Brickey Midseason Q&A

During a bye week, Iowa State's offensive coordinator Steve Brickey hit on some various issues surrounding the offense. The Cyclones, 5-1 overall and 2-0 in Big 12 action, return to the field next weekend against Texas Tech.

CN: Let's start with some general observations of the offense through six games.

Brickey: We feel for the most part that things have gone pretty well. We're pleased with a lot of things we're doing, but we also are certainly not satisfied with anything we're doing. We continue to try to improve our play up front. The pass protection, for the most part, has been pretty good throughout the first half of the season. Our run blocking has been good at times, but not so good at other times. That's definitely an area we're continually trying to improve.

Our play in the passing game and at the skill positions has been pretty good for the most part. It's consistent. We're throwing it fairly well and catching it real well. The pass protection certainly has to be there for those things to happen.

The offensive line, quite honestly, has probably played a little better than I thought it could. But we're by no means satisfied. We've got to get better, because the schedule does nothing but get tougher and tougher. If we don't continue to improve, we're going to be in trouble.

CN: How much has the shuffling at guard with Luke Vander Sanden, Collin Menard and Dewayne Johnson cost the offensive line?

Brickey: I don't think there's any doubt that in a perfect world you'd like to have five guys that play the same position every week and really develop as a group and unit. But that's just not where we're at. This hasn't been the case, therefore, given the circumstances, they have done real well. There's no question that's a bit of a disruption. Probably the biggest disruption is losing Luke again. That's really a disappointment.

First of all, it's a disappointment for that kid because he worked so darn hard to get back, get back early, to be ready and be an effective player. You just hate that for him, first of all. In terms of the whole unit, you hate it because you're losing a darn good football player. Luke's a guy that we'd really like to have out there.

But we don't have him, so we go on and do the best we can with the circumstances that are presented you. There's no question that when you lose a guy that's one of your better players, that causes or creates a situation where you've got to be moving guys around and having guys in and out of the lineup. That's something you have to overcome.

CN: What has been your evaluation of the offense's execution in short-yardage, goal-line and red-zone situations so far?

Brickey: Statistically it has been pretty good. We're leading the conference in fourth-down conversions. We're near the top in red-zone production. I guess you'd have to say we've been pretty good, but there have been a few plays that we didn't execute and a few times where we shot ourselves in the foot on the goal-line. We feel like there are some good things going on, but by no means are we satisfied. We have to move forward, instead of staying the same.

CN: Third-down conversions have been phenomenal this year, especially in games against Florida State and Iowa. What goes into that?

Brickey: The Florida State game was off the charts. We're leading the conference right now in third-down conversions. Those are all very good things. We're pleased that we're able to execute on those crucial downs and situations more often than not. A lot of that has to do with the quarterback. He seems to be a guy that time and time again can come up with a play when you need it. Those third-down plays are generally your most important plays throughout the game and he just makes them.

CN: What improvements have you worked on this week for the second half of the season?

Brickey: We're constantly and always looking for and looking at the best ways to be able to run the football effectively. That is always the starting point and always the focal point in any initial gameplan. That's where we start. We have to be able to find ways to run the ball effectively in this league with the schedule we're playing to give ourselves a chance.

That isn't just because we're at the halfway point of the season, that's every week. I'm not saying we can't win if we can't run it, but it sure makes it a lot tougher. Anything we can do to find ways to have a chance to move the ball on the ground is where our emphasis is.

CN: The running game seemed to take a turn in the right direction against Nebraska last week. What do you attribute that to?

Brickey: There were a couple of things that we did that we hadn't been doing that really helped us. More than anything we just played better up front. I hate to say it, but having Luke back really helped early in the game.

There were three different factors: we just played better; there were a few things that we did scheme-wise that we hadn't used much up to that point in the season, some things we had done more a year or two ago; then having Vander Sanden helped for the first two and a half quarters of the game.

CN: One big surprise I can think of through the first half of the season is wide receiver Lance Young, who earned a starting spot prior to the Troy State game. What have you thought of Young's play and who are some other first-half surprises?

Brickey: We felt like Lance was about ready to blossom and thought he had some talent that needed to be brought out. He's had a pretty good first half of the season. As for any others, I hate to start singling guys out, because I know how hard they're all working and how much they all care. I hate to say too much and then leave somebody out that I should have mentioned.

CN: What about any surprising units?

Brickey: As I mentioned earlier, the offensive line has probably been a little more effective than I actually thought it could be. We expected to play well at receiver and quarterback. We expected to be solid at running back. I think for us to be 5-1 right now, we would have had to get a pretty good performance out of the offensive line. I felt like we have. That was the real question going in, whether we could.

CN: Last, but certainly not least, how about assessing Seneca Wallace's play through the first six games?

Brickey: Where do I start? I don't know what else you say about the guy. He's just awfully good. He helps make the other guys around him play well and/or give them a reason to play and hope that, with this guy, we've got a chance to do well every week. He's really something. All you've got to do is look and watch. He can make something out of nothing. A lot of guys can't do that.

But don't get me wrong, he's like anybody else, in that he needs coached and has to concentrate. Occasionally he will make a mistake. I'm not saying the guy's perfect. But he doesn't make many mistakes and he can at times bail you out when a play is broken down and make it into something. His ability along those lines are really something.

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