VETTEL: Talking Iowa With Dan Mullen

With the Florida/Iowa game less than a week away, lets learn a little something about the Hawkeyes defense and the state of the Gators' offense. I spoke recently with Florida's first-year offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to find out what he thinks about his opponent in the bowl game, the way the Florida offense ended the season and the importance of a win in Tampa.

Florida's offense was a work in progress throughout 2005 and remains such heading into game twelve. The Gators made it rather basic late in the year, taking advantage of the off-week before the Georgia game to put the tight end and fullback into the mix, remove much of the option portion of the spread-option attack and trying to find a comfort zone for quarterback Chris Leak. After upsetting Georgia in a tight, defensive struggle the Gators put 49 on the board against Vanderbilt and 34 in the Florida State game, but made too many mistakes in a 22-point losing effort at South Carolina.

LV: What impresses you most about the Iowa defense?

DM: They are as physical a team as we'll see all year. Up front they are tough, big guys. Nobody runs the ball well against them very well because they won't be moved. They take up a bunch of blocks and make you have to bounce things or run around things and then they have a great pair of linebackers (Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge) who make all the plays for them. The only teams that have run the ball for much yardage, it has been mostly scrambles or a big play here and there. So it's going to be a tough challenge for us.

LV: Are those linebackers as good as the better tandems you've seen in the SEC or FSU?

DM: Well Greenway was just named an All-American so, yeah they're right up there with the best if not the best linebackers we've seen all season. Their scheme allows them to play a certain way and keep in position to be around the ball. It seems they want every play to be bounced towards a linebacker and those are their guys, the top dogs ready to make the play.

LV: Does that make figuring out a way to put a hat on each of them every play the most important part of the game plan?

DM: Yeah, we gotta figure out how to put a hat on them, how to get those guys blocked. But we also have to figure out how to put them in positions where we have a better athlete matched up with them or put them in a situation where they have to walk out wide. Instead of letting them sit back and fill and tackle the tailback, we have to put them in a position where they have to chase down a Dallas Baker or a Chad Jackson or a Jemalle Cornelius. Making them have to cover one of those guys in space is kinda what we're looking at.

LV: Two years ago it seemed Iowa didn't do too many things defensively. Is the scheme about the same or have they changed it up?

DM: They play just about one defense (two-deep zone). They don't pressure very much, only about twelve percent of the time in obvious passing situations. They play one defense and they play it very well. They're a team that believes strongly in fundamentals and you can see it in their performance. They are going to play their gaps on the defensive line. They are great tacklers at every single position. You are not going to be able to trick 'em and do a lot of things because they are very sound in what they do.

LV: You guys changed so much of the scheme down the stretch. Was that hard for you seeing it was your first season as an offensive coordinator?

DM: Maybe it was easier for me because coaches tend to get set in their ways and I haven't had a chance to do that. One thing you'll see with our offense is we are always going to adjust to the players we have. We're always trying to find what guys' strengths are and sometimes that takes a little bit longer to figure that out. Through this year we have gotten to see some of the strengths of our football team, and that's where the fine-tuning and tweaking has come. We have had to do a lot of adjustments but we've learned a lot and I think you'll see a lot of adjustments for next season, too.

LV: You are double-training Cornelius Ingram lately; what do you see in him as an athlete and how can he help you in Tampa?

DM: We've put C.I. out there at some receiver in a receiver/tight end combo position, and, boy he's an impressive looking guy with great hands and great athletic ability going down the field. We'd like to try and work him in doing some of that in this game. But with the situation we're in he's going to have to work on a ten-play package at quarterback in case he's needed. By limiting his package to ten plays, he can focus in on those things we're trying to do with him as a flexed-out player.

LV: How focused does the team seem to you in terms of getting ready to play and being determined to get the job done in Tampa?

DM: These guys want to win a bowl game and they want to finish the season the right way. I know in the last couple of years they've struggled with that so we've changed some of the things they've done around here preparing for a bowl game. Our attitude every day has been great, everybody is working and a lot of guys are coming in for extra work. I'm excited because I think this group is going to get down to Tampa with an attitude that they are not there to have a good time; they're in Tampa to win a football game.

LV: Do you believe a bowl win is important in terms of momentum for the off-season program?

DM: Yes. Just look at the win against Florida State and the momentum and confidence that game put into our kids. If our players come out and play with the same emotion and the same passion and we're able to come out with a win over Iowa that'll just catapult us into the off-season. That confidence will be carried through into the weight room, into the off-season conditioning and on into spring ball. It'll create an anxious feeling on this team to get back on the field next year and keep that momentum and excitement going. That's all your looking for going into an off-season program is to have that attitude.

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