Jon Miller: This is called Monday morning quarterback, a double entendre as I roll out this first question. Let's start with Drew Tate. QB to QB, what did you see out of Tate, and do you feel that there is a potential step up at that position this year for Iowa?
CHUCK HARTLIEB: I think so. I think we have already stepped up a notch. I would give Tate an ‘A' grade. I say it each year at this time, early on, that it's always difficult when the coaches do not have film to go back and review and look at every play and execution. But from what I saw, it looked like a great performance to me, and there appears to be a lot of upside to Drew Tate.
I am sure he comes away from the Sunday film study feeling that he could have made a bigger impact; he missed three or four guys maybe just because of adrenaline or something. But other than that, I thought it was a great performance.
Three things stand out to me.
First is he has a great release. Really clean, really quick and I am sure the accuracy will be there.
Another great attribute is his feet. I think he will be able to make plays out of nothing. He just has to stay away from the turnover, and he did that once with his arm, but you have to watch out for the fumble.
And third, it seemed to me like the team really responded to him. The coaches have shared in the past that he has great leadership and the respect of his teammates and that all came out as well on Saturday. His release, his feet and his leadership are going to make him a great player.
JM: He looked like he had a swagger, and his teammates have to love the way he ran the ball and took some hits…he looked like he had been doing this for a long time.
CH: You can see the Texan background in him, and that moxsie comes through up here in Iowa. And you can tell that he threw a lot of balls in high school and he is not shy whatsoever.
We might never really how a Matt Roth responds to a sophomore quarterback, because even the defense feeds off the quarterback sometimes. And there is a fine line between speaking up and going overboard, but it seems that he has the respect of his teammates right now.
JM: Compare your first start to what you saw out of Tate, considering that you were a third year junior at that time.
I would say pretty similar points. A quarterback always tries to achieve the flawless game but rarely accomplishes it. I can remember Chuck Long's junior and senior year coming off of the field in non-conference games thinking that he could have played much better.
So I think Tate's performance was comparable for a first time.
But the way I would look at it is that there are probably three or four games out there where you need to play within yourself and get good effort from your teammates, and there are four ‘W's' out there.
The mark of a quarterback and his importance to a team will come at Arizona State and at Michigan. That is what is important. The four wins that are out there, that is important, but you will measure a kid's performance on Saturday afternoons in the big game.
JM: Talk about the offensive line and what you saw. Do you think they can round into a good group?
CH: It sure was interesting to see how much movement there was in the last few weeks in the depth chart. I was fascinated and awed by their ability to plug and play so many guys. I am sure it raises some concerns that there are not a lot of guys entrenched at all of the positions, but on the other hand it shows the ability of the coaches to get their guys in the best positions possible.
How many coaching staffs could do what they are doing and come up with a good Big Ten line?
I think this could be one of the three or four best Big Ten lines for sure. I really do. We have come to expect an awful lot after these last two years, but I think the potential is there to do that. When you have Pete McMahon and (Mike) Jones anchoring it, and then you have players combined with superior coaching ability, I have a lot of belief in this line.
Is it going to be as strong as the last two years? Maybe not. Making a comparison to those two groups might be making a mistake, as I feel those groups might be an anomaly. Now we are back to a more streamlined Big Ten situation and I think we will be just fine there.
But I think that also means the passing game will be more important this year than in previous years, because I don't think you can take the running game for granted.
JM: If what you are saying does happen, and we both agree there could be a more dangerous passing game, could this offense be good enough to where with what you have on D, this team could compete for a Big ten title?
CH: The potential is there. There are enough playmakers. When you and I first did this two years ago, we asked what were the issues that have to happen for the Hawkeyes to get to the next level, and I said it in one word; playmakers. The team had been lacking playmakers in the first few years of coach Ferentz's tenure. Then in that third year, guys started to step up. Since then, we have had some playmakers, and when you have those, you can compete for a title.
They are on both sides of the ball. From Tate, to (Jermelle) Lewis, to Roth and to (Chad) Greenway, you have guys that can make big plays, so they can compete for a title, there is no doubt in my mind.
The biggest issues are that the passing game will need to be raised to another level. The tight ends will have to play a role close to the Dallas Clark type of years. Not to his level, but they have to catch 30 or 40 balls, and the receivers have to be consistent all year long. This is not a thing where Drew Tate's arm will take the passing game to the next level. It's all 11 guys out there. I felt the wide receivers were average last year, and they need to be above average this year. They need to get downfield, run great routes and catch the passes consistently.
Number two; we have to stay healthy. We don't have the depth to handle two or three significant injuries. But the passing game and a healthy team I think give this team a chance to compete for the Big Ten title.
JM: Do you think Tate's 22 pass attempts in the first half were more than just getting him out of the gate against a team that you felt good about beating, or do you think that was a sign of things to come from this offense?
CH: That is a great question, and to me I would have to guess. I don't know if they were trying to get him the reps. I would think that they still want 100 to 150 yards out of the tailback each game. I thought I saw a few more running schemes, or a move to a more diversified running attack versus really relying on the signature daylight plays. So it will be interesting to watch that develop. It's hard to say what it was, and this weekend we might see more of what they want to do.
JM: What were your thoughts on Albert Young? I felt that he started out inconsistent and impatient, but it was his first game. Once he got his feet under him, he showed a great combination of a lot of things.
CH: I agree. When you hear about the type of person he is off of the field, he has it all. It's just a matter of him getting his reps and getting the experience to understand how to play each week.
One thing I didn't see, and something that worries me about tailbacks, is how they pick up the blitz packages. I am sure that when he is in on Saturday, Iowa State might test him to see if he can pick it up. That is so critical. If you remember, Jermelle Lewis struggled on that in his first few years. If you can't make the blocks, the offense is vulnerable.
But besides that, Young looks like he could be an unbelievable four year player for the Hawks.
JM: How would you attack this Iowa D? It was Kent State, but we have seen dominance before from an Iowa defense.
CH: If you have any chance, it's through the air. It would be through big plays. You are not going to have a lot of time in the pocket, and the secondary is not inexperienced. One of the things that you and I discussed last year is that Big Ten teams did not have sophisticated passing games outside of Purdue, and we saw what happened there. We may not see that again outside of Purdue. You thought Arizona State could do that last year, but they really didn't. I thought they brought a simple passing game and they didn't succeed, so maybe that is on the defense. I would rely on big plays. I would try and set up two or three big plays to make the difference. Maybe an exotic or seams down the middle.
Off of that, there can be too much aggressiveness or too much pursuit. If anything, I see this team as being….can I use misdirection to take advantage of how strongly they pursue? Is that counters, reverses, exotics, what have you. Maybe they can catch a Roth or Greenway over pursuing. I think (Dan) McCarney and (Barney) Cotton will have two or three ‘gotcha's' in the first few quarters where they have Iowa set up and try to hit a home run, similar to what they did a few years back.
JM: Chuck, do you have any general thoughts on this season?
CH: My thoughts for the year and for Hawkeye fans, as I see it, is that we need to respect the fact that it gets a lot tougher for these Hawkeyes than it gets easier. What I mean by that is so much of this game is preparation and a mental approach. After the last two years, more and more respect gets given to the Hawkeyes by other Big Ten teams. What that means is that during the off season and preseason, is there are more days committed to prepare for Iowa in Ann Arbor, Columbus and Madison than there were in previous years. I think coaches purposefully circle games on their schedule. Iowa might not have been circled a few years ago, which allowed them to perhaps sneak up on some teams, now they are in everybody's headlights.
It just one be Michigan that is preparing for Iowa, every team knows they have to come up with an ‘A' performance to beat the Hawks, so you will get their best.
Now on the flip side, you have your own team to worry about. It's not like the Hawks are going to get soft, but it's to get motivated after two great years. It's tough to get cranked up for everyone outside of Michigan and Ohio State. You have to do it against everyone, as all of those teams will be gunning for you now more than ever before.
So one of the themes I look at is that it gets tougher on both sides. Tougher to stay motivated, and tougher as teams are gunning for you. So to approach anything like what we have seen the last two years would be amazing, to me.
JM: What will we see on Saturday?
CH: I think we go into the game and try to continue the dominance on the line, focus on execution and feel like you would be in good shape. The interesting thing to me in last year's game was that I thought Iowa kept it vanilla, thinking that there was a talent difference and that their base sets could win the game. I am thinking they might think the same thing, especially going into the road games at Arizona State and Michigan. I see Iowa relying on the line play on both sides, keeping it simple. I will take Iowa 31, Iowa State 10.
Chuck Hartlieb was a star at Iowa, earning All Big Ten and Academic All American honors during the 1987 & 1988 seasons. He and his wife have four children and reside in Clive, IA. He is a part of a wealth management team at Smith Barney specializing in financial planning and portfolio management for high net worth clients. To contact their team, CLICKING HERE
Hartlieb is in his third year as HawkeyeNation.com's football expert, and we greatly appreciate the insight he provides.