By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher
The offensive line was one of the key reasons that Iowa State went to and won a bowl game in 2009. Three starters return from that group, subtracting Scott Haughton and Reggie Stephens from the mix. How has this new group of five looked so far during camp? Here’s a Q&A session with Iowa State offensive line coach Bill Bleil.
How has the line looked so far coach?
BB: I think good. The first week there is always a little catching up to do. They are starting to play better. I really think that the first group is playing well at this time. We are looking for a six and a seven and I think they are there. I think that are depth is really pretty good right now. I am happy with them. They work hard. They come to work every day and they are a disciplined group. They understand football and I feel good about them.
How has Ben Lamaak done at center?
BB: He really understands football and I think that position needs to have that quality. Reggie had that and obviously Ben has that. When we have a chance to have everybody playing together and have everybody on the same page. That is the main thing in the offensive line, that everybody is on the same page. We were so lucky to have Reggie a year ago. We seem to have made the transition without him.
What is the best thing that Ben has shown you so far this summer?
BB: He is smart. He is very intelligent. We have that position make a lot of calls and they ID a lot of people. Just from game planning and stuff, we obviously don’t spend a lot of time game planning our own guys but you only have a certain amount of people block their guys and he does a good job of that.
Does the fact that he has played so many different positions help him?
BB: Without a doubt. It helps his total understanding of the game. Things happen pretty slow for him out there. It is pretty good right now. He is a good football player and he has a chance to make us a good line.
What have your impressions been of Hayworth Hicks over the last few weeks?
BB: Hayworth is a good football player. He just hasn’t played a lot of football in the last year. We knew he was a good football player. He has his weight lower than it has ever been. I think he is 35-pounds lower than when he got here 18 months ago. He has done a nice job of getting his body back into shape. He is a good football player. He is powerful. He really enjoys playing football and he’ll really help us.
The line was one of the team’s strengths last year. How do you feel about where the team is right now compared to a year ago?
BB: It is going to be a wait and see situation. We were a good line last year. You lose a Reggie Stephens though and it is hard to replace those guys. We think we have. We think we have replaced those guys but we will see. We will see how that works out. I think we will be a good offensive line.
You talk about that need to have depth. Has anybody stepped up to fill positions six, seven and eight?
BB: Brayden Burris has come in to take that starting tackle job. He had almost 160 snaps last year and played really well. He played well in the spring. He just keeps getting better at that right tackle position. Hayworth is helping. Kyle Lichtenberg, Carter Bykowski, we have a number of guys. Sean Smith is playing really well right now and understands. The thing that helps too is those older kids. They have been around a while.
What can Kelechi Osemele do this year to stand out from last year since he was so strong?
BB: I think he is getting better. His footwork keeps improving. He really plays at a high level. As his footwork gets better and his pass protection gets better, I think he is going to be an even better football player. He comes out and plays fast. He is very strong and very aggressive. I think he has a chance to keep improving. He comes in and watches a lot of film. He takes criticism extremely well. He is very critical of himself. Those are all signs of a good football player.
Could you see any of those newcomers contributing at all this year, like Jon Caspers?
BB: You know, I think there are some who could, if we needed them to. At this point right now, we plan on redshirting them all.