Q&A: Wally Burnham answers key defensive questions

At Iowa State’s media day event on Sunday, Cyclone Fanatic went one-on-one with defensive coordinator Wally Burnham to discuss a handful of burning topics surrounding the you on that side of the ball. Here is the transcript from that conversation. 

CF: Taking a look at your depth chart, you all seem to have a ton of options in the secondary. When this staff got to town, was that something that you zeroed in on considering the league that you play in?

WB: We had to adjust and get those speed guys – that hybrid, nickel/strong safety type guy. We had to have a plan and hopefully we’re starting to get there a little bit, even though it might be inexperienced at some positions. There’s still progress.

Charlie Rogers is specifically intriguing just because he’s a freshman at No. 1 on the cornerback depth chart. How has he looked so far in your opinion?

WB: I think he is adapting. We’ve got him playing corner and starting at nickel. For a redshirt freshman to come in and be as far along as he is, that is encouraging. We’ve got to get ready for the Big 12, which consists of most of the spread offenses that we face. We’ve got to have more speed out there and he enables us to do that. (Jared) Brackens is not bad at nickel either so we feel good about that position.

When referring to Brackens in his press conference, Coach Rhoads said that you all have never had a guy like him. What exactly does that mean?

WB: We don’t have to substitute to do certain things, like coverage basically. We can leave him on the field if we want to run nickel or tight coverages. We can leave him on the field if we run base type coverages or if we want to play the run or the pass. He is able to stay out there so he is that hybrid guy.

You guys like to talk about the “light” coming on. You said that happened for Brackens in the spring. Did that carry over to fall camp?

WB: Oh yeah. I’m telling you what, he adapted about as quickly changing positions from going from safety to linebacker. There are a lot of similarities anymore. He’s down closer to the line of scrimmage but some guys can play deep and some guys can play closer to the line of scrimmage. He is one of those guys who plays a heck of a lot better closer to the line of scrimmage and he has adapted very, very well.

To me, he looks bigger than the 210-pounds that he is listed at on paper. Does he play bigger than that?

WB: Yeah he does and he is long. He has long legs and long arms. He has quick feet and good hips. He has everything that you look for in a guy who you need to play the run but next time, it might be pass. He has a lot of those qualities.

Coach also mentioned that Jeremiah George was the leading vote getter for team captain honors. You’ve obviously worked with him since the day he got on campus. On the field and off, how far has he come?

WB: Light years. When that light came on for him two springs ago, he started to make the move and has grown, grown, grown. His complete game, the run game, the pass defense, he has a great understanding of it. He has grown tremendously.

Jake Knott once told me that he thinks Jeremiah will play on Sunday eventually. Do you agree?

WB: If he can get a little bigger that would help. He’s just not very tall. I don’t know what it takes up there. He’s got the speed and he’s got the quickness. I think he is smart enough.