When I learned that Mark Mangino had been named as Iowa State’s new offensive coordinator on Monday afternoon, I immediately wanted the opinion of probably the brightest football mind I know – Cyclone Radio Network analyst Ben Bruns. Shortly after the news broke, I dialed Ben up and had this in-depth conversation with the former All-American regarding the big news. Enjoy his insight. I know that you will..
CW: You have a different way of seeing things and that’s what I appreciate about your insight. You played in this league. You’ve covered Mangino teams and have seen them up close and personal. What was your initial reaction when you heard the news that he was Iowa State’s new offensive coordinator?
BB: I was shocked and thrilled when I heard the news. I was really pleased for Paul because getting a guy who has been in and around the coaching fraternity the way that Mangino has to come back to the conference, you know I think is a huge win on a lot of levels. It says that you have connections in that national coaching pool. It says that you have got the ability to have somebody who has obvious strong leadership qualities feel empowered enough inside the organization to lead the offense, which was something I felt that Iowa State needed. Paul’s strengths are on the defensive side of the ball. Mangino brings an organization factor and a discipline on the offensive side of the ball that is proven to be highly successful. I was pleased for Mark Mangino. I have been following him after and the article that showed up in the Kansas City Star where he has spoken out about his experience, this is a guy who you can kind of root for after you hear his side of that whole story. He is a tough-minded dude. It was obviously in his teams, that his teams had that killer instinct that you have to have to go win a game in the last seconds with your offense. That is something that I always wanted to be a part of and that we carried with us when we were successful as an offensive football team.
CW: He has been at Kansas State. He obviously won at Kansas. He has won in places that are similar to Iowa State. How big is that to about this hire? Is a guy like that more appealing than somebody coming from the state of Texas or somewhere like that?
BB: Absolutely. What I observed from Mangino teams is that they would innovate within a set of things that they felt strongly about doing well. It goes back to that whole Mike Leach, Bob Stoops, Mark Mangino offensive philosophy that really was kind of honed with that group of guys. It is a fantastic hire from the perspective of knowing how to win with a philosophy and the ability to maximize your parts in a northern Big 12 environment.
CW: I’m curious to get your analysis on how this might affect the offensive line. I know that Mangino isn’t exactly an offensive line coach but what do you remember about his lines at Kansas and how do you think this will impact the current group at Iowa State?
BB: I always remembered that they looked and performed better than I thought they would. That just tells me that they maximized their talent which frankly, as someone who coached football, not at this level but at a high, high school level, I can tell you that championships are won by groups that just set their minds to being the best they can be and letting the chips fall where they may. Every day you work to be the best you can be. You don’t take anything for granted that you can do to become better. That’s what his Kansas teams did. It was obvious, that’s what his Kansas teams did. It was shocking, the amount in a relatively short period. I expect Iowa State to be significantly improved on offense next year. Maybe it won’t happen in game one but by the end of next season, I think this will be pretty potent group given the returning guys, the work I know they are going to do in the weight room and that Yancy McKnight will do with them in the off-season and let’s face it – every single one of those offensive linemen need another 15 to 20 pounds with the exception of Tom Farniok. Every guy. You only do that with a lot of hard work and then they have to keep it through the season. I think they can be an effective group next season and I am thrilled with their new leader.
CW: During Paul Rhoads’ press conference, some sort of comparison to Todd Reesing was made in regards to the group that is currently at Iowa State. None of those guys look like Jay Cutler physically but Reesing was coached well and did enough things right to really become a fine football player. Do you see any sort of comparisons from Todd Reesing to any of those guys? Obviously, they have a long way to go but it is an interesting discussion.
BB: Yeah, I think so. I think it is too early but Reesing turned into such a dynamic playmaker and where he really killed you was not only could he throw it all over the field, but he could beat you with his feet when you spread out to defend the pass. Chase Daniel was far more effective at running the football than anybody ever gave him credit for. That’s how Colin Kaepernick won the game on Sunday. Quarterbacks that are masters of the offense and the scheme and know what it is going to do to the defenders – how the defenders are going to act to what look they get – are the ones that can leave you making lots of throws and running the ball when the defense reacts the way that they think it will. You don’t get that without a ton of reps of the same exact concept over and over and over again. I’m not sure whether or not these guys can do that. I do think that the proven track record of having that kind of success means that there is at least an opportunity. I didn’t think that Reesing was, nobody recruited him right? That is a manufactured guy. If you would have given Mark Mangino two or three more years, he would have manufactured another guy. It’s credit to the work that Reesing did but how that system sets you up to exploit the defense matters.
CW: That sets me up for my last question because Paul spoke about the 2009 game where he joked that after he watched the tape, he was actually mad at Wally Burnham for how open the Kansas receivers were in space and how they were able to utilize that. It’s one of the things that he loved about Mangino. Iowa State in my mind, has some wide receivers as well as guys coming in next year to take advantage of some of that. In your opinion, are some skill position players in place to take a major step next year?
BB:I do, but you know as late season NFL games prove, nothing matters unless you have an offensive line that can deliver the goods. While I think that Iowa State’s skill players have an increasing list of weaponry at their disposal, it’s just not effective unless the guys up front are getting things done. That means that guys have to be durable. They have to be physical. They have to be mentally sharp and they have to have some depth. I believe that group can have all of those things next year and no matter who the OC is, they are going to have to play at a much higher level in order for us to take a step in the next tier offensively in the conference.