CSR Talks With Coach Burnham

Spring practice is now a few weeks old and so Cyclone Sports Report caught up with Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham to see how the defense is progressing so far.

Cyclone Sports Report: The linebackers you have returning are very inexperienced. What are your early thoughts on how they have looked so far during spring ball?

Wally Burnham: Every day is a new learning experience for them. They are progressing real well and they understand our defense as well as you could at this point.

Cyclone Sports Report: Are the starters clearly defined at this point?

Wally Burnham: Yeah, right now it's pretty clear that A.J. Klein, Jake Knott, and Matt Tau'fo'ou are ahead of everyone else. The two freshmen we feel are going to be really good over the next three years and we think Matt can do a good job on the inside. They are a fun group to coach and with them I don't have to coach intensity and physical play because they all bring that every day.

Cyclone Sports Report: When we have talked in the past you have always stressed how the team needs to improve its pass rush. How has the team looked in that area?

Wally Burnham: It's a major concern right now. We don't have two starters right now (Bailey Johnson and Rashawn Parker). (Roosevelt) Maggitt has shown that he could be a factor and (Patrick) Neal has shown that he can do some things. (Austin) Alburtis is probably our best guy inside and the other kid who is intriguing right now is Jake McDonough. He's green but he's really making progress. He's learning to play inside and right now he's with the first team with Johnson currently out. The young kids are getting better but we're still not getting the results yet. Hopefully we will by the time the season starts.

Cyclone Sports Report: You return an experienced secondary next year. What are you looking to improve on with them for next season?

Wally Burnham: We gave up too many big pass plays last season for either touchdowns or long gains and so we have to do a better job with defending the deep ball. We weren't consistent enough last year but seeing improvement. With Michael O'Connell starting at free safety it really helps because he does a good job of getting everyone lined up on each play. Leonard Johnson is also having an outstanding spring so far.

Cyclone Sports Report: How is newcomer Anthony Young coming along so far in camp?

Wally Burnham: He has shown a lot of ability and really has good coverage skills. He's not a 4.4 guy like we thought he might be but he still has a very nice burst on the ball and has shown good quickness. He's kind of like the young linebackers in that he's still got a lot to learn but he should be a factor this fall.

Cyclone Sports Report: What are you most pleased with about your defense two weeks into camp?

Wally Burnham: I'm really happy with the effort and how the players are buying into what we are trying to do. We don't any slackers and the guys are really showing a good attitude. If they keep it up into next fall we won't be a great defense but I think we'll be real solid.

Cyclone Sports Report: What are you most disappointed about so far?

Wally Burnham: The number one thing is that we're not getting any pass rush. I'm just not seeing enough sacks or tackles for loss during practice. We've really got to step up our blitzing game. We're working in linebacker and safety blitzes also but we're not close yet in regards having it all down. We will definitely have to do some five and six man pressuring next year and we're really working on it hard this spring.

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