Camp Report: O-Line competition revolves around combinations

AMES — At the conclusion of Iowa State’s first practice of 2013 on Monday evening, head coach Paul Rhoads alluded to a competition going on within his offensive line. After Tuesday’s practice, Rhoads gave more details.

“It’s a guard/tackle spot based on what we do with people,” Rhoads said.

Despite the fact that he’s currently listed as Iowa State’s top left guard on the most recent depth chart, Rhoads said that junior Jacob Gannon is the program’s top tackle at this point in time.

“He can play guard or tackle,” Rhoads said. "Brock Dagel could be one of our best five. Daniel Burton could be one of our best five. They are different position guys.”

The open competition could be at a guard or tackle spot. It all depends on who steps up as Iowa State’s fifth best lineman behind Tom Farniok (center), Ethan Tuftee (guard) and Kyle Lichtenberg (tackle). If Dagel is that man, Gannon will play guard. Should Burton be the guy, Gannon will play left tackle. 

“That is the combination that we are looking at,” Rhoads said.

Protecting Tuftee

At 6-foot-4, 314 pounds, Ethan Tuftee’s knees sure do take a pounding. He’s dinged them up over the years and for Iowa State, that is a concern. It’s a concern because heading into 2013, Tuftee is essential to success for an offensive line that struggled a season ago. Because of this, Rhoads and offensive line coach Chris Klenakis are trying to be smart with his reps during camp. 

“We need Ethan Tuftee on the football field,” Rhoads said. “We will need to protect him at times to do that. We already have. We did in the spring by shutting him down and we did in the summer by not putting heavy weight on his shoulders like he has in the past. We will continue to do that and continue to monitor his practice. At the same time, he is an offensive lineman. You have to physically practice and you have to block big and strong people. That is a fine line and we have to be smart to keep him on the field for the majority of snaps. He is very important to us.” 

Why the “Pistol” is a good fit

Chris Klenakis, one of the founding fathers of the “Pistol” offense that Iowa State has installed for 2013, told reporters after Tuesday’s practice that he sees a lot in common with this Cyclone team and the Nevada one he coached back in the day. 

“When we first put the ‘Pistol’ in at the University of Nevada, we didn’t have a bunch of three and four-star linemen. We had walk-on kids, one stars, blue-collar kids,” Klenakis said. “There is a little bit of a carry over. We had a lot of ranch kids and farm kids with great work ethics. Kind of like what I work with here.”

So what exactly does it take to make the “Pistol” click?

“You’ve got to have blue-collar o-linemen,” Klenakis said. “You have to have great downhill runners. You have to have big play receivers, guys who can take it deep. This offense revolves around tight ends.” 

Farniok gains strength

Despite what the latest roster reads, junior center Tom Farniok said that he is now up to 295 pounds. 

“I am a lot stronger and a lot bigger,” Farniok said. “My body fat is lower than it’s ever been since I’ve been here. I’ve gained 40 pounds since I got here.”

Farniok said that his goal will be to play at 300 pounds as a senior and max out there.

I asked him how he ever played in the Big 12 when he was a freshman, being as small as he was.

“There are times when I’m just like, ‘I don’t know how I ever did that,’” Farniok said.  “It takes such a toll on your body, being that small and taking those hits and trying to deliver those hits. I was hurt all of the time that year. Thinking about and going back to it, I don’t know how I did some of that stuff cause I was just getting beat up.”

Quote of the day

Tom Farniok when asked how to improve his physicality while blocking during practice…

“Be a jerk during practice. That’s really about the only way.” 


*** Klenakis on sophomore tackle Brock Dagel…

“He is a blue-collar guy. That guy goes to work. He goes to work every day. He brings his lunch pail. He is a student of the game. He wants to get better every day. That is very important to him and I tell you what, his future is bright.”

Dagel currently sits at the top of Iowa State’s depth chart at left tackle. 

*** Farniok said that because Iowa State’s schemes are so different on the offensive line than they were a year ago, the group hasn’t been watching any tape at all from the 2012 season. The linemen have focused on spring ball tape instead.

*** Rhoads on his expectations for the offensive line this season… 

“They are heightened, that’s for sure. They are playing more physical, which they needed to do. I think the offense and the coaching style is directed that way and I think that in 17 practices worth of Coach K. and some tweaks that we made, I have seen that already taking place. That is encouraging to those heightened expectations.”

*** Iowa State will pad up for the first time this season on Wednesday.  

“We got a good lather in day two and tomorrow we’ll start full contact and real football,” Rhoads said.