I think I have Iowa’s record after an idle week under Kirk Ferentz (not counting 2001 due to the 9/11 tragedy).
1999 – at Michigan State L 49-3
2000 - Western Michigan L 27-21
2001 – Penn State W 24-18
2003 – at Ohio State L 19-10
2004 – Ohio State W 33-7
2008 – at Illinois L 27-24
2010 — at Michigan W 38-28
2011 — at Penn State L 13-3
That’s 3-5. Iowa travels to Michigan State on Oct. 13 to try to improve that.
For the fun of it, I went back and checked what I wrote about Mark Weisman after the two August scrimmages.
It wasn’t as far off as I thought:
Scrimmage I – Mark Weisman – 8 for 39 (Sort of an RB/FB hybrid, did it all for the second team). And receiving: FB Mark Weisman — 1 for 5 (Had a drop that would’ve gained 28 yards minimum).
Scrimmage II — Mark Weisman – 1 for 3 (Just keeps running around and making plays. The fullback will be used as more of a blocker/dead spot in the offense this year. Weisman could have a say in that. Maybe a step slower than Rogers, but has good quickness.)
Weisman had no touches in the spring game.
The Hawkeyes rank No. 51 in the nation according to the UPS Team Performance Index.
Two categories are an amalgam of stats, special teams and miscues. I’d love to know what those numbers are. If anyone has this cracked, let me know.
Here’s the breakdown from the website:
OFFENSIVE – Yards/Play
DEFENSIVE – Yards Allowed/Play
SPECIAL TEAMS – Combination of 6 Categories
MISCUES – Combination of 4 Categories
SUCCESS – Winning Percentage
The above numbers are then combined in a manner that highlights teams performing efficiently in all categories.
Of Iowa’s opponents, Iowa State is No. 54 and Central Michigan is 85th. Northern Illinois is No. 33.
Here’s Iowa’s national rankings in a bunch of categories:
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz speaks on the Big Ten teleconference at 11:40 a.m. Then, Iowa’s coordinators have a news conference for 12:30.
Here’s Iowa’s game notes for this week.
Oh hey, DC Phil Parker on the Big Ten teleconference. The ol’ switcheroo.
On Anthony Hitchens — He’s a very active player. Will goes into the box a lot in 3X1. Productive. Still working on some things in different areas. Good job with the tackles and keep improving.
Line play — Always improving. All young guys. Couple guys who played last year who didn’t start. Alvis playing well at end. Becoming a good player. Took him a while to get where he is. Bigach helped us inside. Really done a good job leading the team. Joe Gaglione played well. Carl Davis doing a good job. All improved and keeping on getting better. Looking forward to seeing where they can go.
Trying to figure ways to stop the spread — Depends on what kind of QB. Most put up 35 points, pretty productive holding under their averages. Starting to catch up, but it’s a challenge. 1 for 3, create a hole and get a gap and there’s 10 yards. Not a big blitz team, flatten things out and get people running sideways.
Iowa isn’t a blitz team. Ask a lot more out of D-line than a lot of people. Do you want to defend the QB or the RB? Those are the decisions that have to be made.
How defended Shortell — Our thought was base defense and see what we are and play what you know. They had some openings and they misfired. We had opportunities to pick off passes. Two different types of QBs. Difficult to prepare. Know who you had, but still had that package. Always difficult defending a running QB.
Buncha crap about Minnesota.
BTW, freshman Reese Fleming said on Facebook that he’s moving from WR to cornerback. I think that probably means he won’t play this year, trying to learn a new position. But who knows?
OK, second helping of Phil coming up, along with Greg Davis, whose first question will be “Dude, where’s your QB’s numbers?”
Greg Davis said he was hopeful that RB Damon Bullock would be back for Michigan State. He also said Ferentz would reveal on Tuesday what Bullock’s status is exactly.
And, yes, the Vandenberg numbers aren’t where any of them thought they would be. He’s pretty much doing what he’s coached to do. Davis has no problem with his progressions and doesn’t believe he’s “locking on” receivers.
Everybody on the same page, he said.
It’ll be “hot hand” at RB when Bullock comes back. Garmon is explosive, just staying with hot hand, who’s been pretty good, too.
Davis would like more speed. Playing “faster” now.
Would love to have gotten Rudock in the game before B1G. Will still look for the opportunity.
Davis said everyone in the passing game takes a written quiz every week. They all get A’s. The next step is taking that to the field.
He also talked about JVG’s progressions and what he’s seeing at the LOS.
Spread teams score a lot of points. Iowa won’t be going to the spread. (The deeper reason here, which Davis didn’t get into, is what can Iowa’s recruiting sustain? Can it sustain a spread? Probably not. Would Ferentz go to a spread if he thought it was sustainable with personnel? Probably not.)
Next step for O is beating blitzes.
Phil Parker seems satisfied with the D. Not that it’s arrived, but satisfied with the progress.
He talked about spread offenses and how successful defense is defined in the Big 12 (three stops a game). He also talked about what a Weisman can do to a defense.
Iowa hasn’t run as much press coverage because it leaves the CB open to the fade and a pass interference or a completion.
A lot of what Iowa does on D is built into down-and-distance, not so much what the offense presents. Takes the thinking out of it. Parker was very revealing here in that he believes simplicity is the quickest way to ferocity.
He also talked about some of the trading of athletes between the offense and defense. He said he’ll probably have to give someone up for the offense sending over true freshman Reese Fleming last week. Fleming was recruited as a corner and then moved to WR in the summer. He’s now back at corner.
Parker said he’s not afraid to rip off a redshirt whenever necessary. He said he’s got a lot of names on the list, but he wouldn’t reveal any.
I asked about Christian Kirksey’s natural position. It didn’t sound as though the linebacker tinkering was over.
Parker did say that BJ Lowery would practice today. The junior corner missed last week with a foot/ankle injury.
I’ll have a transcript up when they’re ready.
GREG DAVIS: Keenan is playing really well now. Not only with the football, but he’s blocking better than he ever‑‑ in fact, Sunday I showed the offense a play that was an explosive run. The line‑‑ James got us in the right play, the line picked up to start well. Keenan made it from a 12‑yard play into a 30‑yard play, and he was actually excited after the play. I told him the only reason I showed the play is that’s the first time he’s ever been excited about a block in his life.
But he has really done a good job. Obviously he’s caught the ball well, and Jordan Cotton has came the last couple weeks and given us some explosive plays.
I think we finally got Jordan in the right place, which is, in our terminology, our sub‑B position, and I think because of that, he’s really beginning to play well.
Kevonte is playing like we thought; he plays with great passion. He understands the various parameters that he has to be able to get open, and I think he’ll just continue to get better.
We continue to have some miscommunication problems versus some various looks and some things that we’ve got to get cleaned up this week as we head into the strength of the schedule.
Q. Kirk couldn’t remember the last time that Iowa used a flea flicker. You called it out. What else do you have left in your offensive bag of tricks?
GREG DAVIS: Well, we have several things obviously that we haven’t done that we’ve been working on. We actually installed that play in spring training, so we’ve had it for a long time, and we were just waiting for a situation that we felt like it was ready for.
There’s other plays like that that we’ll continue to use. And the same thing with no huddle. We’ve continued to work no huddle. I think, who knows, over the last part of the season, but I think it will be a bigger part of what we’re doing as we continue to go into the strength of the schedule. It’s something we’ve jumped in and out of a couple times. But the kids have no problem with it, the execution of it, so I think that’s something else that we’ll continue to do more of.
Q. How do you foresee using Damon and Mark, carries, distribution, situational?
GREG DAVIS: You know, I’m not so worried about carries and things like that as things that we can do to affect the defense. For example, if we can put what appears to be a base formation, two backs, a tight end, two wide receivers on the field, with Mark being the fullback, Damon being the tailback, and then the next play the same grouping is out there, perhaps Damon is a wide receiver, using the personnel to best fit the situation is something we’re going to have to do.
In terms of both of them getting carries, what we’ve always done and what Kirk has always‑‑ you give them both opportunities, who gets hot, and then you ride that guy for a while. But it would be good to have two guys back there that have done it a little bit.
Q. Are the communication problems getting on the same page in the passing game just a matter of reps?
GREG DAVIS: It is a matter of reps, and there’s only so many reps you can give them in practice to simulate it until it happens in a ballgame. We missed Kevonte on a breakoff route versus a blitz the other day. Again, it was the way the play was installed in spring training. But it’s the first time it’s come up live. We’ve continued to work it each week. It was just a matter of the rhythm of what you can do on that particular route.
We missed a hand signal one time in the ballgame against a blitz situation. And all these are things that are not new, but they’re new to that situation in a game. They’ve been worked on in practice, and usually what happens when the guys get to the sideline and you get them on the headset, Coach, I can’t believe that; I mean, I understand. But they’re things we’ve got to get cleaned up; there’s no doubt about it.
Q. What’s your comfort level with the speed of the offensive skill position players, in particular the wide receivers?
GREG DAVIS: Well, you would always like more. You would always like more.
I do think that as the receivers have gotten more comfortable and will continue to get more comfortable. They’re actually playing faster now. I mean, any time you’re out there thinking about what to do, where you should be lined up, what you do versus this coverage, this blitz, whatever, you’re not going to play as fast.
I do think we’re playing at a little faster tempo now, but we’re going to continue to look for guys that are really hard to play one‑on‑one. I mean, when you get one‑on‑one situations, you like to be able to take advantage of it.
Q. Are you happy with the tight end progression so far?
GREG DAVIS: I am. Both CJ and Derby, Duzey, Ray Hamilton, all those guys have come in and given us something, both CJ and Hamilton gave us a big play the other day in various situations, Ray on a 3rd and 3 and CJ on the second play of the ballgame. They’ve given us some explosive plays. And I think it’s only fair, because my wife asked it so I’ll be glad to answer it, she said, how come you didn’t use that play again that you hit CJ on the second play of the game? Actually we did; we used it three other times in the ballgame. One was a sight adjust to Keenan, which he made a good play on; one was a different coverage.
But those guys will continue. But I’ve been happy with what they’ve done.
CJ is playing really well both with the football and without the football. A lot of the slant plays that have been productive through the first five ballgames can go‑‑ you can go right back and he’s given us an edge to be able to run the ball.
Q. Any concern that you haven’t gotten Rudock in for game action?
GREG DAVIS: I mean, you’d love to. You’d love that your No.2 would be able to get some snaps prior to getting into conference play, but it just has not set up that way. So if something happens to James, will I be concerned? Yes, I will be. But at the same time, we’re not going to try to manufacture a way to do that.
Q. The moving parts in this offense, receivers, quarterback, where was their knowledge level with sight adjustments, and where is it now?
GREG DAVIS: Well, it was‑‑ when we started in spring, everything was new. And not that they had not sight adjusted before, but definite kind of sight adjusts, there’s ways the quarterback can more protection around and change things. So everything was new in spring training, and we’ve continued to work on that. And I think we‑‑ I think if you asked them on a test, a written test, which we do, most of them would all have A’s. But at the same time then you have to take that knowledge and take it out to the field when the band is playing and it’s happening like that (snaps fingers).
Q. With Jake Duzey getting a lot more reps in the past week, just talk about what’s moved him up the charts, I guess, a little bit.
GREG DAVIS: I just think the way he’s practiced. You know, it’s not anything‑‑ we’re going to continue to use multiple tight ends, but he’s practiced really well, and he’s got the ability to run. I mean, he can do a lot of the‑‑ or exactly some of the same things that Derby can do. He can play wide out, he can play back inside. But it’s more what he’s done and what he’s done in practice that we just felt like we needed to get him a little bit more involved.
Q. When you get a guy that’s averaging seven yards a carry like Mark, does that kind of just open everything up for the offense?
GREG DAVIS: Well, any time that you can run the ball, your play action gets opened up. The opening play two weeks ago that Keenan made such a nice play on, direct result of being able to run the ball; the flea flicker last week, a direct result of secondary players supporting the run.
When you’re able to run the ball, that’s when you have an opportunity to fake and perhaps get a chunk. The same thing with CJ’s. All those explosive plays came off play action passes.
Q. I get a lot of people coming to me and say James is locking on, James is locking on right at the line of scrimmage. What is he coached to do and what is he looking at right out of the snap?
GREG DAVIS: We don’t have enough time to cover all those things that he’s looking at. You know, it depends run or pass, but obviously if you’re talking about pass, the first thing that quarterbacks are taught to do is where is my protection problems because there’s always an opportunity for them to be in a protection situation. So that’s where everything starts.
And then after that, there’s various kind of reads, whether or not we’re full‑field reading based on rotation or whether or not we’re in a progression kind of read. I have not felt like James was locking onto someone through the first five ballgames.
The one thing that happens with a guy like James is that he does so much study during the course of the week, a lot of times he’s getting a pre‑snap tip as to what he feels like the defense is going to do, and that pre‑snap tip will, in some cases, eliminate progressions. So a lot of times he gets through his progressions pretty quick.
But yeah, I mean, I don’t think that’s a problem. I mean, I think he’s used his eyes to move people away, and it’s something we’ll continue to work on.
Q. Have you worked with‑‑ 25 touchdowns last year, two so far this year. I’m sure he’s okay with it because you won your Big Ten opener, but from the outside, people are looking at it and scratching their heads. Is it a big deal that he only has two touchdown passes so far this year?
GREG DAVIS: It’s a big deal because I think we’re all a little bit surprised. It’s not a big deal in terms of what we are looking at or what he’s looking at. I mean, would you like him to be better? Yeah, you’d like him to be better, sure. But at the same time, you’re not going to try to force the issue. I mean, they’re going to come within the normal flow, and we’ve had some‑‑ we’ve had several situations where guys have been close to getting it in, they don’t get it in, we’ve had opportunities. So we’ll just continue to work with that.
But the thing that he’s done so well is he hasn’t let it bother him. I mean, he’s just continued to‑‑ and probably mentally played as sharp as he’s played all year in the ballgame Saturday in terms of the‑‑ he doesn’t get‑‑ because it’s not obvious, he doesn’t get the credit for some of the things he does that don’t show up in terms of getting us in and out of different situations.
Q. Run checks?
GREG DAVIS: Right.
Q. How does that work? He’s calling two or three different plays in the huddle; is that right?
GREG DAVIS: Well, it works all kinds of different ways. There’s situations where we’ll give him a package of plays in the huddle that he’ll go to the line, look at the defense and make a decision, and there’s situations that we talk about as advantage checks. In other words, we’re going to call a play that can be run against most anything, but versus certain blitzes, we have an advantage to do this. So both of those scenarios came up in the ballgame the other day where we had a play called, they were giving us a run blitz, he recognized it and put us in an advantage check.
Q. Have you always given your quarterbacks that much kind of leeway, freedom?
GREG DAVIS: All that could handle it. All that could handle it. And that’s what you try to do in spring training and in fall camp is try to find out what they’re comfortable with, and then you kind of work around their comfort level. But he’s had a bunch of snaps, he’s an extremely‑‑ and he studies. He studies really hard during the week so that he can make those checks.
The other thing that’s happening is we probably had‑‑ in the red zone the other day, we probably had at least five passes that he checked off of and went to a run. Now, it takes a pretty mature quarterback to leave‑‑ if your question was bothering him, it would take‑‑ I mean, he had plenty of opportunities in the red zone to go to a pass, but he saw an advantage in the run, and he went to the run.
Q. Talk about the offensive line’s progression. You said at the start of this news coverage you hadn’t given up a sack in a few games. Can you talk about what you’ve seen from them from spring to fall and now through five games?
GREG DAVIS: You know, we had several new starters to start with, and nobody wants to talk about new starters, so I’ll be glad to. But Scherff was starting at left tackle, Blanks was brand new, VanSloten, even though he’s an older guy, was playing. So we only had two guys that had really started a bunch of ball for us. And it just takes a while for that group to gel.
I think one, they’ve worked extremely hard. I think obviously Brian has done a good job with them, and they’re just continuing to grow, and they’re playing at a much higher level now than at any point in camp or in the opener, and I think that will continue to happen.
It was a shame that Blanks got hurt, but at the same time, it gave us a chance to play Andrew Donnal, and he played well, so that’s one other guy that’s now in there and that you feel comfortable that can go in and be productive for us.
Q. Did you see this kind of growth from them? Did you see that it could happen, that they would improve this quickly?
GREG DAVIS: Yeah, it was something that you hoped would happen, and you base that on how hard they worked in the off‑season and how hard they were working during the week. But you never know until it goes‑‑ until you go out and do it.
But we felt like before the season was over, they would be a pretty solid unit.
Q. Are you expecting Bullock to be available for Michigan State?
GREG DAVIS: Well, I think Kirk will probably talk about that on Tuesday, but we certainly would be hopeful that he will be.
Q. As you go through this weekend, at what point do you start shifting your attention to preparing for the Michigan State game?
GREG DAVIS: Well, there’s a couple things you want to do on an open date. One is you want to go back and check quality control, see if plays are giving you what you thought they were going to give you. That’s one thing that you want to do. You want to make sure that it’s a great time to work the young kids. So today’s practice scenario, the young guys will get a bunch of work in a bunch of different situations that you can’t get in game preparation.
At the same time, the coaches are also already looking ahead at Michigan State. We won’t introduce a whole lot of Michigan State to the players until Thursday, and even Thursday it will be just an introduction, and we’ll come back on Sunday and get a jump start.
But the coaches started Sunday looking ahead and looking at film of Michigan State.
Q. There’s a lot of points that have been scored in college football, a lot of teams, but what’s going on in your opinion?
GREG DAVIS: Well, most of the time those are spread offensive football teams. Where the field is spread and you’re getting great athletes in one‑on‑one situations and you’re getting quarterbacks that have thrown the ball so much more than even 15 years ago coming out of high school. They’re so much better prepared in a lot of situations.
But typically it comes from that style of play, West Virginia obviously, Baylor, Oregon. Those style offenses are going to put up bigger numbers typically just because of the way they play.
Q. Do you see Iowa transitioning to that?
GREG DAVIS: Probably not. Probably not. I think, one, we’ve got to do philosophically the things that we believe in, so we will continue to use that as a part, as I mentioned, no‑huddle and those kind of things. But we’re not going to become a spread team. That’s not our identity.
Q. What do you envision for Garmon and Smith, the two freshmen, moving forward? How are you going to give them snaps or get them snaps?
GREG DAVIS: Well, Greg was fixing to get a bunch when Damon went down, and then shortly later he went down. But he’s healthy again, and the game will dictate how we use those guys.
Garmon is a guy that gives you a chance for a big play, and so we want to be aware of that and try to continue to get him in in certain situations.
But it’s going to be more game time and opponent and what’s happening in the game in terms of‑‑ we’re not going to set up some kind of, you’re going to get the first series, you’re going to get the second and the third, and that kind of scenario.
Q. Do you wait for defenses to, I’ll say, catch up with Mark Weisman? He is a 235‑pound fullback who moves probably better than people think. Do you wait for defenses to have maybe the next move to try to shut him down?
GREG DAVIS: Well, regardless who you’re running back is, if you’re being that productive you’re going to look for defenses to start moving in that direction. And again, I think that’s where hopefully your play action can take advantage, because whether or not they’re either run blitzing to try to stop the run or they’re trying to add an extra defender in the box by spinning the safety down or whatever, then hopefully that’s where you can try to take advantage of what they’re doing.
At the same time, good players, good backs, they tend to find a way to make yards if they get enough opportunities.
Q. Is that the next half of the passing game, take advantage of opportunities, say, and run blitzes? Saturday I think James said double corner fire, weird stuff like that, maybe take advantage of a blitz, make them hurt?
GREG DAVIS: Yeah, they did in the second half bring double corner, and it was something that we had not showed the kids, we had not seen on tape. And we had a couple opportunities. We tried to get CJ down the middle of the double corner fire one time, got hung up at the line of scrimmage, so there’s some opportunities to take advantage of that kind of stuff, and hopefully as we continue to get better and to grow, we’ll be able to do that.
PHIL PARKER: I’ll just kind of tell you a little bit. It’s great to come off a win and have a bye week. Right now we’re doing a lot of self‑scout right now, just trial to evaluate our personnel right now and our scheme a little bit, and do we have the guys in the right spot that we have. But it’s also a good time, this is probably about the halfway mark during the season, even though we’ve played five games, we had three weeks of two‑a‑days and most of the practice is already halfway over.
So it was a good break for our kids to get them back healthy, an opportunity to work some of the younger guys on defense and see where they fit into our plans for the rest of the season. We’ll do that right now, and I’ll take any questions anybody has.
Q. The eight‑man rotation on the defensive line, is that pretty much what you’re going to try to go with?
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, we’ve been doing a little bit more rotation here in the last couple games, and Reese has done a great job of getting those guys prepared to go out there in situations, whether it’s two or three plays at a time that they go out there, but it also gives our guys some rest a little bit and have a little bit more energy when they are on the field. So that’s definitely a thing that we were planning on doing at the beginning of the year and we’ve done it a little bit more towards the last couple games here.
Q. Do you feel like you’re getting enough pressure?
PHIL PARKER: Well, you always like to have a lot more pressure at times, but I think sometimes when you bring a little bit of pressure, you give up a chance for an explosive play for the offense, and that’s something that we‑‑ you go back and evaluate it, like the last five games, you go through it, and every time somebody did a drive, if you give up a big play of 20 or 15, it’s the advantage of the offense, so you have to evaluate that a little bit.
So your bring more pressure, maybe bring in an extra guy or even having the four guys up front giving you pressure, it’s obvious that you like to do it that way, but when you do start bringing an extra guy, you’re acceptable of a big play, and then if you get a big play, I think they’re about 95 percent or even higher than that, if they get a big play in the series, they’re going to score a field goal or a touchdown. Eliminate the big plays; that’s the biggest thing.
Q. Was there a difference‑‑ was it just simply more energy Saturday at the start of the game because you guys had given up touchdowns three of the first four on the first drives?
PHIL PARKER: That was probably because of coaching a little bit.
Q. Or did you guys do anything different, scheme differently?
PHIL PARKER: Oh, I don’t think we schemed any differently. I think the guys played with a lot of energy and they came out ready to go and played the full 60 minutes. I sat there and walked off after the game a little bit, a little discouraged out of the two drives they had in the third and fourth quarter and you’ve just got to kind of evaluate and see what went wrong. But I did think they played hard and played full and they were ready. Their attitude was right and their energy was right, and I think that’s a big part of football today is what kind of energy and attitude you have out there at the start game to the finish of the game.
Q. What level is James Morris playing at so far this year?
PHIL PARKER: James is outstanding. He’s playing at a very high level. James is like a coach out there. He’s really done a great job of getting guys in the right spots, getting us in the right defenses, and he’s done a great job. He’s definitely playing at a high level, and he’s our leader on the defensive side.
Q. How about Anthony Hitchens? Has that been a pleasant surprise how many tackles he’s made?
PHIL PARKER: Well, there’s two ways to look at it: Obviously he’s made a lot of plays and the ball has been in his area, and I think sometimes it’s based on the formations the guys line up into that give him that chance. He’s in the box a little bit more. Also in the passing game, obviously it all depends what way they’re setting the three‑‑ they get three guys out strong and they’ve got two guys out weak, it kind of eliminates where they want to go with the ball, I think where the quarterback wants to take the ball. So sometimes he’s been in positions based on where they want to pass the ball, but obviously in the run game he’s been effective, too.
I’m pleased. We knew he was a tough, strong kid, and he has made a lot of tackles for us.
Q. With all the points being scored, conversely how do you as a defensive coach, what do you think about that when you see the scores pop up, and how do you counteract that?
PHIL PARKER: I’m just happy I’m not at some of them schools that play those guys. And I’ve talked to a lot of the guys in that regard of certain conferences like to go out and spread the ball, and obviously we have a lot in our league that like to do that, and sometimes defensive guys think if you get three stops in them leagues they’re playing in, the SEC or the Big 12, if you get three stops, you’re playing great defense.
Our philosophy is I think the way we’ve been playing in the last 10 years if you look at it, of all the spread teams that we played, they’re averaging 35, 40 points a game. I think, mostly Northwesterns and all those guys that make a lot of points over there, and we’ve been holding them way under their average, okay, and obviously we played a lot of plays against them and they do get a lot of yards, but it’s not like a lot of points.
So I think some of those teams and the way we play, we play a little bit differently, we play heavier on the interior line over there, we jam receivers in the back end a little bit better than a lot of guys that match up with or routes, it’s been able to be effective for us, and I think that’s the way we see it, and that’s the way you eliminate them high‑scoring games. I think a lot of those teams over there, they run the spread offense, you have to be one of three on offense, and if you just keep throwing the ball and you’ve got those athletes out there, they’re going to create big plays and explosive plays, and sometimes they’re 80, 90 yards, and it’s only one play, and then they go on to the next play.
That’s the way society is today is they want to see a lot of points scored instead of a boring game maybe like us a little bit as far as keeping it nice and tight on defense and keeping guys in front of you and make them complete the balls because when you do throw a ball, you’ve got to complete it; they’ve got to throw it on target, they have to be able to catch the ball, and then our guys are going to go there and try to hit them and knock the ball out, and it was a great opportunity for us this week. We had three interceptions and a fumble recovery, and one went for a touch on interception.
Obviously the week before we gave up 30‑something points where we weren’t very happy with it, but obviously we gave up too many explosive plays.
But to answer your question, I think we held our own in the last 10 years, even though a lot of people don’t think we have, and I know that running quarterbacks obviously give every defensive coordinator an issue, how you’re going to stop that quarterback if he does scramble and get out of the pocket, and everybody has a problem with a running quarterback. But I think we’ve been pretty good over‑‑ compared to everybody else in the country.
Q. You’ve seen hundreds of running backs getting ready to defend teams. Does Weisman remind you of anybody that you’ve seen over the years?
PHIL PARKER: Boy, it’s been a while, but he’s very unique guy, very humble guy, and he’s a very hard‑nosed guy, and that’s what makes him a special guy, because he doesn’t say too much, he just runs the ball. He has a pretty good pad level as far as when you’re going to try to tackle him. I’m glad our guys don’t have to tackle him too much. I know in the springtime when our offense went down and they wanted to score against us, they gave him the ball, and they just let him plug it away. It’s hard to tackle him. I just think he has a lot of drive and he’s strong.
But to say who does he remind you of? I know we talked about, heck, this is going back 30 years ago, like a Keith Byars type of guy. He was a big guy to try to tackle. Obviously he’s not as big as Keith Byars. I’m dating myself; I’m sorry about that. But he was hard to bring down, and obviously they’re having troubles with guys right now when you go back and the one thing that we talk about is in the secondary for us, we’ve got to have secondary guys be able to tackle, so you can’t have too small of guys, and if they’re not very structurally put together, because you’ve seen the guys at Minnesota, them guys were aggressive, they were coming, but they weren’t the biggest guys you had, and they were just bouncing off of them.
The Big Ten is going to make your corners and your safeties tackle guys, and I’m glad that he’s on our team.
Q. Have you been able to play as much press coverage‑‑ I know you talked about that in the spring, press man‑to‑man on the outside. Have you been able to do that as much as you’ve wanted to?
PHIL PARKER: We’ve done some early in the games, and sometimes probably to a fault where we like to get up there too much, sometimes quarterbacks just go drop back and throw the ball up. I thought B.J. had a great play on‑‑ it was a 2nd and 10 play, playing against Central, had a great play, knocked the ball out, and pass interference. So that’s the things that the offense is taking care of. You’ve got press coverage, they’re going to throw a fade, and usually you’re going to get pass interference or the guy is going to catch the ball. That’s the way I look at it. Sometimes we’re going to have to mix it up and sometimes I don’t always want them pressed just to give them the fade. If they’re going to go up and press, press it late.
Q. Is B.J. going to be back?
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, I think B.J. is getting back. It was good that we rested him last week, and he looks like he’s doing pretty well, and he’ll practice today a little bit to get some rust off a little bit. But it’ll be nice to get him back.
Q. Can you talk about what you’re getting out of Bigach? I don’t think he played much tackle until you stuck him in there this year.
PHIL PARKER: A little bit.
Q. Now he’s doing both, and he’s starting at tackle, played some end last week?
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, he’s done a good job. He’s a very smart, intelligent kid, and he’s a great leader for us, and he understands the defense, he understands what we’re asking those guys to do up front, and he kind of keeps everybody kind of together. And communication wise and understanding the defense, he’s a very thorough guy, and that’s been good for us, to show his leadership and also be able to utilize him in both positions as a tackle and an end.
Q. On Saturday both Trinca‑Pasat and Cooper talked about reading the hat, making sure you guys’ stance, just being more comfortable with it. Is the game slowing down for some of the young guys?
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, when you first go out there, obviously it’ll be the first time you go out and try to write a story or something like that, you learn from it every time you go out. I think them guys have done a great job of preparing and getting familiar with going out there every day, going either in practice or whether you’re watching film, trying to diagnose, hey, what are these guys going to do to you. If they’re sitting light, can you tell; how deep are they; if they’re going to pull, is it going to be the power; down and distance I think start coming in to affect a little bit and paying attention to detail and a little bit in that aspect, what you’re seeing. And I think they’ve done a good job. It’s worked, and we do some things up there with them front guys that they have to know that. It helps them, what we want to do defensively, so it has helped.
Q. What’s your comfort level with the nickel and dime? They seem to be pretty effective so far this year.
PHIL PARKER: I’m comfortable as long as we can get them on there soon enough. Sometimes I think we’ve got some young guys in there that are freshmen, and they’re trying to find a way to class and stuff like that, and it’s hard to find‑‑ it get on the field sometimes. And when we put them out there, it’s a Big Ten game, and a lot of them don’t know. But they have improved, and I’m very comfortable using nickel and dime when we need to.
It all depends on the situation of the game as it comes about, but I’m not afraid to use it.
Q. You hit a couple times last week with the blitz. Is there a temptation to use it more, or does it work because you use it selectively?
PHIL PARKER: Sometimes it all depends on the timing of it, the situation of the game and how you feel. I’m not one of those guys‑‑ a lot of times you kind of understand a little bit what they’re doing, but sometimes you just‑‑ it’s a feel of the game and where you’re at and the situation of the game. Like I know at the end of the game I probably blitzed one too many times more than I should have, and they scored out the quarterback for about a 10‑yard gain or something like that.
But I think it’s‑‑ when you use it less‑‑ the more you use it, they’re going to start picking it up and seeing it, and I think you do it once in a while, holy cow, it’s a surprise to them a little bit. But we’ve never been a big blitzing team. I think we’re maybe about 17, 18 percent over the last couple of years, and we’re trying to‑‑ that’s probably right where we’re at right about now, too.
PHIL PARKER: Micah Hyde has done a good job. Obviously he has a great awareness of what’s going on, and he has a knack, but he studies the game a little bit. Obviously an experienced guy over there, knows what he’s doing. They’re going to try and go the other way. If I was a quarterback, I’d do the same thing, and I think he’s played well. Can he play better? Of course. And I’m sure he’s‑‑ he’ll improve this week.
Q. What’s the learning curve been like for you transitioning from the previous position to now defensive coordinator?
PHIL PARKER: Well, in the last six, seven months it’s been really good for me as a football coach, and the transition of really focusing on‑‑ I’ve gotten to know the team a little bit better, each position, defensive line, linebackers, what are their capabilities of doing, and it helps you call a game, and it’s just been fun a little bit. But you also miss your group of guys that you coach, but I’ve been around them enough and I have an opportunity to get in front of these guys and talk to these guys and see them.
It’s been a little bit different. You spend a little bit more time, and there’s only 24 hours in a day anyway. That’s the most I can spend on football.
It’s been a little bit different in regards of who I communicate with on a daily basis. My opportunity is to spread around to the whole team now, which has been good.
Q. Do you call the stunts on the defensive line?
PHIL PARKER: Sometimes they’re built in. We call stunts up front, and then in certain situations, Reese and Eric are very involved in what we’re going to do on certain situations, and we just give them a call and let them know that, hey, you can get after it up front on a passing down, that we want to get something going.
But most of the fronts up ‑‑ when we’re doing a stunt up there, we’ll build it into our system on the run downs. We build it in.
Q. You’re still very much want your guys not thinking about what they’re doing but rather‑‑ kind of like Norm over the years didn’t want a lot of thinking, he wanted just doing.
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, it’s a little bit. Yeah, a lot of things are built into our defense based on what they give us by formation and what the call is. We can call a stunt, but the stunt might not go on if they give us a certain formation, depending on that. But obviously with guys, what they like to do, and obviously in the Big Ten there must have been a discussion, I heard, that a shifting of offenses‑‑ these guys have nothing else to do besides think of ideas of how to line up, shift to another formation, motion, or shift and motion at the same time, and then pause and then motion. So they have a lot of things they like to do.
And what I like to do is, hey, let’s find out‑‑ one time you see guys, you see six guys move, if you see six guys move, now you six guys have to have different alignments, there’s different reads, there’s different keys. Then if you sit there and say, okay, if you play some base stuff and you can call something where you just stand there and you see 10 guys move on their side and not one guy on defense have to move, I think the advantage goes to the defense because they already know where they’re lined up, they have their stance, their alignments, now they have to read the play.
Sometimes you think, boy, that’s simple. Yeah, that is, but it’s sometimes a little bit more effective. And I think sometimes when you start getting into calling different defenses and you have to shift because they’re reloading, you reload, now you have multiple things going on at one time, that’s hard to do. By the time they get set and they set it and they snap it real quick, obviously they did that to us a couple times on Saturday, and they’ve done it in the past with some other games. So times you’ve got to look and evaluate, hey, how do you want to attack these, how are you guys going to prepare for this team, and what do you want to do. Sometimes just lining up and playing is sometimes a little bit better than saying let’s have 15 defenses to call, and say, boy, let’s have all these different adjustments, just like a calculus equation or physics‑‑ my son is taking physics here at the University of Iowa, so right now I don’t want to solve one of his problems; I’d just rather stick to what we do.
Q. I don’t want to date you, but were you playing for Michigan State the year the Iowa player knocked the goal post down?
PHIL PARKER: That was ’82, right? 1982, yeah, we walked out and we saw the wooden things up there, yeah. I was there. I was on the sideline, wasn’t playing very much, but I was there. Who hit it?
Q. Ron Hawley.
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, knocked it over and then I think one of our guys went up there‑‑ I think it was‑‑ was it a defensive player that knocked it over? It was a defensive player down there because I think there was a wide receiver I know went and gave him a high five after he knocked it down. I don’t know if you guys noticed that. I do remember that. Darrell Turner was the wide receiver. He was a second‑round draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks. He gave him a high five when he knocked it down. So I was there.
Q. Only time you’ve ever seen that in football?
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, might be the only‑‑ yeah, that was the only time I’ve ever seen that. That’s a first. I do remember it, though, so I’m good with memory.
Q. You coached the defensive backs for a long time, and safeties you’ve always been very selective. How would you evaluate the safety play so far? Seems like they’re holding their end up.
PHIL PARKER: Yeah, I think they’ve done a good job and Darrell Wilson has done a great job with these guys. The thing, the progressions they go through, and Tanner Miller has played a lot and he has a lot of experience, and he’s done a good job tackling and that’s what we need those guys to do. That’s the thing is you don’t want to bring pressure too much, but they’ve got to be able to read their keys and get in the right spots to make a tackle, and I think they’ve been doing that on a consistent basis.
Q. So do you have to buy Greg Davis dinner or wash his car to get Maurice Fleming over on defense?
PHIL PARKER: Well, you know, that negotiation was going on. We gave them the options in the springtime what they wanted to do, and obviously they think I recruited the kid back, but the kid just loves defense, and I think he just loves our side of the ball.
But I didn’t have to buy him dinner. They want something for it. Believe me, they’re going to get something from us, there’s no question about it. I just don’t know what they’re going to get yet.
Q. Does Reese come to you, do you go to him?
PHIL PARKER: About what?
Q. About when Maurice moved to‑‑
PHIL PARKER: You know, that was an interesting thing. I was involved with him in recruiting a little bit, and Lester Erb recruited him, and he’s a great kid, and we took him as a defensive back, and obviously when the changes went through and we had to talk to him a little bit to go back and thought we’d use him a little bit more on offense at the beginning, and right now we think his best needs right now for us as a defensive team that we need him back on defense.
Q. Are you close to un‑red‑shirting anybody? It seems like you guys to me‑‑
PHIL PARKER: To me everything is available, to me, and I know there’s always some guys, we’re saying, yeah, they’re red shirting, but if we’re going to need somebody and somebody can help us win a game, I’m going to go to Coach Ferentz, obviously it’s his decision, and it’s obviously the kids that do it, but if we can talk the kid into playing to help us win a ballgame, I’ll do it.
Q. Anybody on the list right now?
PHIL PARKER: I’ve got a whole bunch, but I can’t share. (Laughter.)
You know, it’s every day. There’s guys out there that‑‑ can they give us some help? This if he can give us help on special teams, whatever it is, I think we always have to look at that as coaches and say, hey, reevaluate our talent, hey, can this guy help us, whether it’s one or two snaps here on a kickoff team, whether it’s on a punt return team, whether it’s on defense. I think we’ve got to take advantage of that.
I mean, there’s a lot of guys out there playing as freshmen, and I think if they can help us, we’ll do it.
Q. Speaking of freshmen, Faith and Jaleel came in with a lot of accolades.
PHIL PARKER: I’m very happy with both of those guys, and Reese is, too. They’re young, and since we had them in two‑a‑days they’ve made great progress, and sometimes you think if they’re big guys, like Carl Davis is, and I think they’re going to be very good players, and sometimes you’ve just got to wait to see what happens.
But I do like both of those guys.
Q. Is the key now thrown away on moving Christian Kirksey out of linebacker? It seems like he’s found a home. I think the first game he played outside the Minnesota game.
PHIL PARKER: I think Kirksey can play a lot of different positions. The ability that he can go out there on coverage is sometimes as good as a defensive back, that is great. Do we want him involved closer to the box? Yeah, if we can ask the offenses maybe to give us certain for may goes to get him closer. Obviously this week against Michigan State I think that will be a factor. They’re going to run the ball a little bit more and he’ll probably be closer to the box a little bit there. But yeah, there’s always talk about where can he fit, can he play Will, yes, can he play Mike, yes. With James playing so well and obviously Hitch is playing, there’s been some discussion about, hey, let’s get the right guys in the right places.
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