Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema met with the Wisconsin media on Monday and talked Hawkeyes. Here are his responses to Iowa questions.
Q: Bret, you’d know about this. Why is Iowa’s defensive line always so good? And you know, you could lose two kids like (Mitch) King and (Matt) Kroul and yet they come back . . .
A: I think it was because I was such a good player there. They’ve been able to say you could be the next Bret Bielema. Walk on at 190 pounds and grow into a defensive lineman. But I think, you know, one of the first hires Kirk (Ferentz) made, I distinctly remember this, one of the first people Kirk talked to me about when he retained me was a guy by the name of Ron Aiken. Ron Aiken now is the defensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals.
As long as I’ve been, you know, obviously playing the position and then also being around the defensive side of the ball my entire coaching career, is probably one of the most efficient, good coaches, defensive line coaches I’ve ever been around. So he was the foundation up until I believe they made Ron, Ron might have left three or four years ago. I think these guys that are seniors now may have been his last recruiting class. And then just, you know what they do, they do a great job of developing those guys and have been able to, a lot of times we compete against the same type of players, not just at the defensive line, but overall. And then, you know, they’ve had great success, and anytime you have success at one position at a certain school, you can continually try to recruit to that.
Q: Does this look like a typical Iowa defensive line?
A: It does, unfortunately, yes. They are strong, they’re gifted, kind of a mix, you know, of guys. There’s guys from Iowa, there’s guys from Minnesota, there’s, I believe, a Texas player in there, and just, you know, there’s guys from all over the country, but in their uniforms they look all the same.
Q: They’ve done a really good job of forcing turnovers this year. I think it’s 19, including 12 picks. But how much of that has been related to the pressure that that front has been able to generate?
A: Well, I think, you know, they themselves, the defensive line has created a few, but, you know, there’s a certain amount to be said, those quarterbacks, when they’re getting rattled, all the sudden they start running around and they throw, their safeties have made a lot of nice picks, just overthrown balls and balls that are erratic. And you know, you’d like to think that those quarterbacks are starting for a reason. They’re probably accurate passers, but now they’re getting harassed and they got people in their face, it makes it difficult, it makes those throws just a little bit more difficult.
And the other, I saw, I believe it was Arkansas State, you know, there was a play where they ran a fake punt, and the guy was running around to the right edge, and the guy just made a routine tackle. But when he was coming around, he hit the ball from the back side, ball flopped on the ground, and that’s the kind of stuff they’ve been able to fall into.
Q: Similar to you guys, Iowa does a good job with their tight ends. I mean, and they got (Tony) Moeaki back this week, or last week against Michigan, he had a big impact. How important is he to their offense, in particular what they like to do with their play action?
A: Well, they got a lot of tight ends, similar to what we do. I mentioned earlier about recruiting. Whenever we’re recruiting a tight end, I’ll guarantee you it’s us and Iowa in there quite a bit, especially dealing with the Midwest. But you know, it’s a unique preparation. You know, when Moeaki got back in, you could see how their offense changed last week, really since the Arkansas State game. Their offense has really picked it up and have been a little bit more productive in being able to be more efficient and do certain things, not only out in the normal, but they really like to go to those tight ends in clutch situations, and that’s the key part.
Q: We’ve talked about Iowa’s defensive front, and you mentioned their secondary with the picks, but what’s your assessment of that linebacker corps that they have?
A: Very active. Pat Angerer is a young man out of Bettendorf (,Iowa) that we had on campus here. We really liked him. I know I was very impressed with him as a high school football player. They’ve had a couple other guys now. And guys, you know, I always go through the statistics, and I believe all three of their linebackers are in the top 20 in tackles. They do a great job. Norm (Parker) and that crew do a good job of making guys play sound fundamentals. They don’t do a lot. They basically run one front, one coverage with few variations, and they’re able to be very productive.
You know, one guy that I, we don’t give out MVPs after a loss, but a guy that would have been deserving of that is O’Brien Schofield. He’s leading the nation in tackles for loss. He’s leading the Big Ten in tackles for loss. I don’t know where he ranks as far as sacks. But he really jumped out on film on Sunday as a guy that looked like he belonged. He took down, I know he was really gassed up to play against (Terrelle) Pryor, and I know he put a little added emphasis on some of those tackles and just looked like a pretty phenomenal football player.