Does it make you nervous at all that you don't know what you have on the offensive line yet?
It doesn't really make me nervous because it's pretty early right now. We've had a pretty good spring ball so far. A lot of young guys have made good strides. They'll be able to continue to do that over the summer and in camp. Eventhough our offensive line is pretty inexperienced, we have some guys that do have some experience. I started all of the games last year. Mike Jones started about half of the games. Dave Walker played a lot. Even Lee Gray got to play quite a bit last year. I really don't think that that's too big of a worry.
Do you have any concerns that Walker might not be back?
I'm not really sure. I don't know what they're doing. I know his injury takes a long time to heal but he's healing up pretty good. He's been doing all of his rehab and stuff. I know that he's going to try as hard as he can to get back. If he doesn't, then we'll just have to figure it out then.
What have the young guys like the Ben Gates of the world look like?
Ben Gates is going great with the move. Mike Elgin is really working hard and doing well. He's a smart kid. A kid like that who works hard and his smart and wants to learn is what makes me not worry about teh offensive line.
You guys didn't lose big numbers on defense, but you lost a lot of leadership. Are you the type of guy that can step in and replace some of that?
This is my fourth year, so I've been around. I'll step up to the challenge.
Have you stepped up your leadership role?
Yeah. I've talked to some of the younger guys and told them they need to step up. That's what you have to do. We don't want to have a hole in our ship. We want to keep things moving. We had a good season last year and we don't want to mess that up. More guys like me are going to have to step up to the challenge and get guys going.
Where do you think you and Chad rank among the other linebackers in the Big ten or the country for that matter?
I don't know how we compare, but we're pretty good. We have a great group of D-linemen that take pride in keeping guys off of us and allowing us to do the things that we do.
Do you and Chad keep track of who has more tackles?
It's in the board in there. We see it every time we pass by. We're very competitive. He tries to outdo me, and I try to outdo him.
Without being real specific, were you distracted in the last month?
No. That was something very minor to me. I stayed focused. It didn't distract me at all.
Coach Ferentz made a point of defending your reputation. What does that mean to you?
That makes me feel real good. He's not saying anything that I don't really know. I know that I'm a good person with great character with good leadership. But having it come out in his words, it just makes me feel real good. I don't have anything to prove, but you don't want to let your coach down.
Being as we've kind of cracked the door a little bit open, do you have animosity towards anybody throughout the whole thing?
Before Hodge had a chance to answer the question, Iowa Sports Information Director Phil Haddy interupts and says: Guys, coached asked no questions on that subject. Abdul, you're not suppose to answer questions on that.
How can you get better?
Everybody can get better. I can watch more film on other teams, get bigger, get stronger, get faster. It's not only learning my position, but learning other positions out there.
Did you surprise yourself at all last year by going from a non-starter to first-team all-Big Ten?
I wouldn't say that I surprised myself because since I came here I've been trying to work hard to get to that point.
If you have the kind of year that you had last year this year, do you give any thought of going early (to the NFL)?
No. Not at all. Right now, I'm planning to stay two years.
Are you still recruiting your brother?
Yeah, I'm trying to.
How is Marcus like Bob, if at all? And how are they different?
You can't anyone to Bob. But both of them love to hit. That's what Paschal does on the field, fly around. I don't know if he's trying to imitate Bob, but he does get after guys like Bob used to.
How good can this defense be?
I suppose as good as we can make ourselves. We have a clean slate right now. We can go out and be the worst defensive team in 10 years or the best defensive team in 10 years. Right now, with the attitude that we have we have the possibility of being really good. We'll just have to see how we come together.
Do you and Abdul ever have a little banter back and forth about tackles and things like that?
Every day. Every day we have a banter. We just try to compete and make ourselves better.
Does Marcus remind you of Bob in any way?
He's got an attitude, a swagger. He plays hard, and he'll hit you.
Bob kind of set the tone for the defense. Is that something that somebody has got to pick up?
He was the catalyst. He would always have the big hit. Guys have fed off of that the last couple of years and there are some guys that do that and can take his role.
Do you feel like Abdul and yourself are two of those guys?
I think us two and there are some D-linemen that can go out there and make big plays and get everybody going.
How have things gone this spring for the running backs?
Really well. Jermelle is going reall good. I'm No. 2 right now. I've had a couple of really good scrimmages.
How would you assess what you see at quarterback?
From what I see, they're all looking pretty good. Tate and Manson are looking real good, throwing good balls, making good decisions for young guys.
How about up front?
You don't have Gallery, but they're making the holes. That's all that you can really ask for.
Is the offense in a similar position as it was at this time last year?
Yeah. We're even a little younger than last year. And we're not as consistent as last year. But in Saturday's scrimmage, the offense had a pretty good practice. A couple of times last week, we didn't have very good practices. But you see steady progress coming along.
What is the quarterbacks' command like in the huddle?
Tate and Manson do a real good job in the huddle, especially Tate. He's like, "OK guys, sharpen up the huddle. Get back in here. We're going to do it this way. We're going to do it my way. We're going to do it right." He's a perfectionist. That's important for a quarterback.
Coach said that he might be a bit too much of a risk taker right now. Have you guys noticed that?
Yeah. He takes a lot of risks, but you've got to take some risks. We don't have all of the weapons that we always have had. You've got to take risks sometimes. You've got good receivers out there to throw the ball to.
Have you observed that they're pretty close?
Yeah. I think that they're pretty close. Manson runs the ball pretty well. Tate throws the ball pretty well. They're both pretty smart. I think it will be a shootout. They're both looking pretty good.