Spring Football: Bill Bleil on the OL

By Chris Williams, Publisher

We’re 10 days away from Iowa State’s 2010 spring game. As expected, the Cyclone offensive line just might be the strongest single unit on the team next season. The big men up front have lived up to that hype during spring drills. That’s according to Iowa State offensive line coach Bill Bleil, who spoke with members of the media on Tuesday after practice. Here’s the complete Q&A.

What is the biggest thing that you’ve noticed about your offensive line so far this spring?

BB: You lose Reggie Stephens and you worry that there is going to be a drop off. But you know what? We slid Ben (Lamaak) into center and he is a great leader. In all honesty, we haven’t lost anything. Brayden Burris slipped in there. We moved Scott (Haughton) down to guard, which has really helped him. He is really playing well at guard. He has got a guard body type. He’s played comfortably well down there. Brayden Burris, we knew had had 165 snaps last year in games and really played well. We knew he was going to be ready to play. For a red-shirt freshman, he was light. His weight is up. He works hard and it is important to him. We have him playing well and that gives us a real solid five. The other thing is that we have some guys behind them: Sean Smith, Kyle Lichtberg. We moved Carter Bykowski to tackle. It has given us some great depth.

What kind of depth chart movement has there been?

BB: The only movement we have had is moving Brayden in at right tackle. For the most part, we have moved them around. I have let Kyle play some guard, just because he can. That allows Carter Bykowski to get extra reps. Kyle is probably right now, our second tackle. Carter is coming on and he’s giving us some good, quality reps so far. He runs so well. His body is just starting to catch up. That is a real positive thing. Alverez and Lamaak have played a lot of reps and are really smart in there. They make big decisions for us and keep things pretty calm out there.

The offensive line was the backbone of Iowa State’s offense last season. Is the same thing going to have to happen next year?

BB: I think just because they were, they will again. The one thing I think that they want to do is just keep trying to improve off of last year. I think that they can. I think that we can be better than we were a year ago. They come to learn every day and they come to work every day.

What areas do they need to work at?

BB: Anytime, the easiest way to improve is to eliminate mental errors. They are bigger, faster and stronger and so on. I think that they are playing with a better pad level than they were a year ago. I think that a year in the weight room with Yancy (McKnight) helps all of these guys. He does a wonderful job with bigger, faster and stronger. Because of that, they have a better pad level. Right now, the learning curve is over. A year ago now, we were installing everything. Right now, everything is second nature to them. What I like about these kids and what I like about the starters is that I ask them a lot to coach the young guys. I think it helps them as players. They are doing a great job of coaching the young kids.

You’ve talked before about what you want your lines to physically look like. Are they different this spring?

BB: Yeah. You can go into Yancy. He charts that by the month. It is actually by the week but we get monthly results. We get weight reports but we also get body fat reports. I think that Kelechi Osemele, from a year ago now is down about 13 percent body fat, things like that can only make them better. He is still 330-pounds. He is a big man. Ben Lamaak has got his weight way down. All of them are getting their weight down.

You sound like you’re very impressed with Scott Haughton at guard. Is that more of a natural fit?

BB: I think so. He is a very powerful guy. He is quick. He has got more quick twists than he does speed. I think it has been a very good move for him.

What is it that you like so much about Brayden Burris’ game?

BB: He is athletic. He is smart. He is really, quite physical for a young man. The thing that he gives you is that quick twitch that you need in this offense at the tackle position.