CSR Talks With Coach Burnham

The Iowa State defense struggled mightily in 2008. Cyclone Sports Report caught up with defensive coordinator Wally Burnham to see what he expects from his defense when they take the field Thursday against North Dakota State.

Cyclone Sports Report: When we spoke at the end of the spring you felt that the defense really needed to make a lot of improvements before the 2009 season. What do you feel they have improved on the most heading into the game on Thursday?

Wally Burnham: Well I think that we have improved a little bit in a lot of areas. I think we are better tacklers, we're more knowledgeable in regards to what formation the other team might be in and I think we are more physical due to some of the things that we are doing in camp. We're not where we need to be but we have improved as a defense.

CSR: What parts of the defense still need the most improvement?

WB: We haven't improved the speed of the defense and so playing faster is something that we need to do more. We also need to take better angles to the football and cut things off. If we can contain the ball we will have a lot more success.

CSR: Putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks was a problem for Iowa State last season. Where does this element of the defense stand heading into the season?

WB: I think that might be an area that we have improved on during the fall camp. They are doing well with our blitz package of five and six guys. What is also impressive is that the four man rush has also really improved. I think we have really improved on that area during practice.

CSR: How much rotating of players will we possibly see on Thursday night and at what positions would we see that the most?

WB: I would say a good bit with our front four. We'll have eight guys ready because they have to extend so much energy. They will rotate not as units but as individuals. You'll probably see three corners and three safeties rotating but you won't see a lot of rotation with our linebackers.

CSR: Which players have been the most impressive during the fall camp?

WB: I would say Jesse Smith and Chris Lyle. Jesse is just an experienced guy that has played a lot of football. He really understands both the run and pass concepts and is always in the right place. He's not real fast but he definitely been the most consistent player by far. Chris has a great fall and he really needed to. He's just done a great job and I expect that he will have a very good year for us.

CSR: Who are some of the newcomers that you think have a realistic chance of getting some quality playing time on the defense this year?

WB: A.J. Klein was hot early and then he kind of hit the wall. Jake Knott was playing real well but he now has a groin injury so we had to pull him off the field for a while. Jacob Lattimer is a real physical kid who has some limitations but he is just a tough kid that you want out there. We as a staff also really like Jeremy Reeves who has clearly shown that he is going to be a player. He's already a second team cornerback and he just needs to do more learning because he really has a lot of talent.

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