Q: Now, Coach, we know how important the defensive line is to the whole Chizik philosophy. Talk to us about where the line is now versus where they were at the end of spring ball.
Pelton: Well, one thing I think that they did a great job is coming back from where they left off this spring. We're still building and we're still working, but they really did a good job of maintaining what they took out of this spring. So, I'm excited where we are. We've got some new guys that's getting a look and some competition out there. Right now they're fighting for playing time, and really just trying to establish being a physical front.
Q: Now I want to get to the guys that were obviously here in the spring, but there are three guys, Tate, Weir and Lyle, who have been brought in. How are these guys looking physically? What's their speed like? Now that you actually have them on the field, give us your impression of them.
Pelton: Well, physically . . . they look the part, physically. They're good-sized, they're good speed, they all can run, but right now they're kind of behind with just the technique that we're teaching here, so we're trying to catch those guys up daily, and just trying to just get them up to speed of where the other guys are with the technique. But they'll be fine, because they're eager and they're hungry, and they're guys that really listen and take culture.
Q: Now, in terms of the front four that we saw in the spring, give us a synopsis, individually, on each of them and where they are right now.
Pelton: You mean the starters, the guys that's in front, or just the total group?
Q: I won't call them starters, because Coach said no one has a job yet, but the four that kind of lined up . . . as the ones, during the spring.
Pelton: Well, the guys that's lining up with the first group right now are Rashawn Parker, he's at the weak end, Ahtyba Rubin is at the nose and Braaksma is at the three and Kurtis Taylor is at the strong end. And they're doing a great job, but you know, they know they're getting pushed because the guys behind them are making a push for their position, and they've been the guys that have been lining up with the first group, but they're all solid, I mean, they're playing hard; it's just, you know, you've just got to continue to get more consistency out of the group. You know, one day they'll look good and the next day it seems like they're struggling with some of the things they struggled with two days ago. And we're just trying to get consistency out of the whole group, and it starts with the group that's running the first team, because they set the tone. But they're working, and I'm excited to see what they're going to continue to grow, as a group, and who knows? Anybody can break in their group, and it's wide-open right now.
Q: So, you mentioned the front four, and I want to ask a couple questions about them, but who would be lining up behind them if we were to have a depth chart right now?
Pelton: Right now probably behind the weak end would probably be Chris Lyle, the guy we brought in, the backup nose right now would be Nate Frere, the backup three . . . it's a tie between Bailey Johnson and Chris Weir. Chris has made some strides in these first three days, and Bailey's kind of a guy that's got to be more consistent. And the strong end is probably . . . Kurtis Taylor is first right now with Nick Frere, the older Frere, playing in, you know, challenging him. So we've got some really good competition going. And those guys, each one of them have a chance to break out into the starting lineup.
Q: Coach, what went into the . . . part of the decision to move Howe from the defensive line over to the O-line?
Pelton: Well you know, as a staff it was what was best for the team. As a coach, I really enjoyed coaching Nick for the spring. He's a guy that just really played with great leverage, but it was one of those deals that it was best for team and it was a decision as a staff and Coach Chizik saw a need, that we needed some depth over there on the other side of the ball, and being a team coach, you know, you hate to see one of your players that you're grooming to play, but you've got to be a team player, and that was the decision, based on that . . . just what's best for this team right now.
Q: Now, Coach, when we look at the . . . I look at the spring first day of practice pictures that we had of the guys, because that was an open practice. And then I looked at the pictures of the guys Thursday, the last day of open practice, and you can physically see a difference in these guys . . . their arms, their calves, their thighs. But talk about your linemen, what they did specifically in terms of body fat, in terms of weight gains, in terms of strength and in terms of speed gains.
Pelton: Well, you know, Coach Sheppard does a great job with those guys, him and his staff do a great job and I can tell you from a coach's standpoint they're physically stronger, they're faster and they're more endurant, with their conditioning. So I just know that they're able to play longer; they're able to do things that they couldn't in the spring, and that's a total attribute to Coach Sheppard and his staff. So I'm just excited about where they are physically and we've just got to continue to work on the football field because physically and mentally they're up for the challenge. We've just got to continue to work and get better every day . . . our motto is ‘Just take the next day.' And that's what we're looking forward to, this practice this evening, and just continue to get better.
Q: With the addition of the JUCOs, it seems that there are numbers there. What will be the process, or when will the process begin to determine . . . looking at redshirting, looking at really solidifying depth? How will that process take place?
Pelton: Well, the only two guys that we possibly could redshirt are the two freshmen, and right now they're not getting reps so, you know, who knows? We'll make that decision when it comes time to make that decision. But that's the only two guys you've got to redshirt, you know, it's a competition deal. Everybody's in the boat, everybody's in the mix to get playing time, so that decision will make its own self about who you redshirt when the playing time comes. I tell them all the time . . . they make the depth chart, I don't.
Q: Now, last couple questions, they finally got to put on pads. How physical was it out there?
Pelton: It was very physical, very physical. I mean, every play was a challenge play and all the guys came out yesterday in the frame of mind that it was going to be physical and, like I said, we're a long way from where we need to be. By no means are we where we need to be being physical, but they try, and they try to do the technique and that's all we can ask them as players, to come out every day and to try to be physical, and I think that yesterday they tried to be, but like I said, we've just got to continue to work on that every day, got to be more consistency with that, just being physical every day. That's our state of mind and that's what I'm going to try to keep them in and that's what Coach Chiz is preaching about, about being physical, so that's where we're at with that.
Q: Last question, has anyone been a pleasant surprise, and has anyone emerged as a leader on that unit?
Pelton: That's what we're searching for, we're searching for a leader to take control of the group, so right now, like I said, I have to do everything to lead the group, but eventually . . . we just keep pushing, keep pushing and we're looking forward to somebody stepping forward. Those seniors are trying to step up and be it, but you know, they've just got to learn how to just step forward and do it right all the time. So, I'm excited about them, I'm excited about all of them, and all of them got a chance to play and that's the best thing for them, is they realize that "I can play this year." And they're coming out ready to work. So, day three, I'm excited about this evening's practice, to see where we've grown from yesterday, and that's basically all we hunt is improvement every day.
Q: Well, I do need to then ask one last follow-up question. How excited has it made these players that in this unit . . . for example when we talked to Coach Chizik he said, "We may or may not play two-deep in the defensive backfield, because it's a little different." But he has said, "I want to play these guys 35, 40, 45 plays because they're being double-teamed." How much more of a motivation is knowing that there's actually 8,9,10 guys you're looking for and not just . . . one quarterback, or that type of thing?
Pelton: That's the thing about it. It's so physical that you know that there's going to come a time somebody's going to be injured, so you have to just try to build depth because it is so physical. And that's the thing about it, you play two-deep, and just try to get two-deep or three-deep, or you can line up and play, but it's such a physical game up front and we're trying to stress that. It's going to come to a point that somebody's going to be nicked up here and there, and we're going to have another guy that's going to have to step up, so I'm excited for those guys that ain't played, the guys that got a chance to play, and I'm just excited to work with these guys. It's a joy to work with them and just continue to push them, and I just want to see a product that the fans of Iowa State and the coaching staff can be proud of when we step on the field.