Q: Running back…how do you see things playing out Thursday night?
Chizik: We've had some great competition…it's been great to watch that position grow…I can't tell you who the starter is right now. It would be unfair for us to do that at this point because they don't even know right now. We can mix them up and run three or four different guys with the first group. We'll make a decision probably tomorrow. Let them keep battling it out. The competition is there. They've all done a great job right now and we feel comfortable playing a few different guys.
Q: What will be going through your mind as you play your first game as a head coach?
Chizik: I'm not sure…I'm really not. It will be a different venue for me because I'll be on the field…it will be a different type of night than I'm used to. I'm really excited and I think there will be a mixture of nervousness and excitement. I'm fired up…it can't get here quick enough, but we're being patient. I know that Thursday night will be hard to contain.
Q: In your very first press conference, you said that your top priority is developing depth on the defensive line. Going into Thursday's game, has that goal been accomplished?
Chizik: I think it's been accomplished somewhat. I don't think we'll really know until we get into the live rounds coming up here. I think it has somewhat. I think some junior college guys have really come in and filled the role that we envisioned for them when we recruited them. I think that some players in some positions that we had question marks on have gotten much better than they were when we started. Obviously, the more the merrier with the depth, but we've got enough right now that we're at least content that we are where we are.
Q: Coach, you brought in about a dozen JUCO kids. Is that typical for what you see as the future of Iowa State or is that a little bit a necessity to fill holes?
Chizik: I don't see that as something that we have to do as we go down the line. Again, it's nothing against junior college players, but by the time they figure out what's going on, they're waving good-bye to you. It's kind of unfolded the way that we thought it would – some guys will help us, some guys won't. It was kind of a crapshoot that way in the recruiting process. We're very pleased with it. If I had my druthers, would I rather have a four-year guy? Absolutely just because we have him for four years. They've really done well in school and how they've contributed to our team.
Q: What does Allen Bell bring to you?
Chizik: Allen came in here…obviously, didn't go through spring practice…just was way behind. Really worked hard. He's got some talent…got some size. It will be really interesting to see how he grows in his college careers. Allen was one of those guys who was a junior college that has three years left. He's more of like a high school guy that redshirted. We're very pleased with him. He brings some speed to the table. He's a possible punt and kick returner. Very athletic young man and came in here and has a chance to win a job. He did it on his own.
Q: You've been able to work with some of the faces that have been around for a while. Talk about your expectations of them.
Chizik: We just had this conversation as a coaching staff right now. We knew of them before we got here and then we go for "x" amount of months getting to know them in a practice setting and it's very favorable. They're doing a nice job of trying to be leaders and to practice hard every day and get better every day. Now, we are going into phase 3…What are they like on game day? That will be very interesting for me. I've always lived under the theory that great players produce on game day…if you're a great player, you'll show up on game day. I think we have some players that have a chance to be really good players and who they become on game day. Who you are at practice isn't who you are on game day. I'm hoping it translates that if you are a playmaker in practice it transfers to game day.
Q: What are some of the biggest questions that you're hoping to get answered on Thursday?
Chizik: Really…who our football team is as a whole. I'll say it…you reveal who you are when everyone is watching you and the pressure is on. Again, sometimes you are one thing in practice and something different when you're in front of a lot of people and trying to produce. I'm really interested in finding out who our team is. I'll have a real glimpse of who they are if we go up or down by two touchdowns. I think a lot of that gets revealed. I love my football team and they all work hard, but you have a lot of moving parts on game day and you don't know how they're going to connect until you see it live…it'll be a real interesting learning experience.
Q: We've all spent the last couple months speculating on what your philosophy will be and stuff like that. We'll get a glimpse of that on game day, but how long does it take before a philosophy is really set or revealed? Can you do it in one game?
Chizik: I don't think so. I don't think you'll see what ISU football is for a while…you'll see some good, some bad, and some ugly out there and that's just the way it's going to be. It's going to be new program, new system. Now we're exposed and we're out there for everyone to see. So, I don't know if I can tell you we'll be who we are the next 8 weeks. I know that for you to look at the first game and to tell who we are, I don't know. I do know we have to run the ball and play great special teams…that's 200 years old, but that's where you have to start. So, will it reveal who we are? Maybe.
Q: What are the challenges that Kent State provides?
Chizik: Really a unique squad. If you look at their history, last year they really burst on the scene. This year they're picked to win the east of the MAC conference. Let me tell you this…the MAC conference is a great football conference. They will raise up and beat a Big 12 school. They will raise up and beat the SEC…they're great football. The challenges they will provide for us is they have a great defense – they were top 25 in the country last year, I believe - with a lot of guys returning. Their offense has got some very explosive guys. Their quarterback is very athletic. Their tailback is very small, but very shifty. I think it's a great opening game for us and it will be very challenging. They're not picked to win that division for nothing.
Q: (couldn't hear)
Chizik: I don't know what we'll do with the back-up role in quarterback. We'd like to play 2 or 3 if we can. We'll see how the game unfolds and see what we want to do from there.
Q: Coach, special teams is going to be very important with moving back the kickoff and at times the position will be a lot closer. Talk about the impact that this change could make on the game.
Chizik: I think just the impact of kicking off from the 30 yard line will change the game tremendously. I mean, what I have figured out over the years being a defensive coach is that they're going to put every rule in the book to score more points and make the game more exciting. I think there's a premium on kickoff coverage and return. We can say that we all spent a lot of time on it before, but I think if people don't agree that there's more emphasis on it now, I don't think that's the truth. Now, with any type of kickoff at all, with two first downs, you can be on the other side of the 50. If you've ever seen or heard the percentage chance of scoring on the opponent's side of the 50, goes up greatly than when you're on the opposite side. We've spent a lot of time on kickoff and kickoff return. It has changed the game.
Q: Are you finding yourself having more starting players playing on special teams?
Chizik: We feel there has to be a lot of starting players on those teams anyway. That's my belief regardless of whether they change the rule or not. Now, there are a couple of special teams to me that are even more critical than some of the others. If you're actually punting or kicking off, those two right now can be…the other ones you're getting the ball… There's some right now that we're stacking with more of our starters.
Q: Defensive line is pretty young. How much of this game will be a big learning experience?
Chizik: I think it will be a big learning experience for them as well as most of our team. Just look at our offensive line if you want to go that far. Most those guys haven't played any games. It's going to be not just the defensive line, but for a lot of the positions on the team.
Q: How do you prepare for a quarterback like (couldn't hear)?
Chizik: I think it's really good that we go against Bret, Austin and Phillip every day. Those guys pose the same problems. You can't not do what you do, but I think there's things you can do with your game plan that you have somebody in the area to bring him back. It's hard to prepare for it, but when you see it every day in practice it certainly helps.
Q: What are you guys going to do to create turnovers?
Chizik: Hopefully when you're playing physical defense and turnovers have been made a huge point of…that you're playing fast and furious. They're not going to have them if you're not aggressive and physical in every position. I think you have to make a point that if you see the football and you have an opportunity to get the ball out, that you get the ball out and on the ground. Hopefully if you play aggressively, you can force it.
Q: Coach, you mentioned a few minutes ago that you'd like to get Arnaud in?
Chizik: I think both guys bring different things to the table and we really like both of our quarterbacks. It would be nice to play both of our guys. Bret's our starter. It's more like putting Austin in there for a change of pace and to get him some work.
Q: After you heard about the problems in Iowa City, did you pull your team together and have any type of meeting about that?
Chizik: You know, I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to that. We talk about things on a daily basis that we need to do to not get into the spotlight of any sort. Not that I needed to specifically address that. That's far away from us right now…we've got a lot of things to work out.
Q: Milan Moses had a lot of success returning kickoffs last year. Will he be playing this Thursday?
Chizik: Oh yeah.
Kurtis Taylor has had an up and down career injury wise…what did he show
you during camp?
Chizik: I thought he had a great camp. He stayed fast and physical and most importantly, he stayed healthy. I don't know what exactly happened last year health-wise, but I know it wasn't a good situation. He rebounded from his injuries and had a great camp.
Q: What's the reaction to the 36,000 season tickets being sold?
Chizik: Unbelievable. I just think that the passion and the excitement of the Iowa State people excites us. Those guys…you'd be surprised…they hear it and that will be what juices this thing up. That's what we want to do…juice things up to the highest level and give these guys support. Our guys work hard and don't think they don't appreciate that…they know it…they hear it…they see it and they'll see it Thursday night. It speaks volumes as to where this is headed. I told our football team that now they've got to go out there and give them a reason to buy them. They're excited about it and I'm just thrilled to death that people are that fired up about what's happening.
Q: How big are the first three games at home?
Chizik: It's really big. One thing that I'd encourage our fans…I want them to be the loudest stadium in the Big 12. I don't care…I want Jack Trice stadium to be the loudest in the Big 12 and I think that creates homefield advantage. You asked me if I think it's important that the first three games are at home…absolutely 100%. I want to stress to everyone…I want this place to be juiced up. They bought 36,000 season tickets so there is a passion there…don't hide it…let it out. I want there to be a passion in the stadium.
Q: Coach, one of your top priorities was speed. From the first day of spring practice to now, talk about how the team's speed has improved.
Chizik: I think it has improved. I think Coach Shepherd has done a great job getting these guys to a point where not only are we competitive strength wise – and we still have a ways to go – but, even our speed and strength levels – when you talk about speed, we're trying to get our fastest guys on the field and that's at every position. It makes a big difference. I think I've seen an increase in overall team speed with some of the guys that we've brought in – the Wallace Franklin's of the world. I think there's an increase in that speed, but I think the main thing is getting the best player on the field that has that speed. As we continue to recruit, everything that we do, everything we look at, will start with the speed at positions that need to be speed positions. We don't care how fast our offense guard is.
Q: Who is coming to games?
Chizik: My in-laws, 2 or 3 of their friends, my wife, 2-3 of our family friends. My mom is not going to be able to make it to this one. I'll get her up for one.
Q: When were you last this fired up?
Chizik: Probably for the Rose Bowl. That's just something that you're chomping at the bit and can't wait. If I had to make a comparison, that would be a good one. That's how fired up I am about the whole thing and I'm sure that it's going to continue to build for the next 3 days.
Q: How do you feel about night games and waiting around all day?
Chizik: I prefer to play a day one because for me, personally, I don't like to wait around all day, but I like the excitement of the night game because I think it's great for the fans. I want to do what's best for the fans and the school. The night games…I like that from a fan's perspective. It does get a little taxing on you though when you're pacing the floor for 7 hours.
Q: Zac Sandvig? Do you think he will play?
Chizik: Zac will play Thursday night and he's in the mix for punt returner and kick returner. He's also in the mix for a starter at corner. He's had a great camp and I'm really excited about what he's brought to the table as a young guy. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play. He'll really be involved in a lot of special teams…just a guy that came on camp and proved that he can play at this level.
Q: (couldn't hear)
Chizik: I think he's really smart. One thing I talked to the football team about being a smart football team. I want to bring a team out on the field that understands the game…understands that stupid penalties are not acceptable and understand what's going on. He falls into that category…very smart…very intelligent player. He's young, but I think this will be a great start for him.
Q: With the Thursday night game, how will that work with the players? Will they be in a hotel Wednesday night or going to class as usual?
Chizik: What we'll do is take them to a place Wednesday night after practice…get them removed and focused all day Thursday before we come back to the stadium. We'll treat it exactly like a Saturday game. Wednesday will be our Friday.
Q: How's your chess game?
Chizik: Probably pretty rusty right now…haven't had time for that.
Q: What have you seen from the offense this week?
Chizik: I've seen some growth…I've seen them do some great things. I think our biggest problem right now is that they're inconsistent. How do I feel about it? I don't know yet. I've got confidence in the guys. To me, it'll be one of the things that we'll try to see how they perform. We've put a lot of pressure on them in the last three weeks and they know it.
Q: How important is the first quarter? Not only with you trying to get your feet wet, but everybody…kind of setting the tone for the season…
Chizik: I think the first quarter for us will be more important for us on that day. I can't say that it will set the tone for the whole season. It depends on how it unfolds. If all of a sudden on the second play, we go for a 95 yard touchdown and then win 10 games, everyone is going to say that that set the tone for the season, but on the reverse side of that I don't want to go down 14-0 and have everyone say that set the tone for the season. I think it will be very important to set the tone for that night. It could go either way…we could go up two touchdowns or down two touchdowns. I just know we need to respond favorably the next three.