, or a Tyson Smith would step in, or a Jordan Carstens would emerge. You know, Coach McCarney always seemed to be able to put a defense on the field that was competitive. And last year, when everybody thought the defense was going to be a weak point, despite the injuries and everything, it showed up every week. As the defensive coordinator, have you found the cupboard to be more stocked than might have been believed at first, and what has been your impression of the talent that was left here for you?
Bolt: You know, I think that you always want better players, and we've got good talent here . . . you know, we've got to find more. The kids have got to step it up and get their bodies . . . we've got to get our bodies looking like a Big 12 team. That's sort of the thing that we came into when we got here. We weren't very strong, and we didn't look . . . you know, when you walk out on the field you say, "Wow, that's a good-looking team." And that's sort of been our goal with Coach Sheppard . . . and you had a great visit with him . . . speed and quickness and power and agility is everything that goes with it. And we've got some players, and we've just got to get more. But more than that, they've got to believe in the system. The players are the ones you've got and that's what we've got. And they've got to believe in your system and they've got to believe in your coaching staff. It's not what happens when times are going good, it's what happens when times are going bad, how you react. Just like you talk to your family all the time, and I talk to my wife about that. It's not how you handle the good times, it's how you can handle the tough times. It's like when you're down 14 points in the first quarter . . . what are going to do? Are you going to lay down or are you going to fight back and get back in it? Or you're up by 7 in the fourth quarter, you know, you've got to go up and stop them and be able to score again on offense. Those are things that we're trying to talk to our kids about, you know, in the spring, and believing in one another and taking care of your business and . . . never leave a fallen teammate down. And that's one of Coach Chizik's big sayings, and never leave one upended . . . and always, always take care of them, so that's what we're trying to do with these kids.
CN: Without getting into too much detail, we know recruiting is a big part of this, you talked about recruiting nation-wide, but how's the coaching staff feeling about the guys they're getting to commit . . . up to date?
Bolt: Well, getting guys to commit is fine, but you've never got a guy until he's on the line, and all these commitments and all that's fine, all over the country you see it happening. And you know, just because you've got a commitment, that doesn't mean you've got him. You've got to work him, and you've got to work his family and you've got to work his coaches and the whole thing. So all the commitments are fine and all that's fine and dandy, but the bottom line is . . . and I'm a bottom line guy, whether it be in defense or in my family or in recruiting or whatever it is . . . but the bottom line is when you've get them on the line, that's when you've got them. So that's the deal and we'll find out come February when we have Signing Day.
CN: Absolutely. But in terms of how you're feeling in general, though, do you feel like you're getting some of those players that really fit this system and that we'll have a really positive Signing Day?
Bolt: Yeah, we think so. We think so. And then of course there's a long way to go; it's still just July. We've got six months to go, six or seven months to go on this recruiting thing and you know, we'll have to wait and see. It's an unknown right now; we've got some kids that have said they're interested in coming to Iowa State, but we'll see come February.
CN: How big a challenge is it with some other programs trying to poach some of your players? Obviously this is a staff that has eye for talent, and I imagine that if Coach Chizik was able to bring in some guys . . . you know, the J.J. Bass and the Wallace Franklins, who could have played in a lot of places . . . because as we did the interviews, they said, "We can come here and compete and play." But do you find sometimes that the bigger schools say, "Whoa, we didn't know about this guy, but if he can play for Coach Chizik, then maybe he can play for us." And all of a sudden they pop up in terms of competing for that athlete.
Bolt: That's right. Recruiting is a very inexact science and you've got to go with your gut feeling, and you've got to . . . number one, you try to pick a good person, and then you've got to go to the athletic ability, and the family. And there's a lot of things that go into trying to figure out who's the best for you and a lot of times you've got to do it by need, and that's what recruiting is, you know, in some recruiting classes you may just have a need for linemen or skill or whatever it is, and you can't take but so many, and each school can't take but so many, and that's why . . . everybody is recruiting nation-wide now and finding out the best people, but you've got to take care of home, and that's our goal and that's Coach Chizik's goal, you've got to take care of the state of Iowa and you've got to take care of Nebraska with Omaha being close, and Minnesota and St. Louis and those kind of places, so you've got to take care of home and then you go where you can get the . . . best available player.
CN: A couple last questions, Coach. First of all, how are the players doing health-wise and grade-wise heading into two-a-days?
Bolt: Everything's going good. It looks like we're not going to lose anybody grade-wise, and health-wise, like you mentioned, Adam Carper's doing better and we've got some other kids that have been banged up a little bit, but we didn't lose many kids in the spring, and that's a tribute to Coach Sheppard and his staff as far as getting them in shape and getting them stronger and eliminating the injuries before they happen. Because when you're stronger and you're in better shape, you have a tendency not to get hurt, so that was a tribute to Coach Sheppard and his staff and our players. And our players are working hard and we're looking forward to getting them in here July the 31st and getting ready for Kent State.
CN: Last question then would be . . . what's the plan, the defensive plan going into two-a-days? What's going to be the regimentation or routine as the two-a-days start?
Bolt: Two-a-days are going to consist of going back and doing exactly what we did in the spring and getting better at it, and we don't do a lot of things on defense but what we do we want to get better at it. Of course, as everybody knows, defense is an adjustment situation . . . you've got to adjust to everything that the offenses do, and we're going to go back, when we get back in two-a-days, we're going to go through all the different adjustments against our base defenses, both defensive and our blitzes, and get better at them and run the things at them that we saw in the spring, and then after we get that, then we'll move on to the next segment. So our kids are working hard at that and trying to get that down, and when they do, then we'll move on, but we're excited about that.