Sunday, January 3, 2010
1) 7 wins with this football team was nothing short of amazing. The improvement of the defense from 2008 went far beyond where I thought it could. Guys were in position, played fast and made plays throughout the season.
2) The passing game has to make a similar jump in the off season given the meat grinder that will be the 2010 schedule.
3) Hats off to the Cyclone faithful for the travel to the bowl. I've read several different figures. Having walked around the stadium the entire game, being able to see both sides, I feel I have a realistic perspective on the number of Cyclones, Gophers and locals. The seating was fairly balanced between the east (ISU) and west (Minn) sides as the bowl filled in empty UM sections with locals/VIPs. On the Gopher side, there were 2 lower sections full, plus the UM band in a third section. With other UM fans spread throughout the crowd, I estimate they had 4 full sections at the most...I put UM at 2,500-3,000.
The Cyclones filled the ISU side and had a number of others scattered throughout the west side and endzones...with a total announced attendance of 45,000+, it is easy to say ISU accounted for more than 1/3 of the crowd. While this, to borrow a term from a 2000 presidential candidate, is "fuzzy math," I believe it safe to say 20,000 Cyclones witnessed the 2009 Insight Bowl in person.
4) The Diablos (hosts for the Fiesta and Insight Bowls) do an absolutely fantastic job putting on a bowl game. They have it down cold. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to play for them. I look forward to seeing the Insight continue to climb the Big 12 tie-in...moving to the #4 selection vs. a PAC 10 opponent next year.
5) Our hosts really like our football coach, as evidenced by a number of conversations over the length of the trip.
6) I really like our football coach, too.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Three questions remain in fans minds: 1) When will Austen be back to 100%?; 2) How about A-Rob?; and 3) Why is the PAT/FG team struggling so, and when will it be fixed?
Since I don’t have a medical degree, I’m gonna tackle number 3.
Defending the PAT/FG starts with identifying the weakness on the FG team. Options for the defense include a block off the edge—inside or outside the wing, or a middle block—with or without a jumper.
I spent two seasons (my freshman & sophomore years) as a guard on the FG team. There is no play for an o-lineman that is more intense than a PAT/FG with a middle block. When teams go for the middle block, most will put three men on the guard, one on the inside shoulder, one on the helmet, and one on the outside shoulder. At the snap of the ball, the only job of the outside two guys is to roll you into a ball at the foot of the kicker. The inside guy is typically an explosive athlete like Ndomukong Suh (see more about Suh below). His job is to blow up your shoulder, then get skinny and put his hand up at the 2- to 3-yard deep point. Do the math - there is 900 pounds of angry headed your way. My first few reps in practice against this look did not go well for me or our kicking team. After being yelled at to toughen up and get lower and getting blown up again, I asked the coaches what I should do to block all three guys at once. They responded by telling me to punch the inside and outside with my hands and block the guy in the middle with my helmet. After a few more tries, I got it. The middle block is a test of your manhood; it is a nightmarish responsibility on game day. Simply put, this is a VERY hard thing to do, if only for a second or two.
In each fall camp of my career, the Cyclone staff gave our teams a solid piece of advice I use today in coaching: Don’t be the weak link early in the season, or you’re going to see that same block all year long.
In the KSU game, Snyder & Co. decided to go with a middle block all day. They got good penetration on several reps but never connected. On the final play of the game, they coupled a middle block with a jumper…the Cyclone guards did a good job, but the blocker got up and got lucky.
It seems like the results of that play got into Grant’s head for a game (at Kansas), but he’s swinging his leg with rhythm now. Saturday, the guards had to take on Suh, Jared Crick, and Barry Turner. Having watched both blocks on replay, I’d say the kicks were good. But the plays by Suh were UNBELIEVABLE.
So can you move the ball back a yard or two? Nope – if you do, you make the outside block an all-the-time thing. There is a reason teams setup where they do for PATs/FGs.
Cyclone fans, I think this unit is doing a pretty good job. You don’t play the best player in college football—who happens to be a scarlet-and-cream-clad defensive tackle—each week. You don’t get blocked by a jumper flying high and making a once-in-a-career play, like happened vs. K-State, all the time. The Clones have some adjustments to make at the guard spot; it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good.
Ndamukong Suh is the best defensive lineman I’ve ever seen. He’s better than Casey Hampton and Shaun Rodgers, all-pros whom I played against when they were at the University of Texas. He’s better than Tommy Harris from Oklahoma, Harris had more raw talent, but Suh is bigger, stronger, smarter, and plays harder. He is the best player I’ve seen this year, regardless of position…he’s that good.
The writing is on the wall: Middle block will be coming. I look for ISU’s unit to perform better in the coming weeks. They’ll weather this storm.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
So I'm gonna have this blog, right? And I'm gonna update it weekly right? Well, I guess that didn't happen. So here's what's going to happen: I am going to try my hand at twitter. I realize that it is sort of like having everyone know where you are all the time and I'm only allowing Big Brother into my life more, but I suck at blogging.
Here's the link if you're interested: http://twitter.com/benbruns
In other news, pretty much every Cyclone fan I've talked to has asked me what I think of Coach Rhoads. They are usually surprised by how excited I sound as I tell them:
- that he was on the staff for 4 of my 5 years at ISU, then coached against us at Pitt in the Insight Bowl so I know him well
- that he's put together what I think is a fabulous group of coaches, who he selected in a very deliberate fashion for their ability to lead, recruit a specific area, coach fundamentals, game plan and adjust and that want to be here for specific reasons
- that he's coming into the job with eyes wide open (being the 11th or 12th in the Big XII in budget is like starting the Tour de France 500 miles behind the peloton)
- that I watched four practices this spring in which I observed kids who were hungry as hell for respect/success being coached by positive motivation and reinforcement. I went to the first day of practice...the offensive installation that day was simply the best; most well thought out use of time on a football field I'd ever seen...our identity as a football team started being ingrained in the first session and continued through the spring game.
- that each person involved with the program knows how far it has to go in order to have the success that they all want; but that they all believe it is possible with the group we have.
Teams that play ISU in 2009 will get ISU's best effort - no question about that. I've seen the building of the things coach talked about when he got here, mental toughness and pride which are the harbinger of physical toughness and execution. There will be a long hard road ahead, but we will all be proud in taking the trip.
In other news, I've been to a lot of grad parties lately for the guys on the Valley football team - we'll miss them very much as a staff next year, but I'm so proud to have been associated with them. They have great things ahead in life.
In other, other news, I'd been playing some really good golf until last night. Why does the train have to run off the tracks once a month? Why is it when you think you're starting to own your swing and the things you're trying to do you get owned? Man I love golf - but that sucks MORE than my ability to blog.
Still golf related - if you love to play the game and you're in or around the Monterrey area - you simply have to play Pebble Beach. It is expensive as all hell, but the experience is worth every penny. The course will forgive bad shots in a number of areas and punish you in others...it's fair, more forgiving that I would have thought - just a blessing to be able to play.
Thanks for reading - I'll try to be more exciting on twitter.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Okay, so I haven't written in a few weeks. Here are some random thoughts from January:
1) Harrison Barnes is bigger than I thought he was - oh, and he's really good. I went to the Valley-Ames game Friday night. I was extremely impressed with Ames' team. James Kohler is a good looking athlete. I also left thinking that if Harrison isn't on that team, people are buzzing about Doug McDermott - he can play. My guys didn't come out on top, but it was fun to see that level of HS basketball.
2) Enough with the Chiziked post - the Register's mention of my blog this morning contained an inaccuracy. The post that was deleted, and all of the subsequent responses to that post (most of them directly refuting the poster) was a rant about Dan McCarney that was highly inflammatory. Coach Mac was a very small part of the piece, mentioned for context of my feelings over the last two years. The post was completely off topic and down-right mean.
3) ISU is putting together a nice recruiting class in spite of the late coaching change. I will miss cheering for Conor Bofelli each week, but ISU was fortunate to pick up another good OL that same day. I'm excited about the staff and have gotten great feedback from the players. They immediately see the same things I did when I was around Coach Rhoads from 1996-1999.
4) I get that people are upset our men's basketball team lost at Colorado; I listened to the game, and the last few minutes were tough to take. But I think if Wesley Johnson doesn't get some REALLY bad advice, this is a different conversation. I think we as a fanbase need to give this group some time.
5) Hilton Magic has been great the last two weekends even though we came up short - fun stuff to be part of.
6) Would this damn snow melt so I can go slap the golf ball around just a little this winter?
7) Great win last night, ladies! And thanks to all of the women's basketball letterwinners that came back for the weekend; it was special to see you on the court and around town.
8) Go, Cardinals. I guess.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Fans want to buy a ticket and see greatness displayed before them in a 60-minute masterpiece. That’s what makes sports so much fun. For the student-athlete or coach it is an all-the-time thing. For the student-athlete or coach, excellence comes from every drop of sweat shed or hour of film watched in the pursuit of attaining the ultimate goal – giving oneself the opportunity to step into that moment – the moment that matters to everyone.
I was, however, very fortunate to have been around great moments early in my ISU career -- those moments that beg the question of where one was when they happened. I’ll never forget standing at a concession stand outside a high school gym (Johnston, I think) during an AAU tournament in which my brother-in-law was playing, watching ISU beat heavily-favored Cincinnati in the NCAA tournament – a game that mattered. In 2000 and 2001, I watched our men’s and women’s basketball teams stomp their way through the Big 12 conference and into NCAA tournaments. I watched our men’s basketball team go into Kansas year after year and win on their floor. They pounded an outstanding Oklahoma squad to win the Big 12 tournament going away. I watched our run in the NCAA tournament end with a “double-foul” call – what the hell is that again? I saw the women’s basketball team’s heart and determination – not to mention incredible ability to shoot the three – lead to two conference championships and nine NCAA appearances. I remember when my team stopped Iowa cold in ’98 and when we won on the road at Oklahoma State and again at Colorado in 2000. The 2000 Insight Bowl…check, check, check, and check – they were moments that mattered to the Cyclone faithful.
All the work that it takes building programs matters every day to student-athletes and coaches; all in athletics strive to put themselves in positions that will define them and their achievements. That said, those efforts don’t always pay off – you don’t always have the chance to be in that big game, that big moment.
Today I saw a moment of greatness at Hilton Coliseum – one that showed me that, while there is a long road to travel, the ISU women’s basketball team could be in a position to make fans’ hearts skip a beat once again come March. I am excited to have been there today, screaming my head off with the rest of the Hilton Magic-makers, and am looking forward to simply having a chance to cheer for greatness in the coming months.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I played in the first-ever bowl win for my school…ask any ISU fan, or any other college football fan who has followed his or her team to the postseason, and some of the fan’s greatest memories are from a bowl trip. I love bowl season. While we all want to know who number one really is, there will always be some debate no matter what system is in place. I just hope whichever way the future leads the regular season and bowl payoff at the end don’t get caught in the crossfire.
One thing I haven’t heard too much discussion of in all of this is something I’m fascinated by: the bowl tie-ins. No other part or piece of the bowl equation fits in quite as strangely as the tie-in system. Most people agree parity in college football may be at an all-time high (see App. State vs. Michigan circa 2007). With increased parity comes craziness with match-ups as absurd as SEC #7 vs. C-USA’s champion.
I first became interested in how the tie-ins work when ISU was getting ready to play in the aforementioned Insight.com Bowl. What I found, while it made sense to me on some levels, definitely deserves some additional consideration when you start talking about win/loss ratios of conferences.
Which conference has the best match-ups? How about the worst? When a BCS conference gets two schools in the BCS, everyone else steps up the ladder…their opponents just got a whole lot better. When a non-BCS conference gets a school in, same thing in its match-ups. I graded conference tie-ins like grading o-linemen: “+” for a good play (in our case here, an advantageous match-up), “-” for a bad, and “0” for a tie. This won’t be perfect -- a given conference may have more or fewer teams bowl eligible than tie-ins -- and I didn’t adjust for each exact match-up this season as my curiosity sought simply the general match-up advantage/disadvantage in a given bowl season. While the detail is below, here is the cumulative summary:
ACC = 0, advantages for the upper end teams, disadvantages at the bottom of the league
Big East = +1, big advantage over the SEC, ACC and a smaller advantage on the Big 12
Big Ten = 0, slight advantage over the SEC, Big 12; disadvantage to the ACC and MAC
Big 12 = -4, slight advantage over the SEC; slight disadvantage to everyone else, big disadvantage to C-USA
C-USA = +2, big advantage over the SEC, disadvantage vs. the Sunbelt
MAC = +2, big advantage over Big Ten
Mountain West = +1, big advantage over Pac-10 in two games
Pac-10 = -1, advantage over Big 12 and ACC, disadvantages to MWC and WAC
SEC = -6, disadvantages to everyone, simply put, the hardest tie-ins of any league
WAC = +4. advantages over everyone, the easiest of the tie-ins
So how do these numbers relate to the actual conference results?
The Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC each had two BCS teams, moving everyone else up the ladder. The MWC had one, doing the same to that conference.
The Pac-10 capitalized by going a perfect 5-0, winning its match-up with the Big Ten (a yearly event); its match-up advantages over the Big 12 and ACC were accentuated by the fact it didn’t have a second BCS representative. The key win was Arizona over BYU, helping offset some of the whupping the Pac-10 took from the Mountain West in the pre-season.
There is no reason the Big East shouldn’t be 4-2 with its tie-ins and one BCS contender.
The ACC’s 10 (yes, TEN) teams went 4-6, about like their tie-ins would indicate…wins on the top half of the league, losses on the bottom.
The Big Ten continued to get worse in inter-league play, displaying miserable results (the league was 3-4 in 2006, 3-5 in 2007, and 1-6 this season), but even more disappointing than the Big Ten’s play, given their tie-ins, were the performances of the WAC at 1-4 and the MAC at 0-4.
The Big 12 and SEC have something yet to prove in the championship game. Not only do both have to look better than Utah to keep me from going temporarily insane, they have the opportunity to stake their league’s claim as the best conference in the land this year.
I can feel the tension now...
Rose (0) -- #1 team vs. Pac-10 #1
Capital One (0) -- #2 team vs. SEC #2
Outback (+1) -- #3 team vs. SEC #3/4/5
Alamo (+1) -- #4 team vs. Big 12 #4/5 (this year number 5 Missouri)
Champs Sports (-1) -- #5 team vs. ACC #4
Insight (0) -- #6 vs. Big 12 #6
Motor City (-1) -- #7 team vs. MAC #1
Orange (0) -- #1 team vs. at-large
Chick-fil-A (+1) -- #2 team vs. SEC #3/4/5
Gator (+1) -- #3 team vs. Big 12 #4
(-1) -- #3 team vs. Big East #2
Champs Sports (+1) -- #4 team vs. Big Ten #5
Music City (+1) -- #5 team vs. SEC #6/7/8
Meineke Car Care (-1) -- #6 team vs. Big East #3
Emerald (-1) -- #7 team vs. Pac-10 #4/5
Humanitarian (-1) -- #8 team vs. WAC #1
Fiesta (0) --#1 team vs. at-large
Cotton (+1) -- #2 team vs. SEC #3/4/5
Holiday (-1) -- #3 team vs. Pac-10 #2
Gator (-1) -- #4 team vs. ACC #3
Alamo (-1) -- #4/5 team vs. Big Ten #4
Sun (-1) -- #4/5 team vs. Pac-10 #3
Insight (0) --#6 team vs. Big Ten #6
Independence (0) -- #7 team vs. SEC #6/7/8
Texas (-1) -- #8 team vs. C-USA #3/4
Gator/Sun (+1) -- #2 team vs. ACC #3, Pac-10 #3 or Big 12 #4
Meineke Car Care (+1) -- #3 team vs. ACC #6
International (-1) -- #4 team vs. MAC #3
PapaJohns (+1) -- #5 team vs. SEC #9
St. Petersburg (-1) -- #6 team vs. C-USA #5
Rose (0) -- #1 team vs. Big Ten #1 (probably should be considered +1 based on recent history)
Holiday (+1) -- #2 team vs. Big 12 #3
Sun (+1) -- #3 team vs. Big 12 #5
(-1) -- #3 team vs. Big East #2
Las Vegas/Emerald (-1) -- #4 team vs. MWC #1
(+1) -- #5 team vs. ACC #7
Hawai’i (-1) -- #6 team vs. WAC #2
Poinsettia (-1) -- #7 team vs. MWC #2
Las Vegas (+1) -- #1 team vs. Pac-10 #4/5
Poinsettia (+1) -- #2 team vs. Pac-10 #7
Armed Forces (0) -- #3 team vs. C-USA #3
New Mexico (-1) -- #4 team vs. WAC #3
Liberty (+1) -- #1 team vs. SEC #6/7/8
GMAC (0) -- #2 team vs. WAC or MAC #2
Armed Forces (0) -- #3 team vs. MWC #3
New Orleans (-1) -- #4 team vs. Sun Belt #1
St. Petersburg (+1) -- #5 team vs. Big East #6
Texas (+1) -- #6 team vs. Big 12 #8
Motor City (+1) -- #1 team vs. Big Ten #7
GMAC (0) -- #2 team vs. WAC or MAC #2
International (+1) -- #3 team vs. Big East #4/5
EagleBank (0) -- #4 team vs. Army or Navy (this could swing from a –1 to a +1 depending on the academy team coming into the game)
Sugar (0) -- #1 team vs. at-large
Capital One (0) -- #2 team vs. Big Ten #2
Cotton (-1) -- #3 team vs. Big 12 #2
Outback (-1) -- #4 team vs. Big Ten #3
Chick-fil-A (-1) -- #5 team vs. ACC #2
Music City (-1) -- #6 team vs. ACC #5
Liberty (-1) -- #7 team vs. C-USA #1
Papajohns.com (-1) -- #8 team vs. Big East #4/5
Humanitarian (+1) -- #1 team vs. ACC #8
New Mexico (+1) -- #2 team vs. MWC #4
Hawai’i (+1) -- #3 team vs. Pac-10 #6
Poinsettia (+1) -- #4 team vs. Pac-10 #7
Sunday, January 4, 2009
So I was a little conflicted when I first heard about Gene Chizik's decision to go to Auburn. Obviously, as a career move, it was a step up for him; I won't diminish him for that at all. The funny part to me was a couple of days afterward when he asked to meet with his old team once more. I wasn't in the room, but I have heard the same thing from a number of people that were. Accounts say it was a 90 second to 3 minute session where the "CEO" coach told his guys it was something he had to do for his family and that it was his dream job. By all accounts, he didn't look one person in the eye. By a number of other accounts, he didn't talk to his old staff in the time leading up to the meeting and in the time immediately after.
I'm sure Gene Chizik talked to the coaches he wanted to come with him, and to several players and recruits in the days after his meeting, but I know he didn't talk to the parents of every one of his recruits. In talking with one of those families (and not the Bofellis), all they wanted was 30 seconds....a sorry I had to go, but I had to and best of luck to your son, I know he'll do a great job. This is the same man that demanded his new players come in and meet him, one at a time, while sitting behind his desk with his national championship ring on, and demanded they sit up straight and look him in the eye.
In 2006, Gene Chizik thought he was walking into a group of people that didn't know how to work hard. Because if you work hard at Texas or Auburn, you win…and ISU didn't win in 2006. What he got was a group of kids that were tough, but not talented enough. He set about trying to bring it more talent, which he did. He put together a staff of people he could trust...as he told me when we first met... his phone had 1000's of contacts, in his words much more than the normal person, that he could rely on and that wanted to be part of his staff. He picked only the best.
I'll admit, I probably didn't give Gene a fair shake at first. I was still upset Coach Mac was gone, even though I know it was probably the best thing for everyone. If we were going to get rid of the winningest coach in school history, a man that loved the state of Iowa and its athletes, who, no question are limited in supply, we damn sure better get a staff that can coach and recruit at a whole different level. Almost immediately after the new staff came on board, I heard feedback from coaches around the state that ISU didn't care about their kids anymore and didn't think they were good enough. In fact, the 2006 4A state champions were told they didn't have a kid good enough to WALK ON at ISU. I was not comforted by this news...your heart comes from the state of Iowa. Ask Johnny Majors, Earle Bruce or Dan McCarney – they’ll tell you priority one should be getting the best kids in the state of Iowa.
After watching the 2007 Cyclones lose to Kent State, UNI and Toledo and be completely destroyed by Texas, I was fuming -- even with a win over Iowa and a come-back in a close game with an indifferent Oklahoma squad; I had seen us lose games we shouldn't have. No question the coaching in those early contests cost us as much as execution. As a coach, you need to understand what your guys can do and put them in a position to be effective. Our special teams schemes were awful. However, throughout the season, I saw improvement in fundamentals, particularly in the offensive line. Two wins at the end of the season made me think we had a chance.
2008 should have started where 2007 left off. It didn't. Too many changes in the o-line (Brandon Johnson should have been up and ready as soon as Knapp got hurt), some young guys playing that shouldn't have (Carter Bykowski- not because he couldn't contribute, but because we were loaded at the TE spot already), a Kansas game that got away - not for lack of effort on anyone's part, a Baylor game with the worst defensive game plan I have ever seen in my 13 years as a Cyclone and absolutely zero meaningful adjustments, followed by a offensive nightmare against Nebraska, left me knowing we didn't have a whole different level of coaching, in fact changes were needed. Gene Chizik was taking steps to address the problems he saw, and then Auburn stepped in.
I have always had a tremendous passion for ISU football. I watched our kids play hard all season and was truly proud of their effort. However, I spent most of the season in a funk; I was becoming indifferent to the outcome. Did I actually want the school I love to lose because of what it did to my coach, I found myself asking – no, but the only way to take what I was seeing was to not care as much as I used to. I suppose that was healthy, maybe a part of growing up, but it felt like a betrayal.
Gene Chizik might have gotten it done at ISU. He might have brought in the best and the brightest – heck, Dyron Dye was on campus for a visit. He might have gone out and gotten the best coordinators in the market at the time. He might have proved he is a military man “CEO” coach he sells himself as, but I bet if you ask a couple of his former players, coaches and recruits, they’ll tell you he proved himself to be a mercenary. They’re the ones that got the shaft in this deal. The fact that Gene Chizik could only muster at most 3 minutes for his two years’ worth of connection with a team, not answering any questions, he might as well have walked in, peed on the floor and walked out. Why waste your time with people you obviously care so little about? To satisfy his own guilty conscience is my only speculation. Gene Chizik was never connected with Iowa State, and I guess that’s why I never connected with him. Hopefully for him, he connects with Auburn or he might find himself without so many contacts in his phone.
December 20th changed everything for me. I know Coach Rhoads. Paul Rhoads is everything Gene Chizik sold himself to be – a great recruiter, a great coach and leader. Coach Rhoads will reestablish relationships with the coaches across the state – not just the ones that have kids we want right now, but ones that may have great kids in the future. It won’t be just because of that future kid, though -- it will be because he actually cares about ISU’s reputation and he respects what those coaches do for young people every day.
I’ve got to force myself to remain steady and not expect too much too quickly in terms of wins and losses, but I know I’ve got something to be proud about again. And that makes being a Cyclone worth every step of the journey.
Thank you for checking this site out. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.