Todd Blythe Q&A

In this interview, Blythe goes into detail with CN about the progress ISU is making so far in fall practice leading up to the season-opener on August 30th against Kent State.

Q: Talk about what you were seeing from the offense. Second scrimmage…the progress you were hoping to have?

Blythe: Definitely. We tied up a lot of things that we made in the first scrimmage. Obviously, we have a long way to go. We're going to come back tonight and look at this film and come back tomorrow and look at the film some more and then head into practice. I think we made some big strives today. We ran the ball really well. We have 4-5 backs that are running all over the place and our whole line did really well today.

Q: Who's looking good on the O-line?

Blythe: It's hard for me to say who's looking good. I'm out there messing with corners and stuff. When our running backs are running the ball like that, that means that everyone is doing a great job. You can't have one guy out there and the one next to him not doing his job…no one will go anywhere. For us to run the ball like we did today, I think everyone was doing their job really well.

Q: You mentioned how the running game was looking. Did the backs catch any passes today:? Is so, how did that part of the game look?

Blythe: They're fine. That's the thing with Coach McFarland…we're going to spread the ball around. We'll catch swing passes…our white outs are going to catch the bubbles…which is basically a run play for us. We did a lot of that today. Our backs have worked a lot on catching the ball. I think that's something they're getting really comfortable with and that's definitely going to be a big part of our offense so we can utilize it.

Q: How did the tight ends do today? Did they get some passes thrown to them too?

Blythe: yeah, they did. Catlett caught a real nice ball in the corner of the end zone…I think on first or second drive. It was a really nice pass. It was a great catch and the tight ends have been doing that all camp for us so far. They'll definitely get utilized a lot this year. As far as I can tell, they're all doing a great job so far.

Q: In terms of utilization of these two positions as weapons, is this something that we saw a lot of in the past or is this something new?

Blythe: I think that this is the kind of thing that Coach McFarland brought in with his offense and his scheme. Our tight ends and full backs are pretty much interchangeable. They can line up on the line and be a down blocker…they can line up in the back and be a lead blocker for a running back…or go for passes from there. The defense is going to have a tough time locating these guys. We really have some great athletes at these positions. We're going to try to mix them up and move them around and try to hide them from defenses.

Q: The strength of this team seems to be the receiver core, but if the team can run the ball and uses the backs and the tight ends as weapons, what does that mean for the receivers and how wide it opens up the field for you all?

Blythe: First or foremost, if we run the ball well that means we're blocking well and I think that's something that we take pride in. We've been working really hard with Coach Rodgers on blocking and getting down in the running game and getting dirty with that. That's going to open up the fast game a lot. As long as we run the ball like we did today, we should have some good things to do in the passing game as well.

Q: Todd, your receivers talk about whether they need separation. Ideally, every receiver likes to be open. Do you like the separation or do you like the jump ball situation?

Blythe: Separation makes it a lot easier. If you've got a few steps on a guy, it makes the catch easier. I think I've caught enough jump balls in my career. We do a catch and tuck drill with someone trying to rip the ball out from behind you every day in practice. So, that's something we work on…catching the ball in traffic. I think that's something that shouldn't bother us much this year.

Q: I remember when Michael Irvin said he didn't want separation. He did not. Are you at that point?

Blythe: Just from playing in the Big 12 for a few years you get the knack of how to lean your body in front of somebody or lean on the defender to get them to go a certain way. I've still got a long way to go and I'm going to try to work on that this year. I think that's something I'm comfortable with. If a guy's right on me and Bret still wants to throw me the ball – and hopefully he will – I think I'll be alright.

Q: Are JJ, Jason, and Jason the three that are rotating?

Blythe: …he's super super quick. He's not afraid to put his head down and rush in. He's really impressed me this camp.

Q: Who started off with the ones on the line?

Blythe: I know Brandon Johnson was center…I don't know, you should probably ask Coach McFarland. I could probably name them off for you, but I don't know if he wants me telling you and letting all the secrets out of the bag.

Q: In terms of the running game, the way the offense is evolving now…will the running game set up the pass or will the pass set up the run? How is it coming out? When I talked to Coach Raney the other day it said that it didn't seem like they saw the same play twice.

Blythe: ….it depends on the defense that we face. We could start out a game with throwing a lot to set up the run and by the second quarter or second half we could be running a lot to set up the throw. That's something that's going to go game to game and week to week and depend on the defense.

Q: How'd the defense do out there today…especially stopping the pass?

Blythe: They did pretty well. Obviously, as a wide receiver, I'd like to say that we were open most of the time, but they've had a really good camp. They have a lot of young guys rotating in back there and they're giving us a challenge every day. Today we focused on the run and didn't do a lot of drawback stuff. So, there wasn't a lot of situations where they had to flat-out cover for 4-5 seconds, but they've been doing well all camp. Hopefully, we'll have a lot of guys improving.

Q: In the scrimmage, what did the defensive speed look like out there?

Blythe: Even without Ace, they're fast. I mean, you've got guys like Jon Banks who could play safety if he wanted to, but he's so big he's a linebacker. Mike Bibbs who played safety and corner in JUCO, but he's a linebacker here. We've got a lot of speed on defense and that's something we'll definitely utilize.

Q: On media day, Ace talked about JJ Bass and he said that we wouldn't know what he's really like until I get to hit him. What were the hits out there like? How physical was it today?

Blythe: It was pretty physical. Obviously, I don't try to mess with the 300 pounders too much. I'm just trying to catch the ball. There's some pretty good pops going on. I caught a ball in the first series that I had to jump up for. I think Stevie Johnson hit me and my helmet fell off. You saw guys on the goal line cracking pads. We've got guys that aren't afraid to stick their face mask in someone's chest. That's good.

Q: You'd talked about the impact Coach Shepherd had on you in the spring in terms of your speed. Talk about the impact the summer conditioning programs had on you in terms of your size, your body, your explosiveness and also your speed.

Blythe: I think me personally…they took pictures when we got here and then again at the end of the summer, just frontal profile shots. It was totally different for just about everybody. I put on about 6-8 pounds since January. As a senior, who's been here lifting stuff, that's quite a big jump. Our run this summer was by far the most strenuous running that we've had since I've been here. I think that's just a testament to what he does every day with… That's also a testament to how hard the guys are willing to come in and work this summer. We had about 100% attendance…everyone was here and working their butts off. You look around the locker room and it looks like a totally different team from last year.

Q: What impact do you think Coach Shepherd will have on these guys over the course of the next 2-3 years that are going to get a chance to work with him throughout their career. Guys like Cameron.

Blythe: Cameron's going to be a beast. He's 230, I think, right now. He's going to be ripped. I wish I had another couple years with these guys because they know how to get you fast and strong. These freshman coming in right now and the guys coming in in the next couple years, are going to be the lucky ones.

Q: When the coach said he wanted to teach you speed, did you think that you really could and are you surprised with the results?

Blythe: I've been doing this for a while. My body's pretty much matured and I'm about as fast and big as I'm going to get. Then I come out here and we're doing the hill stuff every day…the leaps, the squats…I see the difference from where I was last year to now. Just watching it on film and seeing how I can get in and out of routes. I'm doing routes that I used to take 9 steps on in 7 now because of working with Coach Shep. He knows what he's doing out there. It's worked for me as a senior and I know it will benefit these kids out there.

Q: When I look at the spring pictures, I see one body type. Then I look at the fall pictures. There are three things that stand out: calves, thighs and quads. For example, the pictures from the open practice a couple Thursdays ago. Do these guys talk to you at all about the science of conditioning at all? The science of how your body has changed and what that means?

Blythe: Basically, they tell us what we need to know which is basically go pick up that weight and move it. They'll tell us a little bit and explain to us why we're doing certain things. They send us in there, they give us a workout and tell us to go move around that 200-300 pounds as high and fast as you can. That's what we've been doing. For a guy like me, I've got skinny legs so I have to go back in there and work with them a little more. You can definitely see guy's bodies changing and they're still changing. He hasn't let up in camp. We're still lifting every other day at camp and still hitting it hard.

Q: Were you surprised at how much bigger some of the guys got, but how much body fat they lost? Guys like the offensive linemen for example.

Blythe: Absolutely. That's something that just with the amount of conditioning, the amount of running, and just the type of workouts that we had…we weren't allowed to walk in the weight room. That's something that they definitely stressed and you knew that was going to happen.

Q: Two years ago you guys theoretically could have run the table. Three years ago you guys could have run the Big 12 championship, but Missouri stole it. Last year was a disappointing season even though you returned 10 starters on offense. How confident are you guys that under this program you can win the Big 12 North?

Blythe: We know what we have with this team. As a senior, I'm not willing to go out like we did last year. This is my last go-around and as far as I'm concerned we've got to get things right this year. Like I said, as a senior, I don't want to look back and think that we could have done something differently. I know we've got the young kids working as hard as they can and I know they want to do well for the senior class and the guys that have paid their dues. I think everybody is buying into that that we need to be successful right now. Coach Chizik and all of our coaches aren't guys that are willing to sit back there and have a 500 record and stuff like that. They're all winners. They're all coming from winning programs where they're used to success. That's something that they're going to get us used to too.

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