BearsTruth was able to catch up with former Iowa State offensive linemen Zack Spears and ask five questions about the upcoming game in Ames, Iowa.
Zack, an offensive lineman, played junior college football at Trinity Valley in Athens and finished his career at Iowa State. He received a degree in communications. He is currently the co-host of The Eric Sullivan Show on ESPN East Texas 92.1 FM and a football analyst for CBS 19 in Tyler. He also co-host the ETFinalScore.com Friday Night Football Show Friday nights at 11 pm.
Colt Barber: Iowa State still seems to be in a tough situation at QB with neither Barnett or Jantz being very effective. Jared Barnet played a good game against TCU, but outside of that he has struggled completing passes consistently. Can you talk a little about the QB situation going into the game Saturday?
Zack Spears: Iowa States offense isn't built to have one player just stand out and be stellar. It requires all 11 guys to work together each and every play to work collectively as a unit to get the job done. Barnett starts because he seems to give the team an added boost. No one can really explain it, but it is a real thing.
The reason I feel like the Cyclones offense has struggled the last two weeks is not because the quarterback didn't play well, but more as a unit. And the players and coaches would be the first ones to tell you that as well. Additionally, as we have seen now all year, Kansas State has played stellar defense, and that just happened to be one of the teams they played against.
CB: The Iowa State defense has been a solid group for the entire year especially in points allowed. That said, it looks like TCU, Kansas State and OSU all moved the ball pretty well against the Cyclones defense (481.3 ypg). Can you talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the group overall?
ZS: Iowa State's defense is no doubt a great group. Led by last years co-defensive player of the year in the Big 12, AJ Klien, and All-Big 12 performer Jake Knott. The pleasant surprise of this defensive unit is the continued success and development of the two defensive tackles; Jake McDonough and Cleyon Laing. The Cyclones in years past have not been a place of feared pass rushers. But these two, plus getting Rosevelt Maggit back from a season ending knee injury last year as well as the speed rush of Willie Scott, have this front four getting after the passer which helps the secondary.
The Cyclones secondary is talented and tackled very well for a position in football that isn't typically known for being good tacklers. When this defense creates turnovers the Cyclones usually win. Look back in the Paul Rhoads era, all of his big wins have come where the defense has taken the ball away multiple times.
CB: Last year Iowa State chose to take away the deep pass from Baylor and Robert Griffin to hopefully slow down their offense. This year Baylor is without Robert Griffin, but the offense is still the No. 1 offense in the nation and Nick Florence is leading the nation in total yardage. Baylor also has shown the ability to attack down the field consistently with Terrance Williams. What do you see Coach Rhoads game plan being this year?
ZP: This game reminds me a lot of last years Iowa State game vs Oklahoma State who was ranked #1 in every offensive category. In that game we blitzed and got pressure on Brandon Weeden and it worked. Forcing him to get out of the pocket, throw on the run, get hit, and disrupt him. The weather was also chilly that night and it is supposed to be cold this weekend which is an advantage for the Cyclones in that they live, go to school, and practice in it everyday and meanwhile Baylor is doing all of the same things in 85 degree weather all week long. When your hands get cold, it gets harder to do things with the football, and you don't like to get hit or hit near as much.
CB: Baylor's defense (No. 120 nationally) is obviously struggling to stop much of anything an offense chooses to test them with. At the same time, Iowa State's offense (No. 105 nationally) has not shown the ability to put up tons of points or yards to win a shoot out. What do you think Iowa State will try to do offensively against Baylor's defense?
ZP: I don't think Iowa State will attempt to do anything out of the ordinary against a struggling Baylor defense. It's Coach Rhoads style to stick with what we have. When the offense is clicking, and it has at times this year, it is tough to stop. Expect to see Barnett out of the pocket making throws on the run which he excels at. His primary targets are Aaron Horne, Chris Young, Albert Gary, Josh Lenz, and Ernst Brun. Ernst Brun has emerged as a talent in this Cyclone offense. A big time play making tightend that can go up and make a play on the football. Who doesn't want that out of their tight end?
Also, look for the Cyclones to stick to their zone read runs where you don't have to just worry about talented running backs but a terrific running quarterback in Jared Barnett. The Cyclones offensive line is huge, experienced and smart. All of them have been in Coach Rhoads program since he arrived in Ames. Offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham and head coach Paul Rhoads are not afraid to call some trick plays on offense and special teams. The Cyclones have a pretty good track record of being successful when running them which is a result of good coaching and film study, knowing when and where to call the right trick play.
CB: Baylor's offense has moved the ball very well on the road this year (618.7) as well as put up points on the road (53.3). Ames, Iowa, however, has become one of the tougher places to play in the Big 12. If Baylor were to leave Iowa with a victory, what will the team need to be the most prepared for?
ZP: Like I said earlier, the Bears will need to be prepared for the cold weather. Which while practicing in Waco I have no idea how they could physically get ready for that. The Cyclone nation will be out in full effect on Saturday evening after losing two in a row. It is also Iowa State's homecoming. Be ready for a Cyclone defense that plays like it is on a mission and a special teams unit led by Jeremiah George and Matt Morton who get down the field and cover as well as anyone in the nation.
Baylor needs to try and get something going in the punt return game, as the Cyclones have a NFL talent as their punter in Kirby Van Der Kamp, who rarely allows a return on one of his punts. I also think the Bears will find an inspired offense on Saturday in Ames as they have faced scrutiny the last two weeks about their offensive performances. Coach Messingham will have his unit prepared and ready. I think they will try and come out early and set the tone early at the line of scrimmage and establish the run early, in the cold weather.
34 Iowa State
Iowa State comes out and plays well early, but because Baylors offense is so talented they keep them in it. I also truly believe that if Iowa State's offense plays well and puts up numbers against Baylor like teams in the past weeks have, Coach Briles will have to address his defensive coordinator position when they get back to Waco.