September 5, 2012
The Point After
It was a new look on both sides of the football in the season opener for the Hawkeyes with two new coordinators, or was similar to the past offense and defense? In our first Point After with former Hawk Anthony Herron, we look back at the opening win over Northern Illinois and get his take. We also talk about Iowa moving to alternate jerseys twice this year and if that helps recruiting, as well as previewing Iowa State.
Q: With two new coordinators did you see a new approach to Iowa's attack on offense and defense?
HERRON: Offensively, I did not. I think it is going to change, but overall I didn't see a wide difference in the way the game was being called. We kind of have a track record with Greg Davis and how he likes to call a game. What concerned me most with the offense was that I didn't see a lot of separation with the wide receivers. That caused James Vandenberg to look off rhythm. Keenan Davis has worked his way up from the #3 guy, to the #2 guy last year, and this year he is the guy that opponents are going to key in on and try to stop. That makes his life tougher and his game is going to have to continue to progress. He has to step up his game, create separation, and go out and make some big grabs. I didn't see that from him or Kevonte Martin-Manley. The throwing windows that Vandenberg was asked to deliver the ball into were very tight throughout the game. I would say on offense that was why things were more conservative than what we were hoping for. I think they will get there, but the overall difference in the offense was marginal in the first game.
On defense, Phil Parker has been around long enough that I don't anticipate big differences. I think there will be more of a tendency to blitz as the season moves forward. What happened on Saturday was they had such a mobile quarterback and they were getting gashed early on up front. One of the adjustments that was made in the second half was with James Morris. He started to do more run blitzing and hitting gaps and getting into the backfield. I think that helped to better control the line of scrimmage. That move also helped the front four because now you have more people helping up front against the run. A lot of times Iowa's philosophy up front has been to hit blocks and in some situation, two gapping offensive lineman. That doesn't put you in a position to make a lot of plays with the defensive line.
Overall, I didn't see any drastic differences on either side of the football. I do believe that the offense is going to continue to move in a different direction once they get more of a comfort level.
Q: The defensive line has been a hot topic in the offseason. A lot of young guys getting their first significant snaps and a few guys who have been in the program for a while, but have never played a lot. It seemed like that group got better as the game went along.
HERRON: They certainly did. I think they got a sense as they went along about what Northern Illinois was trying to do to them. No matter how long you have been around the program, it's a different animal once you are finally out there on the field and being counted on. You can even say that about a guy who has been in the rotation and hasn't started games. To be out there and be asked to play 50 or 60 snaps, it is really different because you have to operate when you are tired and make adjustments on the floy. I did see Dominic Alvis do some nice things and he is a guy who has been in the lineup before Saturday As the game went on, he started to find some situations and picked his spots to free himself up and get to the backfield. I think as the game went on, overall, Iowa's defense got more aggressive. They attacked more at the line of scrimmage and it made a big difference in the second half.
Q: Looking at the other line, they were pretty good when it comes to run blocking. Pass protection needs some improvement. Is that fair to say?
HERRON: it is fair to say that. Some of the looks that Northern Illinois threw at them are probably not going to show up in a Big Ten game. Northern Illinois had some speed off the edge and as much as anything, I think that gave Iowa some problems, especially the offensive tackles. As the offense becomes more unpredictable and as it develops, that will help keep some of the pressure away because defensive ends can't just tee off. You saw a lot of those pass rushers just teeing off on 2nd or 3 and long. What Iowa will want to do moving forward is keep them off balance more often. Then from a technique standpoint, getting some film in will make a huge difference. Brett Van Sloten left the game with what looked like an ankle injury and he struggled with the speed off the edge. The big thing is all of it is correctable errors that can be solved with technique.
Q: I don't think anyone predicted 30 carries for Damon Bullock in his first college start. He seemed to hold up really well and came up big in the 4th quarter.
HERRON: It was stout. Coming into the season, you kind of anticipated a rotation. As Iowa fans, we have gotten used to having depth because of the way people leaving the program. He was better than his frame suggests because he's not a big guy. He does a really nice job of condensing his pad level at the point of contact and he runs with his shoulders low. He ran through about as much contact as you would expect for his size. He is willing to take contact and he is patient too. Every once in a while I would like to see him hit the hole more quickly and make a quicker decision, but he's a guy who is patient and trusts his vision and burst. To see a young guy with as few carries as he has had and to see him do what he did is really impressive. Perhaps the most impressive thing was he appeared to be just as strong on his 30th carry as he was early in the game.
Q: Coaches always say that the biggest improvement is from week one to week two. You have obviously played and coached. Are you a believer in that and with an young and inexperienced team like Iowa, will we see even more improvement.
HERRON: Without a doubt. The key point in what you said is that it is a young team. If you have a lot of experience coming back then maybe the improvement isn't as dramatic. The improvement you get from game reps cannot be replaced or replicated. I think that is why from game one to game two, you are prone to see a bigger jump simply because guys are inexperience as far as playing time. After this first week, you can go back to the film and sit down with the player show them what they did wrong and what they did right. As a player, once you get the experience, you can say, now this s what it to expect playing in a full game at the Big Ten level. The playing experience also gives you a physical sense of what you need to do to be able to play a full game at this level from a physical standpoint.
Q: Iowa will be wearing throwback jerseys this weekend and Nike Po Combat uniforms later this year. You are around a lot of players at different levels. Does that impact players and does it help with recruiting?
HERRON: Yeah it does. Guys want to have fun and different uniforms do that. Football players want to go somewhere that they can enjoy the whole college football experience. They want to feel like the big man on campus. The big thing is that the alternate jerseys have become so prevalent on college campuses. Schools are willing to put themselves out there to be noticed for their uniforms. Oregon was really the first major school to do it and now everyone sees the effect that has had on their program. Now everyone wants on the bandwagon. Some schools maybe take it too far, like Maryland did, but overall it's a good sign for Iowa. I think it infuses some energy and youth into the program. I think it's what recruits like to see and it will help the program to be seen in that light as a school that is a fun and modern outfit.
Q: Big game this week with Iowa State. Last year, Steele Jantz gave Iowa fits. What can they do differently to control him this year?
HERRON: He is another one of those guys who blends toughness and mobility. It is tough to contain a quarterback who is willing to put his body in harm's way. That was one of the things I saw last season. He was willing to take hits and doesn't flinch. You look for those things as a defender. If you hit a quarterback, you want to see if it has an impact. Guys that don't show any impact on him, they are more difficult to read. I am impressed with him as a football player, but on the other hand, it's not like they completely overwhelmed Iowa last year. What it comes down to is in a rivalry game, it's about Iowa making plays. Maybe cutting the defensive line loose a little bit and seeing what type of athletes do we have. Can we free up Alvis in some pass rushing situations as opposed to playing base responsibility? I think overall it is about who executes at the higher level as opposed to changes in scheme. This is the biggest game of the season at this point in the year for both teams and there will be a lot on the line on Saturday.
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