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October 8, 2013

Parker sees improvement

While Iowa is 4-2 at this point of the season just like they were a year ago, defensive coordinator Phil Parker says he sees a lot of improvement and a better defensive team. Today, Parker met with the media to talk about his defense, their blitz packages and some of the statistics this season, plus a whole lot more.

Watch our videos and read the complete transcript below.


Good afternoon, just want to kind of talk about a view of the last six games. It's great to have a bye week right now with some guys banged up. We'd like to be 6-0. We're sitting there, the same situation we were last year, but I think our defense is much improved. I think our kids are definitely committed to the game. I think they've been playing tough. The effort has been great. And this is a good week here to give us preparation for Ohio State here in another week and a half. And get started on those guys and then maybe take a peek at some other guys down the road. I think everybody is doing well, healthy wise. I think it's a good time to have the break, and I think it's going to help us.

Q. Why do you feel better about this 4-2 than that 4-2 last year? (Jared Aarons, KGAN)

PHIL PARKER: Where we're at right now we're 11th in the country in defense. We're 8th in rushing. I don't think we gave up a run over 15 yards yet with the first teamers. We gave up one 25-yarder one of those games up there on some guys that were number twos. We gave up a 25-yard run. We have given up 16 big pass plays, that switch is over 20. If you calculate that, consistent with that, it would be 32. And if we do that we're well below the big plays that we gave up last year, uncontested plays, I think.

I feel good about the group, the chemistry. I think we have more depth. I think there are more guys capable to go on the field to perform at a high level to win. Obviously last week was a challenge for us and we'd like to have that one back, but you can't have them back. I just think we're very comfortable with the guys we have. And I think they're playing at a high level.

Q. When you're facing a third down, what is your thought process as far as sticking to your base versus going to a nickel or dime package? (Brendan Stiles, hawkeyedrive.com)

PHIL PARKER: If you're short you're going to keep your base in there. It's going to be a short one, probably a run play. Third, four, five and six, sometimes you already kind of know what they like to do. You kind of like the guys to go up front a little bit more. Sometimes you pressure when it's a little bit longer, and sometimes you just go ahead and play coverage with a little bit of extra pass rush going.

It's definitely determined on what they do. And what we think their routes are going to be and what their pass percentage is going to be and who they like to go to. And sometimes you want to keep your nickel base, a nickel in the game or you want to go back or stay with your base.

To me it varies. It's hard to take Anthony Hitchens off the field, because he is one of our better players. That's something that we always talk about. This week in the last couple of days here we went over a blitz tape. Went over the big plays, runs and passes. I think we had 15 runs that were over 8 yards. That's a decent number. And then I think just the big pass was only 16.

You try to evaluate what was wrong in those situations. We've been doing the blitz - actually blitzing. We're 73-percent when we blitz. We gave up three touchdowns on 59 - I think it was 15 percent blitz overall. You give up three touchdowns and then it's a low percentage. When you look at it, you look how many good plays came out of it. It's a balance. You've got to watch what you're doing.

Q. Are you blitzing more than last year? (Marc Morehouse, Cedar Rapids Gazette)

PHIL PARKER: No, right now it's 15 percent. We had 384 snaps, blitzed 59 times and we're 73 percent on our blitz package. And then third downs obviously we're pretty good on that right now, we're ninth in the country with that. And we've done a better job of getting off the field on third downs.

Q. Your front line was doing a good job of getting to the quarterback, was Michigan State countering that? (Andrew Logue, Des Moines Register)

PHIL PARKER: In seeing what we did, they probably got the ball a little quicker. But it comes back to really when I look at what we do and how we execute, that's where it comes down to. And we have to do a better job at executing. The farther you go into the season the more exact you're going to have to be in your coverage, the more exact you're going to have to be with the ball snap. They're going to do some things and pressure you, and move the pocket a little bit with the quarterback dropping back a little bit, buying some time. But you've got to keep on mixing it up, show blitz and bail out. And then sometimes you've just got to go.

Q. Do you see using your corners more? (Marc Morehouse, Cedar Rapids Gazette)

PHIL PARKER: I think you've got to get up there and play them. I think there's a couple of times that you'd like to get those guys a little bit closer on the third down, four and five, make sure they're up there pressing, making sure they can throw a tight throw, see how well he can execute. And I thought last week he did a great job of executing. I thought that was probably the best performance he had of the year. And I thought it was the best performance that the receivers had in the games that we saw this year. Obviously we saw them all. But I think that was the best performance. They made plays. And the one B.J. we had him covered, he caught it, 20 yard smash route, we knew what the play was. But a couple of guys we had double covered and they execute. Credit to them. They have good players and they created the situation where they succeeded.

Q. Are you pleased with the defensive line rotation? (Brendan Stiles, hawkeyedrive.com)

PHIL PARKER: I consider Cooper a starter. And there's opportunities for him. He's a different type of guy inside compared to Carl Davis and Louis is just a hard charger. I think Coop, in my mind is a starter, in our opinion. Mike Hardy has a little bit ways to go, but he deserves the quality time. I thought he went in and did a decent job. But it's hard to replace a guy, Dom's been there a while and the experience, and he's playing at a high level. And to lose him so early in the game kind of hurt us a little bit. But the next guy has to step in.

Q. What do you think about Hitchens? (Steve Batterson, Quad-City Times)

PHIL PARKER: His commitment to the game, his effort. He plays full go all the time. Practice. He recognizes the plays. And he's played a lot, downhill a lot more. I think he's done a great job of going in and studying the game plan and understanding what they're doing to him. And he's really done a really great job. Last year he had a lot of tackles. This year I think he just understands where the play is going, sees it faster.

Q. How much has the defensive line helped Anthony and James? (Marc Morehouse, Cedar Rapids Gazette)

PHIL PARKER: You go out and protect them guys, and make sure the offensive linemen don't get on top of them. In both places I think the defensive line has definitely improved. And the linebackers have definitely improved their position. If we can just get the secondary up to par we'll be all right.

Q. Assess Tanner Miller and John Lowdermilk? (Tom Kakert, hawkeyereport.com)

PHIL PARKER: I think they've improved since the beginning of the year. This game is probably a little bit more challenging, there's a few plays they left out there. But I'm very pleased with what they're doing, and I think they work good together. And they do a good job controlling the secondary. They're very committed. So I'm real pleased with them.

Q. When you have something happen to a single player, getting beat on coverage, how do you address that? (John Patchett, hawkeyemic.com)

PHIL PARKER: Yeah, every guy is different. It's how you handle it. As far as how you coach them, how they can take coaching. What kind of coaching can they take and what you need to improve on. Most all of the stuff that you've seen on film and evaluated, a lot has to do with a lot of fundamental technique, staying in your back pedal, understanding what you have to do, your alignment, how far back are you, when do you open up, how close do they get to you. It's a challenge to go back and play corner on the receivers, when they're going to have some time when they 6-man, 7-man protect, they're going to have time to run a couple of double moves on you. So you have to be good on your fundamentals, sometimes it's based on your alignment, how deep were you when you started. Did you take a false step off the line when he took say step. All these thing play into it. And you have to be perfect with it. The more you do it the better you get. I think both between Lomax and Desmond and B.J., B.J. has made a lot of good plays, and some he's given up. That all goes with the position that you're in. You're on an island, everybody sees it. There's a lot of guys up front making mistakes nobody knows about it. But once you give up one back there everybody knows about it. You've got to have a good memory, a good file cabinet and remember the things you need to remember and be able to pull them up of splits and alignments and formations, and have a short memory when things go bad for you, you've got to be able to drop it and go to the next play.

Q. Jordan hasn't played corner the last couple of games, is it something you try to gradually work him back in? (Brendan Stiles, hawkeyedrive.com)

PHIL PARKER: I think Jordan is cleared to play. I think he's still not moving the way he was. He's a little bit Rusty. So we're just trying to gradually get him back. This week will be a good week to try to give him some actual work the next couple of days against each other and see where he's at.

Q. How do you rate Desmond's situation against what he was thrown into, how do you rate his performance? (Andrew Logue, Des Moines Register)

PHIL PARKER: He's done a good job. The one thing when he came into camp. He gave great effort. He loves to compete. He doesn't care who he's playing against. He goes out and does what he does. But there's a big learning curve for him a little bit. Everything that he sees is for the first time. Some things, you give up some plays that he's got to sink a little more, just for him to see it more and more, and see it at a faster pace will help him out. I think he understands that. He's got to make sure he builds his memory bank and make sure he can diagnose a play when it's going on. I think he's done a very good job for a freshman to come down and play like he's doing, he's done a decent job.

Q. James Morris, how much does he help you? (Marc Morehouse, Cedar Rapids Gazette)

PHIL PARKER: I think they're all doing it. We've been able to do a little bit more, because of that. I think they read the box pretty good and understand the offenses pretty good that they go against. So it's a lot easier doing it with all three of the linebackers on the same page with the secondary, and up front guys. That's really made us a little bit more flexible on some of the defenses that we call.

Q. Are you getting what you hoped out of the Meier and Alston package? (Tom Kakert, hawkeyereport.com)

PHIL PARKER: Yeah, I think so. I think we need to keep on working it this week. We'll probably do some more of that. I think Nate's done a great job at the left end. Like to get him in there more in other situations, definitely got to work more on that.

Q. You guys have done a nice job against running quarterbacks. What is the key to stopping those guys? (Kyle Hughes, KCJJ)

PHIL PARKER: Exactly. There's a lot of different options. It's leverage. Football is very simple. You've got to take leverage on the ball the way you go to the ball. And it's leverage on the angles and it's leverage in your position, just like if you were a wrestler or anything else, it's all about leverage. And it's the leverage about up front, controlling the line of scrimmage, it's how you attack the ball and make sure you've got great leverage, your inside, outside. And then obviously your body position is a big part of it. Do you have the feet where you need to be where you can move. And I think we've done a great job of guys having great leverage, that's the whole game is leverage.

Q. Ohio State is really good at finishing drives, averaging 50 points a game. What's made their offense so efficient? (Jared Aarons, KGAN)

PHIL PARKER: Good players. We've got some good players. The quarterback, the running back, receivers. I'm from Ohio, I think back in the '80s they used to have good players, too. I think they just got a good system and they believe in their system. But I think the players help them finish it.

Q. What's the most difficult part about facing new coaching staffs in three of the next four games? (Steve Batterson, Quad-City Times)

PHIL PARKER: The difficult thing is staying focused on the one you have next. And that's the thing that - my biggest focus right now is Ohio State, obviously Purdue, we'll probably have a similar situation. And you have a cross over with this game a little bit, but we're looking at their defense, so it really doesn't help us. We take a peek on those guys to have a little idea. But really my focus is on Ohio State, evaluating what we did in the last six weeks and what they're doing now. So the hardest thing is trying to stay on task.

Q. Fast pace offense, you guys seem much more set with that. Did you practice that in camp? (Marc Morehouse, Cedar Rapids Gazette)

PHIL PARKER: Yeah, it's a lot easier. There's nobody in a panic situation. You can get the calls done quicker. And there's no more huddling in college football. The kids get rested a little bit more, they don't run back to the huddle, run back to position, you're saving a lot of time and effort that's being wasted.

Q. How do you assess Reggie Spearman? (Tom Kakert, hawkeyreport.com)

PHIL PARKER: I see a talented player. He's got a great ability and I just like the way he goes about his approach, the game of football. He was a good player in high school. And he's done some good things for us.

Q. You have one year in the box and how you're back on the sidelines. What is the advantage there? (John Patchett, hawkeyemic.com)

PHIL PARKER: Direct contact with the players. Ability to relate to them and I've got a better feel for the game when I'm downstairs on the field. I like being around the guys. I want to make sure I get in front of them and make sure I get my point across when I need to get my point across. The faster you can give them feedback the better off you are.



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