The Quiet Man: Ken O'Keefe Talks Iowa Football

It's rare when Iowa fans get to hear from Hawkeye Offensive Coordinator Ken O'Keefe, but Tuesday in Orlando was just such a day. O'Keefe talked at length about his young quarterback Drew Tate, as well as talking about comparisons to Brad Banks, plus much more in this rare Q & A with Iowa's 'Man Behind the Curtain'.

Q & A With Iowa Offensive Coordinator Ken O'Keefe

You rarely read quotes from Iowa Offensive Coordinator Ken O'Keefe. In fact, you can almost set your calendar by it.

You read quotes from him at media day and then again during the week leading up to the bowl game.

For those of you who had the pleasure of hearing him speak at FanFest 2003, you know just how engaging and bright the man is. But he does not necessarily care for the spotlight or for the probing, and sometimes fumbling questions that reporters might throw his way.

It's too bad that we don't get to speak with him more than we do, as he has keen insights into the game of football.

So without further adieu, here are Coach O'Keefe's quotes from Bowl Game Week, 2004.

What is your relationship like with Drew Tate? I think we have a normal player-coach relationship. Nothing's changed. He's done a great job of taking the time to learn what needs to be learned and doing what needs to be done. He's grown up an awful lot, too.

One of the biggest things for him, probably, was to learn all the checks in the run game, something he probably wasn't used to in high school. He's done a great job with that. All of the sudden we didn't have any running backs and he didn't have to worry about making those checks anymore. Now, we're doing some different things that are probably more suited to what he's used to doing.

The relationship has really been the same. He's a young guy who has a lot of passion. He does a great job keeping me on my toes. He knows football. And he has a lot of great suggestions also, sometimes, during the course of the game and a lot times in practice and in the film room.

Was there a moment where you said, Drew, you are where our offense is going?

We never had that conversation. It can't just go to him. It's got to go through everybody. Everybody is responsible for what we're doing, whether we can run the ball like we're used to or not. He's done a great job of shouldering responsibility, but we never put it out there to him like that. He knows it takes all 11 guys.

I think the first time we talked about it (going to the passing game), we went into the Friday offensive meetings. I usually give them the run-pass ratio that's going to be involved that week. The first time they heard it was going to be only 30 percent run and 70 percent pass, I think everybody had a pretty good idea which way we were headed at that point.

What are your thoughts on LSU's defense?

They've got a great football team. They have tremendous athletes at every position. I don't see any chinks in the armor. They're extremely well coached. The linebackers probably do a better job at staying at home than any team we've played in the last six years. Their defensive line is outstanding; they might be the best we've played in the last six years as well. There are a lot of talented guys. Their safeties are good and so are the corners. They don't have any chinks in the armor.

Do you pay special attention to Marcus Spears?

I don't know if you can afford just to keep track of him. The other guys will get you as well as the backups. They have depth on the defensive line and they're all athletic. Spears is certainly a great player and a guy who causes a lot of problems.

What are the biggest challenges that a team faces when you have to deal with as many injuries as you did this year?

The experience is probably the biggest challenge. You can't do as much as you're used to. The farther you go down the depth chart, the more you have to simplify things. Sometimes, you wonder what you're capable of. But then as their experience grows, you can grow back again. It's been a challenge. When those guys went down, Sam Brownlee, Damian Sims, Tom Busch and Aaron Mickens, they've done a great job. Marques has stepped it up. They're going after it.

What did you learn this year, through all of the adversity?

I think we've all learned a lot about ourselves. Whether you're part of the coaching staff or part of the ball club as a player, it's a great example of what the game's all about. You can't look back. You just have to forge ahead. If you keep believing in each other and what you're doing, good things can happen. That's all our guys did every week. The guys just found ways to improve and get better. That's all Kirk talks about.

That's really what we've been all about. What kept us going is our belief in each other. Offense believes in the defense. The defense believes in the offense. They both believe in special teams. We know we're only as good as the attitude of our least-talented player. And our guys have been stepping up one right after the other.

Some day that Drew Tate is a feisty player. Would you agree with that?

He's a passionate guy. He has a lot of energy and emotion. We're just trying to help him us it the right way. You know, save it for the ballgame and don't get all worn out with things that aren't necessarily in his control or worth getting excited about anymore. He's done a better job of composing himself. He's grown up an awful lot on and off the field.

It seems as though he does not make the same mistake twice and just soaks up the game of football.

He might miss a read the first time. But he would very rarely miss it the second time, if we know what goes on (on the field). He's thinking out there. I can even see him think sometimes. After the second interception against Wisconsin, he's coming off the field, he's got his eyes closed and I know he's trying to visualize the coverage that he just threw the ball into. I wish he'd seen it a little bit earlier, but…He is pretty a quick study in that regard.

Where did he come up with the great footwork and quickness that we saw this year?

That's a good question. I have to ask Dick Olin (Drew's father and high school coach) that one myself. I don't remember seeing him scramble like this in high school.

With that being said, his feet are very quick. They've been a pretty big asset. No. 1, his feet are quick and that helps get the ball out quicker. He also has a quick release. But (his feet) they've also gotten us out of a lot of trouble, too. One of the things he can do that a lot of guys aren't able to, is once he's moving he can still get the ball to guys. Some guys can't move at all. Some guys can move, but then they can't see anything going on down the field. He's one of the guys who can do both and put the ball where it needs to be. He's good at that.

Can you compare him to Brad Banks?

I think they're two totally different guys in a lot of ways. Brad's a great athlete. He was a threat to run the ball 60 yards when he'd take off and go. His release might've been more pure than Drew's.

Drew's got a stronger arm, and he has quicker feet in some ways, but probably doesn't have the same shake that Brad had. They're different guys and they approach football differently. Drew is a little bit like Brad in that he's got some street in him, as far as a playground approach to things. But at the same time, he's probably more of a student of the game. That probably comes from being coached by his dad for four years. He goes home every night and hears it at dinner, wakes up and hears it at breakfast. I imagine a few things would have to sink in.

Were you surprised by the way he played this year?

I don't know that anything surprised me. I don't know that we were aware that he could scramble quite the way he has. He's gotten himself out of quite a few jams. There have been a few moves that kind of defy logic.


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