How did you break out of your slump in camp?
NC: I felt like I was pressing a little bit. I wanted every play to be perfect. Individually, I wanted it to be perfect. Coach challenged me to step it up a bit about a week into two-a-days. As strange as it seems, that kind of relaxed me a little bit. I just went out there and the last couple of weeks we really stepped it up as a unit. I feel like I improved and we improved.
How are you working with your new center (Brian Ferentz)?
NC: It's been going well. He's been doing a good job. He's stepped it up a lot from where he was back in the spring. I've been very confident in him. He gets up and he makes his calls quick. That always helps an offense to get rolling.
What was it in those first two weeks that was tough or was just not clicking?
NC: I feel like more than anything it was just frustration and pressing a little bit. We were trying to get to where we were in the spring, but when you take four months off, it's hard to stay at that same point.
How was the challenge from coach delivered? Was it stern? Did he yell?
NC: No, it was pretty straight forward. I actually went up to him and told him that I was just a little frustrated with the way that things had been going. He said, "Yeah. We need to step it up. We need to develop some cohesion as a unit and just pick up our tempo." He kind of laid it out for me. So, we tried to make the right changes, and I feel like we made the improvements that we needed to.
What do you take "pick up the tempo" to mean?
NC: It has a lot to do with everything. More than myself, it's the whole unit moving from when we break a huddle to getting to the line of scrimmage to getting the ball snapped. You need to be quick through all of that. The playing tempo, everybody is going full speed there. You know, that's one of the greatest improvements with Brian is when he gets up and makes his calls and gets down, our tempo as an offensive unit is quicker. He's got one of the hardest jobs because he's got to identify the blocking schemes every play. He's doing that really quick right now. And that's really picked up our tempo.
Is that what kind of sets everything off, the center and then everything goes from there?
NC: Yeah. The wide receivers have to hustle out and get set. And (Brian Ferentz) has to get up and identify the defense as quick as possible so I can get under center and start making my calls.
You've had a lot of first starts in your career. Saturday is going to be your first start in front of 70,000 (fans). What's going through your mind? Do you change the routine at all?
NC: No. I'm excited about it. More than anything, I'm going to prepare as much as I can. I don't want to walk in and be unprepared. I want to know everything that I can about Miami of Ohio. We started that last Friday, really looking hard into the tape and everything. It doesn't change much from whatever level you're at. Now the players are a little better we're studying on tape. But the players that I've got around me are a little better too.
How many people were in the stands at your last first start at Pasadena City College?
NC: There might have been a 100. I might be underestimating that too. ----- True freshman Drew Tate has won the No. 2 spot. He talks about it:
For a legion of Hawkeye fans who are reading your name on the two-deep for the first time this week, who are you?
DT: I'm just a little guy from Baytown, Texas. Just Drew, that's all it is.
Coach talked about you chucking it all over the field in high school. Do you have a pretty potent arm?
DT: I guess so. It's gotten me this far. You've just got to do what you've got to do and take what the defense gives you. That's all I've been doing.
As a freshman to come in and step up as you have to No. 2, do you see the field better than some of the other guys or are you just more use to it?
DT: I've been in the spread offense, so I've seen the field a lot. I've seen how things work in some situations. That's really helped me now as far as reading a defender. That's all I've been doing for four years, just catching the ball (out of the shotgun) and reading what a guy does. Coming here, it was different. I had to learn how to drop. I had to learn how to hand talk. I had to learn look over 6-6, 6-7 guys.
Can you count on one hand how many times you handed the ball off in high school?
DT: My freshman and sophomore years, we handed the ball off some because we had running back. He's at Yale now. My junior and senior years, the only time we ever ran was when I had to scramble (laughter).
DT: I don't know. I had a great visit. And it doesn't matter who is here to me. If they bring in whoever, I'm going to compete and do whatever I've got to do to win the job. If he would have came here, I don't know what I would have thought. But the type of person I am, they could have brought in anybody and probably would have come here and competed for the job.
What is it that moved you up the depth chart so quick? Was it the grasp of the offense?
DT: Yeah, and (former Hawkeye quarterback) David Raih. That's all I have to say. We watch tape. We go over coverages. We go over hand signals. We do everything you could think of. If it wasn't for him, I don't think I'd be No. 2 right now. I have to give him all of the credit.
How similar is the Iowa offense to the offense you ran in high school?
DT: It's a lot different. Here I'm underneath of the center and I'm dropping back and handing off. It's different than what I'm used to. But I'm learning.
You had an off-of-the-field alcohol incident at an offseason high school all-star game. Was that discussed when you got here?
DT: I know what happened and I know what I've got to do. I'm not stupid. That was just kind of a little fling. I had some friends on a college campus. There was a bunch of guys up there and that's a mistake that won't happen again.
What are your best attributes?
DT: The only thing that I have probably over Eric McCollom and Jason Manson and Cy Phillips was that I come from throwing the ball every single snap. I'm used to seeing the field. And my timing and stuff like that are developed. That's really the only thing that I have over those guys. Jason and Eric are mobile athletes. Cy has the height and a strong arm. But we're all helping each other out because we never know when our number is going to be called.
How much time did you spend in Iowa during the offseason?
DT: The first two weeks of June. Then I left to play in some all-star games. Then I spent some time with my family.
How much time have you spent with the Iowa playbook?
DT: Every day during camp. I'm getting it.
You said when you committed that you wanted to play right away and people thought you were crazy. Were they crazy?
DT: I don't understand why as a competitor that you would want to come in and redshirt. I understand the fact that you need to get bigger and learn the system. But if you have a chance to play, take it.
How much did you follow Iowa as a Texas high school player?
DT: Never. It was so funny because they just called so late (in the recruiting process). And my dad said, "Visit. I'm sure you'll like it." My dad is from Cedar Rapids. He coached there. He coached in Clinton, Iowa for a number of years and then moved down to Texas. His dad had season tickets here and he came to all of the home games.
What sold you on the Hawkeyes?
DT: Iowa doesn't have a pro team. My dad kind of painted that picture in my mind. They don't have a pro team, so everything is about the University of Iowa. He said that there was Iowa State. And I'm not trying to make anybody mad at Iowa State or anything, but he told me Iowa is just Iowa. Everybody is for Iowa. There was a quarterback before me at my high school that went to Arkansas. His name is Clint Stoermer. He plays for the Cowboys right now. In Arkansas, there's nothing but the University of Arkansas. He told me things would be similar at Iowa. He was a quarterback and he probably could have run for governor and won. Everybody in Arkansas loved him. I came here and saw Iowa on everybody's cars and everywhere. And the Big Ten, you couldn't ask for anything better than that.
Have you always had to defend you height?
DT: It really doesn't bother me because once people see me play, they're OK. But it's mostly the critics and the guys that think they know what they're talking about as far as recruiting. Look at Drew Brees and Doug Flutie. They're making good enough money right now and living in Southern California. All I can say is that as long as I complete my passes, make first downs and put points in the board, I don't care how tall I am.
How strong is your arm?
I don't have a rifle. But I can get it there if I need to. ----- No. 3 Jason Manson finishes things off:
What do you think you have to work on?
JM: Reading coverages and picking up blitzes and things like that. It was kind of tough for me. So, I need to keep watching film and try to develop good habits and pick it up from there.
Drew Tate kind of rocketed up the depth chart. Did that surprise guys?
JM: I think at first it did. But he's consistent in practice and he's really getting a good grasp of the offense.
Is that surprising to yourself that he can come in and have that good of a grasp as a true freshman?
JM: To me it was because I kind of struggled with it at first and so did the other quarterback that came in (Eric McCollum). But some people are different than others. It took for him.
Is that good to have all of that competition for that second spot?
JM: Yeah because it's going to make whoever is in the game that much better. The competition is going to make you play at your best. And you're going to want to beat out the other guy and the other guy wants to beat out you. So, everybody's going to be on their Ps and Qs and it's going to be good for the team.
Kirk said that Nathan struggled the first week (of camp). Did you see that?
JM: In the beginning of camp, I think things were a little slow for all of us. But when we started to get it kicking in the middle of camp, we started really picking it up as a quarterback unit. We really came together towards the end. We came out strong. Everybody pretty much finished strong.
Was Coach Ferentz freaking out on your guys when you were struggling?
JM: A little bit. But he knew it would take time for us to come together. It's always a little harder for the offense to get some chemistry and to get things going than it is for the defense.
You seem like you're pretty upbeat for somebody that recently lost the race for No. 2 quarterback. What keeps you positive and encouraged that things are going to be OK for you?
JM: Basically because it's competition. It's going to be there wherever you go, even on the next level. And hopefully, one day, that's my goal to play on the next level. So, I've got to adjust to the competition. That motivates me. As long as (Tate) is going to get better, I'm going to get better.
I imagine that there's no thought in your mind of ever changing position, is there?
JM: No. I really want to play quarterback. Other schools offered me as an athlete, and I could have went there. But I felt like I could be a quarterback at the college level. So, that's my plan.
Were you surprised to see (sophomore QB Matt Bohnet transfer to Eastern Michigan)?
JM: Sort of because he really didn't talk about it that much. And then the last day of camp he just took off. So, it was a real surprise to me. But I think now is the right situation for him because he really wasn't going to play (here) I guess, at least not a quarterback.
Was it tough to see him go?
JM: Yeah. He's a good guy. We were close this summer. He was really an upbeat guy. He was good to have around and he was a good friend. I wish him the best of luck, I just wish that he was still here.
Is your being the No. 3 quarterback more of you needing more work with the offense than physically being able to play the position?
JM: It's more of the mental part of the game that I'm struggling with right now. But I'll pick it up.
How do you approach the season as the No. 3 guy?
JM: You never know when I'm going to end up in there. That's the way I'm going to think about it. You never know when you're going to have a chance. I remember when I was on the sidelines last year when we played Wisconsin and they got all the way to their third quarterback. Anything can happen. I just have to be prepared for any situation that comes to me.
Are all of you quarterbacks close?
JM: We've always been close since I came here last year. Everybody was helping each other. We all want to see each other succeed. We all want to have a winning season. We can't hate each other. You have to help each other out for the team to do good. Everybody wants the same thing.