The Kuna Football Team Looks Forward to a Big Season
We sat down with new head Kuna football Coach Ian Smart last week to talk about the upcoming season. The team looked strong at the football Jamboree in Nampa last Friday night with both a strong passing and running game putting several Kavemen in the end zone during the scrimmage. For the full interview, visit www.KunaMelba.com.
From the Kuna Football website: “Coach Ian Smart graduated from Orange Lutheran High School in Orange County, CA. After a successful high school career, he went on to play defensive line at Boise State University. After receiving his Masters in Athletic Administration, he began his coaching career at Bishop Kelly High School. He coached two seasons at BK, where he was able to help lead the Knights to a 12-0 state championship season with Coach Leslie. Under Coach Leslie, Coach Smart coached defensive line for the Kavemen and, along with Coach McCarthy, coordinated the defense. He is excited to begin his head coaching career with the 2014 KHS Kavemen team. Coach Smart and his awesome wife of five years live in southeast Boise with their daughter Adley.”
How has practice been so far?
We had some good stuff set up by Coach Leslie in the past and while we differ in a lot of ways the structure of what I’ve kept is similar enough to make the transition easy for the kids. I’ve really put a spin of my own on things, but really it hasn’t changed a ton. I’m excited at how pumped these kids have been and I know that people who came out for Hell Week, and who’ve had the opportunity to see these kids, they’re excited. So we’re just trying to make sure that excitement stirs in practice and they can use that energy to benefit them.
Are the numbers up or down from last year?
I think once we’ve got everyone checked in we’re about 145 kids. We’re right about that same number as we were last year give or take a few. The fun thing is, looking at these kids that are seniors now, their freshman year of football they were down to 17 kids. The program took a hit a little bit. We’re trying to get back and give these seniors a good exit because their entrance wasn’t the best experience.
Last year ended on a sour note with Boone’s injury and there was some talk about parents not letting their kids play this year because of that. Has that happened?
No. The numbers kind of prove that. We may have lost a few, but I think, truthfully, if they’re honest with themselves, it’s such a fluke deal. If you ask Boone, there are some things in life you just can’t predict. I’ve played and coached football for 14 years and have been around people who’ve coached for 30-40 years and they’ve said they have never seen anything like that happen. It is so fluky and I’m hoping people keep enjoying the game. We’re doing our due diligence as coaches in training them how to tackle properly and going through those things so they are as safe as possible. At the end of the day, life is kind of a risk in itself. We try to make sure they’re having fun because it’s a short journey and we need to make sure they enjoy it.
Last year, Kuna lost to Skyview and Bishop Kelly. Are there any other teams that you are expecting any trouble with this year?
The hard part is, we’re playing some 5A teams this year. Emmett? Last year it was a barn burner. We don’t expect much different. They are a tough-nosed football team. They went down to 3A but we’re treating them like a 5A team. Our kids know the importance of coming prepared for that game.
And then we hit three 5As in a row. We’ve never seen any of them. It’s going to be a bit of feeling out. We’ll see how we fare. Then we’ll have Skyview and Bishop Kelly waiting. We can’t take any of them for granted. That’s the hardest part for me. I know it’s a cliché for coaches to say “Our goal is to get a state championship”
You can’t pass games up if you want to get that goal. You have to get your spot taken away, and nobody’s close to taking it from him. He’s eradicated the things that he was lacking last year and I think he’s going to be a fun quarterback to watch.
You have 22 seniors, who is really shining?
Our biggest kid that is going to have the greatest upside at this point is Jake Johnson, who’s going to be a Junior. He has some things that only God can give you, being 6’6”, 200 pounds and having the ability to go get footballs like he does is something we can’t coach. He’s playing receiver and some free safety for us, too.
The kid I’m most excited about, someone that has really made progress in a way I didn’t forsee, is Camden Six, a cornerback. One of my biggest philosophy differences to Lee (Coach Leslie) is I’m an attack coach. I’m going to pursue that defensively and having corners that can go attack things is going to be an integral part to our defense. He (Camden), over the spring and summer, has made the most progress. It’s been fun to see. He’s got something good going on right now so we hope he takes it into the season.
Any sophomores on the varsity this year?
The blessing we have in this program right now is that a lot of the juniors and seniors will be able to take the load. For me, we have some talented kids, sophomore wise, but the luxury I’m going to have at this point, barring injuries, is keeping that JV team together. The fun thing is that they’ll be able to travel together and I know a lot of the parents will go “Woah, we want to get our kids up.” But to me, it is going to benefit them to attack things together and travel. So when they all become juniors next year, they’ll be a team to be reckoned with.
Any areas where you’re weak on varsity?
The spot to me that is glaring a little bit is linebacker. We have some good ones. We’re finding out that some people have talents that we haven’t really brought to the surface yet. A kid like Andrew Ware, who’s going to be a stud offensively, I’ve got him over playing linebacker now. At 6’3” he’s going to be a kid we can get in there and give other teams fits. He fits a different style than we’d normally have. But we should have about 4 kids there through that spot. That’s about the only spot where I see where we’re a bit vulnerable. The rest of the team, we’ve had kids really fill into their spots.
On offense, are you changing up the playbook?
We are and we’re not. Coach Leslie had his system that works well. It makes it easy to coach and evolve. Coach Maloof has done a wonderful job, and I still get to have my hands in that. We’re mixing some things in that we’ve never done before. We’re implementing tight ends into our plays that we never had before. We thought that with the nature of our team and the kids we have, the tight ends up there will help us. We’re going to use that strength, similar to what Bishop Kelly did last year to us with their tight ends. I think people will enjoy watching it.
How about any trick plays?
I do like trick plays. It’s in my BSU blood. You look at the ring on my desk (he points to it), three trick plays got us to where we were. To me, football is defending everything that comes your way. We may have a couple of wrinkles, I don’t know how many straight trick plays we’ll have, but each game we’ll find things we can exploit from other teams that they might not have seen from us. We’re going to make sure we stay creative, never get dry and never get predictable.
Are you doing anything different defensively?
I didn’t want to change much. I know that people who came out last year and saw those last few games we played saw a defense that changed its mentality. What I want to do is coach them to play hard. I think our strength lies in our defensive backs. We’re going to do a lot of different things, but we’re going to do them very well. Quarterbacks are going to be going “I have no idea what they’re doing.” For me, as a defensive coordinator, I want to make sure that quarterback never knows what’s going on. These kids have done a great job and frankly we’ve had a couple kids really step up that are going to make life difficult for some quarterbacks.
How about your lineman?
Elija Minnick, he got sick last winter and dropped 30-40 pounds, or more. He’s back up to about 210 but his heart is about the size of New York City. He’s a quiet leader, but a leader. The nice thing is, he’s got his twin brother right next to him. That side of the line should be tough. We’ll be able to run at people using their tenacity. If we can run the ball 50 times a game and beat teams 14 – 0, we’ll do it. Jake Johnson doesn’t want to hear that, the receivers don’t want to hear that, but to me, you’ve got to run the rock. Our whole line is going to be huge for us.
Are you stronger on the run or pass this year?
It’s hard to say. It’s hard to beat the weapons we have at receivers. We picked up Manny Medrano from Melba. He transferred over. That kid has shown me some incredible stuff. For me, I think if we’ve had running. He had 1,300 yards rushing as a fullback. He came in and works his butt off. You tell him to block, he blocks. You tell him to run, he runs. He just loves football. That’s about all you can ask for as a coach. We should be able to be real balanced this year.