After missing the last half of the 2010 season due to injury, Tyler Nielsen was itching to get back on the practice field this spring. With spring ball nearly complete, the senior linebacker feels that the practice time has gone by fast and there is plenty of competition on the defensive side of the football. He talks about spring practice, playing Nebraska this year, the position battles, and much more.
Q: Can you talk about how spring practice has been going?
NIELSEN: It has been going by pretty fast. We have a lot of young guys coming in next year to fill some big shoes. They have learned a lot this spring and we are looking to finish off spring ball on a good note with a full head of steam for the fall.
Q: Can you talk about James Morris and how he responded last year and his future?
NIELSEN: He stepped in last fall and did a good job last fall. It was a tough position to be in playing middle linebacker and having to make all the call out there on the field. He did a good job. There are a lot of things for him to learn, especially at that position. He learned a lot this spring and hopefully those things can carry over to the fall and be an even better player in the fall.
Q: Last year you were more of an inexperienced player with an experienced defensive line. What is it like now and how has the defensive line come together after losing so many guys up front?
NIELSEN: We lose a lot of good guys up front and it is similar to a couple of years ago. The question then was how we were going to replace guys like Mitch King and Matt Kroul. Guys like Karl Klug and Christian Ballard stepped in and we expect guys like Tom Nard and Steve Bigach and Carl Davis, older guys that you haven't heard of and young guys are going to play big roles this fall. Then you have older and experienced guys like Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels that have been out playing who will lead the group up front and we expect big things from them in the fall.
Q: Your hometown is slightly on the western side of the state of Iowa. Probably more towards the middle, but how much excitement is there to play Nebraska.
NIELSEN: It is a big deal on the western side of the state. I am from more of the central part of the state, but once you get to the central part of the state you start seeing some Nebraska flags flying around. There are almost as many Nebraska fans on the western side of the state as there are Iowa State fans, so it will be a tough and hard fought game each year and one that we are looking forward to. Maybe they will call it "Farmageddon" or something like that. I think that would be pretty neat. It is something we are looking forward to.
Q: Have you talked to Dan Heiar or anyone from his family? If you have, what was the reaction and also the reaction from the team to his situation?
NIELSEN: I have not spoken to him directly, but I have heard from a few teammates about what is going on. It is unfortunate and I hope he gets better. We have a team meeting coming up and we hope to get some updates and wish him the best and hope he gets better.
Q: You were recently named to the Lott preseason watch list. What does that mean to you?
NIELSEN: It is a prestigious award and everything, but it is preseason. I am more focused on what I do on the field during the season to help the team win. If it works out and I become a finalist, then so be it. I am just working on being the best player I can to help the team win.
Q: You have some rivalry trophies out there. Would you like to see one for the Nebraska series and do you have any ideas on what it would be?
NIELSEN: Yeah we have some rivalry trophies out there already. I said earlier that they have already nicknamed this rivalry "Farmageddon" and I think it would be kind of neat to see a trophy with farmageddon. It will be heated rivalry and we are excited to play it.
Q: You have a couple of All Big Ten players in the defensive backfield. Talk about your defensive backs and what they are bringing to spring practice.
NIELSEN: They are a high energy group back there. We have to replace a couple of safeties, but there is a lot of competition back there this spring. Guys like Shaun Prater are high energy and he is going to flying around out there making big plays. You have Micah Hyde who obviously made big plays in the bowl game with the interception return. Guys like Greg Castillo and B.J. Lowery at the corner position are going to step up and be huge for us this year. Jordan Bernstine has been looking good and we expect big things from all of those guys.