HANGIN' OUT WITH MALLORY: Part 1, offense

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Aug. 2—Since Indiana State moved its football offices into the basement of the Student Health Center during the Trent Miles coaching era, the layout of the offices has changed dramatically.

They've been expanded, remodeled and re-arranged. One thing, however, remains constant regardless of who has been in-charge of the ISU program.

The head coaches' office is the war room. To the degree any room in an office follows the movie cliche of how a coaches' office is supposed to look? Curt Mallory's is pretty close to the fictional equivalent.

On part of one wall is a gigantic list of potential recruits, all color-coded and arranged by position into categories of prominence. Then? There's the most sacred feature of any football war room — the depth chart.

The depth chart in Mallory's office, set up on a magnetic dry erase board, is roughly six feet tall and about 10 feet wide. Every player on the ISU roster is represented on this depth chart grouped by their position. Injured players are set aside in their own category below the proper depth chart.

On each player's entry, their height and weight are listed as well as hometown, high school and their date when their eligibility runs out. Each player has a color code to denote their year of eligibility.

This is the kind of information coaches do everything in their power to protect. So, no, I will not be providing pictures of ISU's position-by-position breakdown lest I be drawn-and-quartered in future contact with Mallory and the ISU staff.

However, Mallory was gracious enough to invite the Tribune-Star into the inner sanctum to discuss his own views on where ISU's personnel currently stands. Mallory and Tribune-Star sports editor Todd Golden pulled up comfy chairs and sat in front of the depth chart to discuss the 2022 Sycamores. Fall camp, incidentally, begins today at Memorial Stadium.

CM: Pull up a chair, it'll be easier to talk about what we have over here [at the depth chart].

(Mallory went straight to the offensive starters ... as well as to the crux of one of the main questions ISU has in 2022.)

Quarterback-wise is probably the biggest question, as you'd imagine. Cade Chambers is going into his third year. When you come in during the COVID year? I don't know if you saw the difference of not playing [in the spring of 2021] last fall, but I'm hoping we see it this year. That freshman class has had winter conditioning and has had more development and we're hoping that starts to show this fall.

Cade's had a really good offseason. Gavin Screws and he battled in the spring. One day it looked like Cade, the other day it looked like Gavin. It went back-and-forth waiting for one to take the lead. We brought in another young man, Evan Olaes from Colorado State. I didn't think we'd be looking for a third, but when Gunnar See decided to not play, that's where we found our third. I knew the quarterback coach, Joey Lynch, now at Vanderbilt, and I worked with [former Colorado State head coach] Steve Addazzio, that's how I connected with Evan.

Michael Haupert is still at quarterback, but has the ability to work at other positions as we'll see him at wideout and returner and all of that. Anthony Garzolini is just getting better and growing. He's just a pup. Dane Andrews has changed his body and is doing a really good job. I feel good about the room, I'm just waiting for someone to emerge.

TG: Running backs ... we saw Justin Dinka a bit last year. He has the chance to get some more carries with Petey [Kerlegrand] gone. How has he done?

CM: He's had a good spring. I think we have some running backs. Omarian Dixon could be really good. Tee Hodge is a transfer from Tennessee and Justin. I think those three are pretty good. Justin probably had the slight edge [out of spring], but I wouldn't say we're ready to hand over the keys. Those three are neck-and-neck.

TG: It looks like you have what you want in terms of versatility of backs. Justin is smaller. Tee, what I remember of him, gives you your bigger back option. You've always wanted that versatility in your backfield, body-wise.

CM: As a core? This could be the best it's been since we've been together, talent-wise, in that room. Then there's Dawson Basinger, who is really good and a good special teams. And then we have a lot of young guys battling. As you can see, we have a lot of yellow up there. That's freshmen. What's so unique here? (Mallory pointed at one of the freshmen on the board) He's going into his third year and he has four years left. It's crazy. Trying to juggle all of this yellow? That's why it looks the way it does.

TG: Wideout? You have experience. Dante [Hendrix] stands above everybody, but Daijon [Collins] has been dependable, Harry [Van Dyne] played late and, of course, Dakota [Caton] is back from injury. They're as good as their quarterback, but how good do you feel?

CM: We really do have dependable options. (Mallory points at Hendrix's slot on the board) I'm such a big fan. He's a Jonas Griffith type of guy. He should be the leader of the team and he's the total package. He's academic All-Conference and he's had a great offseason. I'm excited to see what he can do.

Harry Van Dyne is what I thought he would be when we recruited him [out of Minnesota]. He's had the best offseason. He's battled injuries, but he's stayed healthy. He can have a good year. Having Dakota back will be huge. Daijon has battled some injuries, but I'm excited about those guys.

Ethan Chambers is a young guy and I think you'll hear his name a lot. He's one of the best-conditioned athletes on the team. After that? It's a lot of young guys. Kevin Barnett is a junior college player we took. Zayvion Taylor fits the H. He's not real big, but he's put together. Those three are in the mix.

Two-deep-wise? If we can stay healthy ... I think we're pretty talented.

TG: Two-deep wise, it looks normal. There's not as much yellow in there. I shouldn't leave out [tight end] Henry Woodcock, who has been steady as your tight end-slash-H-back. He doesn't get talked about often, but when he comes into the game, you feel comfortable.

CM: If you were to ask me, which guy who's been around that you don't hear his name mentioned who might? It's Henry. He's played in the shadow of Dom Dafney and Zach Larkin, but he's always been in the mix all along. This kid (Mallory points at Jacob Rees's slot) is going to be really special. The kid from Marshall. He's 255 pounds now. He could be a really good player in the years to come.

Tyce Ferrell played some last year. We're going to have to be creative with the tight end position. These days? How often do you see a guy with his hand on the ground? [In blocking formation] Are they going to be more of a wing, H or flex? Our wideouts are a lot bigger nowadays.

TG: The offensive line is kind of sneaky experienced. Several of those guys got experience last year. Obviously, Jose [Vazquez IV] is the anchor. None of those guys have emerged on an All-Valley level yet, but you do have experience and these guys have been together for a while. How good do you feel about their progression?

CM: I feel good. Every year, the attitude of every room changes. I'm excited for this group. Joel Stevens started last year and got hurt. Josh Weichel started the latter half of the season. Carter Herrin has played a ton of football and got hurt. They all have playing experience, but the most important thing is continuity. Staying healthy is important. When we were good in 2018, it's because we stayed healthy [on the offensive line]. If we can keep that continuity, we have a chance to be good up front.

Mike Ross was a starter at Western Illinois. We're excited to have him. He tore his ACL on the last play of Western Illinois' 2021 spring game (a real game during the MVFC's 2021 spring season, not spring practice), so he missed all of last year. He's got two years.

I'm really excited for Griffin Comer. The COVID year and winter conditioning has really helped the Griffin Comer's, the Tate Parker's, the Spencer Schneider's. Those guys in yellow still have four years of eligibility. They can provide some real solid depth. They're young ... but they're old.

I think this kid right here [Mallory pointed at Logan Bartley's slot], it's early, but I think he's going to be a man. We haven't had a lineman who looked like him since I've been here. He's as a big as a door.

Part 2 of our sitdown with Mallory — focused on the defense, special teams and season expectations — will publish on Tribstar.com on Wednesday and in Thursday's Tribune-Star.