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Five Questions | Gearing Up for the Iowa St. Cyclones


In lieu of a links-only post this morning, we ask five questions to get the week started right.  It's time to start focusing on the Cyclones.

1.  WHO ARE THE TOP THREE TEAMS IN THE BIG 12? | I asked this last week and, oh my, how things can change in a week, who are the top three teams in the Big 12?  Should you start to consider teams like the Kansas St. Wildcats and the Oklahoma St. Cowboys along with the Oklahoma Sooners and the Nebraska Cornhuskers?

2.  BIGGEST DEFENSIVE CONCERN? | Texas Tech defensive coordinator James Willis spoke after practice yesterday and he mentioned that focus is the one thing that the defense needs to improve moving forward.  Here's the non-transcript:

Work on technique and fundamentals.  Had guys that stepped up and play, good to get guys fresh and are rebuild.  Was happy with performance against Texas.  Must get better each and every week.  Making a conscious effort to get better.  Guys understanding alignments and assignments, must learn technique and fundamentally sound defense.  Glaring problem is the focus and he wants focus the entire time.  Iowa st. is a running football team.  He coached with Coach Rhoads and they are a fundamentally sound defense.  Not going to lose the game.

What's your biggest concern about the defense, specifically going up against the Cyclones?

3.  WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE FROM THE OFFENSE TO GET BACK ON TRACK AGAINST IOWA ST.? | Offensive coordinator Neal Brown also spoke after practice yesterday and this is a non-transcript:

Got two good days of practice in, got about three days of rest.  Focused on the running game.  Had so many down and distance.  Actually fit the zone better.  He probably got too impatient.  Cut down on the formations for the run game and just focused on getting off the ball.  Maybe making it too difficult and need to get the running backs north and south.  Re. Taylor Potts, negative plays really hurt.  Potts was like any other player on the offense, had 9 guys doing right and 2 doing wrong.  Potts was up and down.  Didn't make a crucial play this week.  Iowa St. is very sound.  Their defensive coordinator and head coach gets their players to play hard and play sound.  Won't try to trick anyone, just do what they do.  Expect a 4-down front and 2-deep safety.  Texas mixed up their coverage quite a bit.

A couple of interesting things here.  I wasn't sure what Brown was referring to when he talked about the zone, but it was in reference to the running game, and I think that he was referring to a zone blocking scheme.  Obviously, I can't confirm this as it was merely a passing reference.  A zone blocking scheme isn't in itself a bad scheme and this is something that I think I've beat into everyone's head at this point, but it's not about wide splits or blocking schemes or anything else, but it's about execution.  For some good reading about zone blocking, check out ESPN's Bob Davie (who says that the biggest advantage to a zone blocking scheme is that it is intended to handle moving defensive linemen), Rocky Top Talk (this is really good) and Tomahawk Nation (and this is really good too).

There's some good and bad to take away from Brown's comments about Potts.  First and foremost, Potts is front and center with LB Bront Bird this at this week's press conference.  I think that anyone expecting Potts to not start this week can put that to rest.  However, Brown is saying some critical things of Potts, especially emphasizing the idea that Potts didn't make any plays.  I can't recall a time when Brown was even remotely critical of Potts and I think he's doing this for a reason.  Potts needs to start making some crucial plays.

Looking forward, what does the offense need to do improve against Iowa St.?

4.  ZONE BLOCKING VS. MAN BLOCKING? | LAJ's Don Williams has some additional quotes from OC Brown regarding the new schemes for the offense:

"We’re really running two schemes that they didn’t run last year," he said. "There’s blame for me, because I’ve gotten a little impatient sometimes in the run game. There’s some blame for the line because we haven’t gotten the push we needed, and there’s some blame on the running backs. We’ve missed some holes, not so much against Texas, but (against) SMU and New Mexico that could have been big gains.

"The schemes aren’t that hard. We just haven’t executed that great on a couple of things."

I think Brown is right on some level.  Zone blocking isn't rocket science, but it does take time and it can be a very effective method of blocking with an offensive line.  Of course, it can also look absolutely pitiful too.

One other thought about a zone blocking scheme, which is that, running backs need to be aware of making a cut against the grain on the backside of the play as well as where the play was initially intended.  I think this is something that most of the running backs on this team haven't had to do, which find those cut-back lanes in a zone blocking scheme.  Personally, I think Texas Tech has the running backs to take advantage of this scheme, but the linemen aren't getting to the second level of defense to really break open any holes.

Does it matter to you what type of scheme is being run offensively or do you just want OC Brown to show you the baby, i.e. get the offense to execute properly?

5.  WERE YOU PRODUCTIVE AT ALL THIS WEEKEND? | Bye weeks usually mean that I need to be somewhat productive since I'm so unproductive for just about every Saturday during the football season.  I spent quite a bit of time on the couch watching a handful of football games (this isn't meant to be a trivial question, but along with Texas Tech, is West Virginia the only other team that has the bass-boat glitter on their helmets?), but I did fix a few things that needed repair and I cleaned the house this weekend, hoping that I could earn a few brownie points with my wife.  Were you productive at all this weekend and if so, what did ya do?

Feel free to copy and paste the questions (after the jump) into a comment box and play along.