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July 24, 2007For the first time ever, Gene Chizik is doing the media day thing as a head coach. Iowa State's first-year coach talked to reporters Tuesday morning at Big 12 media days in San Antonio and will continue to do so throughout the day. Here's a Q&A of his opening comments to the press and his answers to some questions posed to him by the media that cover Big 12 football.
Well, obviously the last seven months for me has been a whirlwind, in a good way. But, you know, it's been a learning experience for me. Very interesting. Going from being assistant coach to a head coach and all the nuances and things that you have to deal with differently than you do when you're in the system. Again, it's been very much a learning experience for me. Our football team right now has been very resilient. It's been a different six or seven months for them as well. And I gotta give our guys a lot of credit. They've been through some changes that maybe nobody saw coming for a while and have really come through it with flying colors. We as a football team right now, there's so many things you have to do when there's a change. We've got some great senior leadership that all of a sudden they're looking up their senior year, there's a different guy in charge. But our football team has come along well.
Our spring practice I thought went real smooth, really good. We're trying to empower our offense and defense and our special teams philosophically on our football team, our players, getting them to buy into those things in the weight room. So, again, I think that there's some things that happened in the spring that were very positive. We have a long way to go to be able to get to our first football game. Again, it's an exciting time for me personally, for my coaches. I think the players are excited. The fans are excited at Iowa State so we're getting ready to kick it off.
We've seen your defense, but what kind of offense are you installing at Iowa State, talk about that kind of philosophy you're bringing there?
That's the kind of questions I've gotten over the months. As a defensive coordinator you look and see what offensively gives you problems. So Robert McFarland is our offensive coordinator, and we've kind of put together an offense that we think is multiple. I think this day and age that gives defenses the most problems. Philosophically, we feel like you've got to start running the football. And I've said this before, I'll go to my grave believing if you're going to win the Big 12 or any league you have to be able to run the football first. And so we're going to start with a running game and then obviously your passing game and your throwing game, you come off that, takes so much pressure off the quarterback. But just offensively I was trying to be multiple in trying to find different ways to run the football and be able to throw the ball off of that is really where we started in the spring and we'll continue to try to grow in those areas.
With your track record being a defensive coordinator, you're obviously always trying to get at the quarterback, how do you plan or what's the plan to maybe keeping some of the pressure off of Bret with all the sacks he's had over the last few years?
I think that's a great question. Part of the thing, I guess there's a misconception out there a lot of times, and we have a lot of work to do with our offensive line. But sacks can be a couple different reasons. Everybody wants to blame it on the offensive line. That's not necessarily the case. Sometimes it's the quarterback holding the ball too long. Sometimes it's one of the running backs missing the block and protection. But for us to be able to protect Bret and he knows this, and we've had many discussions over the spring about getting ourselves into negative plays, or getting ourselves out of negative plays, I should say. But we gotta be able to move them around. We gotta be able to throw quick. We've got to find a way to get the ball out of his hands and he's got to be able to throw on the run some. And Bret has obviously had a great success as a drop-back passer if he's had time. The bottom line is we've got to find ways to give him time and obviously the more people you keep in to protect him the better chance you have of doing that. So I think it's going to be up to us as a coaching staff to find a good mixture between when Bret drops back, when he moves the pocket, when he gets rid of the ball on your quick game things. And, again, as I said at the very opening, we've got to be able to run the football to be able to offset that and take some pressure off of him.
Would you talk about the combination of Bret and Todd Blythe, can you sense a unique communication between those two guys?
When I saw one of them pay one of them after practice when I threw him about seven balls, I knew there was something fishy there. No, it's really neat, because it's a very unique dynamic between the two. I think they've been through a lot of good and a lot of bad together. I should say a lot of good and some bad together. There's always that kind of unspoken whatever you want to call it, aura, between a good quarterback and a good receiver. They kind of look at each other and give each other that look and they're always on that same page. I think over the last three years Bret and Todd have had that. And it's a special relationship on and off the field. And I think that's what makes the on-the-field relationships good is that they're also best friends off the field. And so, again, you know, they've had a great three years. We're looking for big things out of both of those guys. And they really had a good spring. Obviously they're both in the transition, they're trying to learn a new offense with new verbiage and some things of that nature. But, again, it's going to come down to fundamentals: Bret throwing it, us protecting him, and Todd catching it. But, again, it's really neat to watch these two guys, because I saw them from a different angle last year. I saw them as trying to defend them and they worried me. And now you get to be around them, know their personalities. It's kind of neat to see it from the other side. Again, I just hope that they're going to have the kind of year that we think they will.
What interested you most about the job at Ames?
Couple things. When I was approached with some different opportunities, I really felt like whatever opportunity I pursued had to be something where I felt like there was going to be a commitment to excellence and a commitment to win. And when I was approached with this job, basically I wanted them to lay out their vision for how Iowa State would have an opportunity to win the Big 12 North. That was my whole goal and vision. And that was my interest. And so when I sat down with Jamie Pollard, the athletic director, and the president, Dr. Geoffroy, they laid out something that was a commitment. I certainly didn't come anywhere to lose. I'm not used to it. I don't like it. I took this job because they had a vision on what it's going to take to be a champion. And so when I felt like all the pieces of that puzzle were in place, then I felt like that was an opportunity I really had to look into. Ames is a great place to raise a family. I have a young family. They're always in the mix in terms of where I go and don't go. As I put all the pieces of the puzzle together with everything, family, the opportunity, the vision of the university and the football program, I thought it was a great challenge for me. Every job is hard. University of Texas is hard. Auburn was hard. Every college football job is hard. So we know that this is a tough job. But that's part of the challenge. That's what I like about the job that it is going to be a challenge. But I think everything is in place for my family and myself to kind of move on and start a new direction.
Wonder if you could tell us how it feels like before your first game to have your face on a coin?
My son said, "How did they put your face on a coin and you haven't won any games yet?" He's six, by the way. And I thought he worked for the newspaper at one point. You know, it's bizarre to me now, I'll tell you. It's strange. I think the value of the coin will be in proportion with how many we win or lose, eventually. But I don't know what they're going for right now. Probably not very much. But it's an exciting time for everybody, to be honest with you. And, again, it's just the new beginning. I think there's a lot of excitement there and hopefully we can make the coin's value go up at some point.
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