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April 17, 2013Working with a young group of defensive linemen, Reese Morgan loves coming to practice and teaching every day. As the Hawkeyes get ready for their tenth practice of the spring, Morgan took some time today to talk about his group of players, who is starting to emerge upfront, and much more.
REESE MORGAN: We have done nine, today will be our tenth practice. Like the attitude of the guys, like the young men that we have in the room. They are hard workers. This is really a great time of year if you're a coach because you can teach, you can spend time working on fundamentals.
You can work individually with guys when they come up and ask for some assistance. And a day like yesterday where we have an extended period of time to watch tape and do some things, this is fun.
They are coming along. We have a long way to go. And you're coaching every player throughout spring football. You're not just focusing in and you're not getting ready for an opponent, other than playing our team and so forth. But it's been great.
I value and appreciate Eric Johnson who helps out and does a great job. We work well as a team and we are excited to get going with the guys we have. We do have a lot of work to go as many of you see when you come and watch us perform but I'm really excited about the rest of the spring and certainly about the fall.
Q. As far as defensive linemen, where does pressuring the quarterback rank as far as importance?
REESE MORGAN: I think ‑ my wife would say that's pretty darned important I think. I think that's really important and I think that's going to be a big focus for us. When you're playing the defense that we play, there's certain liabilities in a pass rush because we are playing heavy techniques and so forth. When we get the green light to go ahead with pass rush, we have to get there and there's an area statistically we have to improve upon, technique ‑ wise fundamentals, emphasis‑wise.
Q. Can you talk about what we were watching Sunday, different drills, different things, how did this come about?
REESE MORGAN: I don't know what they were saying, different drills. What you want to do, we are just trying to teach the game and every drill that we do is game‑like. It's something that shows up on tape. I should be able to stop that particular tape and say: There's our drill right there. There's the block separation drill, you see that? Now, tell me what you're supposed to do? Now tell me how you're supposed to lock out. How does this relate to the drills we are doing.
So you make them game‑like, and I don't think you do drills for drills' sake. We do very simple drills. We are going to do it from the first day they come throughout their program. It's no different than on the other side of the ball. It's about leverage and it's about footwork, pad level, being inside, playing hard, understanding your job and responsibility.
And I think could conceptually with some of the guys, I think they are starting to understand how their job affects the linebackers. So we want all four of those guys to know what the other guys are doing and how the linebacker reads plays and so forth.
So if you saw some different drills, it's nothing that we have not been doing.
Q. What kind of bodies do you want to put on the defensive line?
REESE MORGAN: Big, big, the big, fast athletic bodies. Being more specific though, we would like to have ‑ Carl Davis has got a really, you know, good‑sized body. You would probably like to see him down a couple pounds. He does display quickness. He's having a very good spring. You'd like to have some guys inside, two tackles inside, with some girth that can take on the double teams that can bull‑rush and that can stop that inside run.
Then you'd like to have guys on the outside that can pressure the quarterback, to take on, to set an edge. And the run game, on typically the best offensive linemen that a team has, usually the most athletic lineman is usually at that tackle position. So he's got to be able to set an edge on him and then have some levers to work with. So we don't have any parameters on height, weight, anything like that.
You look at a guy like Darian Cooper, I don't know what he's listed at, but we are eye level to eye level here. Coop has got some good skills. He's still coming back from a little downtime but we would like to have some guys inside that have some girth that can stand up against the run. Louis played all last year, Trinca‑Pasat, he's unable to play this spring. I doubt if Louis was too much over 260‑something last year.
Q. Consistency for Carl Davis, how important could that be for your entire defense?
REESE MORGAN: I just put together Carl's mid term grade here and we'll hand that out to him and that's the first point, consistency. Carl has really some special abilities, and I tell you what's really nice is, he's really buying into things. He's working harder. He's improving more but it doesn't come consistently.
When you have a bigger guy that's working and we are going up against up‑tempo offenses and we tell them, when the ball takes off, you run; all of the things we are asking him to do are a little bit out of his comfort zone. He's worried about fatiguing, he's worried about that. We said, play yourself into shape and we'll do some extra stuff to do that. I think he's really going to be an excellent player for us, I really do.
Q. Emerging pass rushers?
REESE MORGAN: I think we have to continue to work to give them the tools that they need. Right now in our two‑deep we have four true freshmen that a year ago at this time were picking out tux for prom and now they are going to be on the field for us in the fall.
So bringing those guys along and taking some of the medium guys, the guys that have just been here a year or two; Coop has played a little bit but he has a long way to go. You have Riley, Bud, some of the guys that have been around, but they just need to step it up.
But I think we have to really continue to work on drills. We have to continue to give those guys tools to work on, be able to work on our games which we didn't do a lot of those the other day. And give them every advantage they can to be successful in the rush game.
Part of it, too, is a lot of times, in offenses, very few times are you going to get more than two and a half seconds. So you have to be able to get off the block, get some pressure on somebody and contain the quarterback which we need to do a better job of.
Then we are asking a guy that's a defensive end, line up on the tight end, make sure you hit him, he doesn't release, release him. Then you have to take on the right tackle or left tackle and pressure the quarterback and you have to do that all in two and a half, three seconds. We are asking a lot of the guys but they are responding and we know that's an area that we have to improve upon.
Q. Were you moving Faith around at practice the other day?
REESE MORGAN: He's everywhere. That's his first day at defensive end. We are trying some guys out. I think we would like to have the philosophy that we want guys that can play everywhere. Mike Hardy has been playing inside and we threw him outside without any practice. Faith we think is a guy for the future because he is very athletic, he can run, he's smart. He's just young, really young. He's played inside probably the first seven and a half practices. So we kind of threw him out there a little bit. We have been working with him. But he's got some unique abilities.
Q. The comparison to the situation in 2007 and the way the team responded, had a pretty good year in 2008. Do you see similarities there in attitude and mind‑set?
REESE MORGAN: I really think our attitude and our mind‑set has really been great. You know, that's one thing you can sense or feel. There's no barometer to measure that, but you just like the guys. I think they are more comfortable with what we are doing, and you know, just walking around the weight room, being around the guys, I think there's a very, very positive, very much everybody is together kind of a feeling and I think it's really kind of exciting, I really do.
Q. What can this defensive line do to catch up there?
REESE MORGAN: I think I have to do a better job of teaching fundamentals and responsible ties and so forth. And we have to have a plan where we can contain a great quarterback like Martinez, felt like we learned from that and made some improvement there.
I think we have who we have, okay. We have to create a situation where those guys can be successful, not ask them to do something physically that they can't do but have them understand that with great technique, awareness, and then using angles, you can put yourself in a much better situation.
Q. Sometimes does it come down to making plays on the field, there's only so much you can do?
REESE MORGAN: Yeah, you can, but I think that's the great thing about working with young people is the mental part of it allows, and if they have confidence, they can play at a higher level.
And you know, Coach has referenced Louis before. He was just a guy a year ago in December, he was just a guy. He showed up with a renewed attitude and he had really just an excellent spring. Was he a great player? No. But he made that transition and he had the confidence in his abilities. There came a point in time where he had to make a decision and he really did it.
Yeah, you have to make plays, but if we get guys to use correct technique, know what's going on, work their tail off and be relentless, those things you need. And you saw us last year using two groups later in the season. We got wore out and that's something we are going to plan on continuing to do. We think with the up‑tempo offense, we need to do it; a tired guy that's out there with that first group is probably not as effective as a fresh guy that's coming in. That's our feeling and experience and so we are committed to doing that.
Q. How much have you noticed...
REESE MORGAN: It's hard, because traditionally, in the defense, there have been right tackle, left tackle, so we are moving guys around and we are taking guys inside and out.
So there's a learning process and there's a comfort zone that you get because you're stepping a certain way. You're strong with this arm or that arm, and now over on the other side, you have to do it. Things happen faster inside as Brian referenced, too. If you're an inside guy, things are going fast. If you're an outside guy, you have a little bit of time and you can catch up and you can work the edge more than you can inside. You're a little bit down the middle - we have to get guys to work more inside. Does that answer your question?
Q. How have the players been responding to the challenge?
REESE MORGAN: They have been great. They want to be coached. Our guys have been awesome. We have the best job in the world. I mean, next to being a sportswriter, you know (laughter).
We never go to work. Honest to God, can you imagine that? We are doing something we love to do, we are getting paid, and it's a passion. How lucky can you be? How can all of us are so grateful to be doing, having this opportunity that Coach has presented to us.
We value that, and we have great guys because we get to recruit the guys we have, and if we get the right kind of guys, the intangibles, recruit those kind of guys, it really makes it a productive process but they are college students just like we all were. I think I spent six or eight years in college learning how to do things.
Q. You have Dominic Alvis, who might be close to a given, but how does it go down after that?
REESE MORGAN: I tell you what, I'm glad you brought Dom up. He's having a very good spring now, he and Brandon are going head‑to‑head, two very good players. I think he's embraced that challenge and that battle. He's doing a really good job. A year ago he was coming off that knee and early in the season was not confident. As the season went on, became more confident, more productive. But he is doing well.
It would be hard to envision him - we have Drew out on the other side, a true freshman currently who we had to pull the redshirt off of last year when we had a series of injuries. We did not want to put him out there. He agreed to do it. We played them in the last five games, just keep our rotation going. He's been solid. Got dinged a little bit the other day.
And then just we are kind of looking. I think there's a lot of good candidates. I think that's an area that we feel we need to really get some guys, that's why we put Faith out there. You'll see Mike Hardy playing out there, Tsopanides, you have Riley McMinn. So we have got a number of guys.
A year ago, we couldn't even ‑ we didn't even have two deep. We were struggling. We were taking guys in practice just putting a body there to do that, and there will be some of that time to time due to injuries and class conflicts with spring ball but I think we are trying to develop some depth there.
Q. Body type, Riley at 6‑7, Bud at 6‑1, could body type dictate what you ask out of these guys?
REESE MORGAN: I don't know if it dictates it, because you look at Dwight Freeney in the NFL, he's as good as there and he's 5‑11. I think it's athletic ability as much as wanting to do it as much as I think leverage is important.
But you don't have to be a certain height, a certain weight, to play any position in football. Thank God, because we would be in trouble. Alabama and LSU would be the only ones being successful, and they get guys that maybe don't meet the NFL parameters.
Q. How is Jaleel coming along?
REESE MORGAN: I really like Jaleel. He is such a great, great young man. You know, earning his trust, getting him to understand and take coaching has been the challenge and he's been great at that, he really has.
He's raw and he's tough. That's what you love about him. He's got a lot of pride and he's competitive. But he's still a work‑in‑progress, as all of our guys are. And it's just been kind of fun to work with him and to see that and understand things.
He likes the physical part of the game and if anyone here likes that part of football, you would love a guy like that. You love it.
Q. Since you're using so many young guys, how do high school guys compare now to 12 years ago?
REESE MORGAN: I don't know, I think it's an individual situation. And the reason I say that is, okay, why is it that we have four scholarship freshmen this year that came in... And two of them were national recruits, okay... One of them was a regional recruit. The other one was an 8‑man football player from Giltner, Nebraska, and how does that guy come in and play, you know?
So I think it's an individual thing where intangibles are involved, grasp and knowledge of the game is involved, where development is involved. And then that competitive spirit and that understanding, and everybody is at different levels. Being on the other side of the ball, you take a guy like Adam, he's teasing you, and all of a sudden he has a breakout spring, breakout senior year. He played a little bit, but that confidence level, being able to play fast, and not just playing fast, but knowing what to do and knowing how to do it and then just going hard.
So I'm kind of going around the bush, high school‑wise, coaching‑wise, I think the high school coaches do a tremendous job. I think they do a tremendous job at all levels and I really compliment the high school coaches in this state. Because certainly I couldn't coach junior high football at Northwest Junior High right now. The game has evolved a little bit and I think I really admire and respect the job that high school coaches do on the field, and especially the commitment they make to parents and kids.
Q. Recruiting‑wise, what Brian was talking about, you're kind of old school, you're not on Twitter. What is the challenge for you? You're a guy that gets in the car and goes and drives to high schools.
REESE MORGAN: Well, you do a little more than that. You might want to ‑‑ we send pigeons out ahead of time to make sure the school knows we are coming. What's that the telegram thing coming out, Western Union gram? It's really interesting because my wife is very techno‑savvy, and I have texted our players to tell them there's a meeting.
I don't have an iPhone. I have an f-Phone, a flip phone, so I communicate that way. I really think ‑ you really come down to relationships again, and I know Brian said that, I don't want to sound redundant. But just people know if you care about them. You don't have to write ‑ and we ‑ I think we take great pride in developing relationships with our coaches and our parents through the recruiting process.
And then there's a certain comfort level or a trust that comes in there, and you know, gosh, I don't feel like a grandfather or an old man or a tired guy, but like James Vandenberg said, gosh, he reminds me of my grandfather when we were recruiting and kind of made me look in the mirror and say, yeah, I guess I probably do.
The kids are young and this is a magnificent profession and we have such great people here and we have a great program and university itself; and I do have a Facebook account.
Q. Nate Meier making the move to defensive end, what do you look to get out of him?
REESE MORGAN: I think he's kind of found a home with us, because he's played a couple different spots. If we can teach him how to rush a passer, how to defend blocks; you know, he's a very competitive young man, very talented young man. But also extremely raw, and he'll go behind blocks ‑ he'll a la matt Roth and Mitch at times ‑ I hope to heck we have a guy that's even close to ‑ and you don't mention him in that breath, because he's not there. But I think he brings the quickness, some toughness and competitive spirit to our group.