You talked about the moxy of Tate. Some of the players have likened him to Brett Favre. Is he feisty in practice? Does he get into good-natured fights?
We had that one little discussion back in December. He and Matt got a little tangled there a bit. But, no, he's just been out operating. We like the way that he carries himself. And I'll tell you, I've always felt good about Jason, too. Jason probably had the best grasp of our offense coming in. He studies this thing. He knows it inside and out. That's paying off for him. He's throwing the ball more accurately and more consistently now than he ever has. He's getting bigger and stronger. He's a player. He came in here at 175. You don't think of the strength program helping quarterbacks, but it's important at every position.
So, are they basically on the same line?
No. Drew is 1. Jason is 2. But it's a fun race to watch right now. It's going to be interesting.
Is it closer now than it was when spring started?
They've both improved, if that makes sense. They've both kind of elevated their game. We're just real pleased with the way that they're both progressing.
Are they different or similar?
They're different but similar. Drew is probably a more accomplished passer. That's fair to say. He's thrown a thousand balls during the course of his career, probably more than that, probably like 10,000 balls.
Do you see a Brad Banks-Kyle Mccann type thing?
I hadn't really thought that much about that. I wouldn't rule it out, but we haven't thought that much about that at this point. We're just trying to get a good feel for both of them.
Is there some comfort to know that even though it's a first-year starter again, you'll have this guy for a few more years?
Long-term wise, no question. Hopefully they all play well in the future. There's no doubt it's a good feeling. At least now, guys are growing in the program a little bit. You'd like to think that they're going to improve with every opportunity.
Young guys that take a lot of chances is what you said earlier. That doesn't sound like an Iowa quarterback.
Drew is not timid with the football. And it's infectious maybe. And at this point in the game, I'm not real worried about it. Although, we've been a little sloppy with the ball all spring at all positions, not just the quarterback. As we start to think about playing real games, that's going to be a point of emphasis because we can not win turning the ball over.
So, you don't want him taking chances?
At the appropriate times and at the appropriate places.
At what point do you fear that your talks with him after games can run into his confidence?
I don't think that we've had that problem in the past with any of our guys. We just try to encourage them to make smart decisions. And one thing that quarterbacks have to realize is that they as much as anybody in the team really carry the fate of the team with them. They're touching the ball every play. If they're not extremely smart about what they do with the ball...A guy can throw for four touchdowns but if he's throwing interceptions and putting you in the hole that stuff all washes out. I don't see that being a problem. Drew understands the game. Jason understands it.
Is a tough balance not to take away their aggressive?
Yeah. You don't want anybody to be timid. But I don't see that being a problem. And all of those guys typically after they've done something that's a little questionable, they know that after they see it go back the other way.
You said "if" on David Walker (coming back this fall)?
We assume he's going to be back. But until it happens...But everything indicates that he'll be ready to go in August.
What have people said about Robert's quickness, his feet?
It's pretty dog gone good. I always kind of get lured into the question to compare him to Ogden. It's really not fair to compare anyone to Jonathan other than maybe Munoz. I don't know how those two guys compare. That being said, if you were a notch below Jonathan Ogden, that's pretty good company to be in. He has the chance to have that kind of career. That's a projection right now. But based on what he's done in college, it's realistic to think that he could really have that kind of impact for someone.
How is he able to go to that line without crossing it in terms of holding?
It's all about hand placement. If you're sloppy and you're hands are outside, it should be called. That's how the rules ought to be interpretted. Whoever has the inside hands wins. It's pretty simple that way. That's something that he's really had to work at. He's not perfect. Nobody is. But he's gotten pretty good at it.
Was there a time when you looked at him and thought he was turning into a hell of a football player?
It was a progression. But his first first years, we used to joke that we didn't know if he was going to make it. He'd be drenched in sweat about a half hour through practice he just put so much into it. He was really grinding coffee out there. To answer your question, at the end of the 2000 season. It was a struggle early. When we went to Penn State, he played pretty well up there. All of those guys really took a step there. Each season after that, he got better and better. He was a good player a year ago. He would have been drafted pretty high. This year he really emerged as a force as a player and as a leader. There's no way that we would have had the kind of success we had this year without him.
Sanders and Russell, what can they bring to an NFL team that can make people overlook their size?
They're both excellent football players. There are some teams that are hung up on height. But there are a lot that aren't. Both of those guys just played phenominal football as seniors and then they've really upped themselves since the end of the seaon. They've performed well in postseason chances and have done a great job with the combine. I don't know how to say this tactfully, but when the football coaches got involved in the evaluation then to me their stock even goes up a little bit more. Coaches get fired quicker than personnel guys. So they might fight a little harder for a guy like Bob Sanders. In my mind, he's going to make a real impact on someone's team.
What did it mean to you that Robert asked you to go to the draft with him?
It was pretty special. I thought about it and went back and told him that he should just go with his family. He's such a good person that I thought that maybe he just asked us just because he thought that was what he was supposed to do. But he got a little aggressive. So, we're going. (laughter) I mean, he genuinely wants us to be there. It's indicative of the way that he is. he's a very appreciative person. It's going to be a nice weekend for us. We're really looking forward to it.
What he's done, is that something your whole staff can take some pride in?
No question. It's like anything else that's happened around here. It's a real team effort. I think Robert would tell you, and I'm sure he has, that there's everything in place here for a guy to come in and flourish. You think about the time that Joe and Reese have spent with him coaching him, and then Chris' contributions. It's a collective effort. And I think Robert appreciates that. It's a special thing to see a guy grow and blossom like that.
Matt Roth, the Playboy thing.
That's great. It's fantastic. It's nice now that it's been three guys in two years. It's nice to maybe think that maybe our guys are starting to get some notice on a national front. He certainly deserves it, too. He has played extremely well for us. He's just a hard-charging, reckless, tough football player. He's not Bob Sanders, but you think about guys like Bob and Mattin the same vein. They love to play the game. They play anytime, anywhere, any rules. They'd agree to it and they'd be out there.
Do you have to tone him down during the spring?
We take him out because he can be a little disruptive to things anyway. It's tough to slow him down with any consistency. We really wanted to get a good look at the younger guys. It's a healthy thing to be able to put those guys in there.
Can Jermelle pick up where Fred left off?
We're hoping so. Yeah. We've always felt that Jermelle was an outstanding player. Unfortunately, he got hurt a year ago. Up until the bowl game, I don't think we saw him really look like Jermelle again this past year kind of like Chad the year before. That being said, he's 100 percent healthy. We've always been very excited about the way that he plays. Outside of when he was injured, he really has played at a high level. We have every reason to believe that he'll have a tremendous senior year. We're going to need that. I know he can handle it. He'll be ready to go.
Has it been frustrating that you've only been ablee to use him in spurts?
Yeah. It would have been nice to have that one-two punch last year. It certainly helped us at Michigan two years ago. We'll have that afforded to us this year. But he definitely will be our work horse. He's our senior. We're going to need our seniors to step up big. And he's, without a doubt, the most capable and ready guy on the offensive side of the ball that could really impact our team.
You have an experienced back and a new line. That hasn't worked out in the past really well when, but Ladell was pretty good.
Yeah. I think we're going to be OK assuming we continue to make progress. We're not ready to go right now. We have the pieces. It's just a matter of getting them in the right place and getting them honed up a little bit. Spring is when you're running your base stuff against the defenses base stuff. If we just keep working and pushing forward, we're going to be OK.
Are concerned about receiver at all?
The best way to describe it is that we're young. Warren is the only senior in the group, and he hasn't played an awful lot. But he does a lot of good things. He runs good routes. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but that hasn't stopped us before. I like his heart. I like the effort he plays with. He made one of the best catches of the year last year. We're going to need him to step up. We're going to need all of those guys to play well.
How does the center position look behind Elgin?
We're working on that. Right now, Todd Plagman, who has really been a pleasant surprise, a walk-on. Ben Cronin also has been working a dual positions. If we were starting camp tomorrow, those would be our three guys. Todd Plagman has really impressed us. Sleeper guy. Snuck in there.
Where did he come from?
He's from Oakland, Iowa, but I can't give you the high school. We were joking about it yesterday. Todd is an extremely nice young man, but he flew under my radar screen last fall. We got him out there and started watching him in drills and watching him against our defense, he does some very good things. He does some things very naturally. It will be intriguing to learn more about him and watch him grow.