Spielman High on the Hawks

ESPN Broadcast Chris Spielman railed on officials during the Outback Bowl last season, saying the Hawkeyes were getting hosed. HN Senior Writer Rob Howe caught up with the former Ohio State linebacker during Tuesday's Big Ten media gathering to ask him to discuss his thoughts on that bowl game, Iowa's team this season, his pushing for Albert Young for the Heisman and much more in this premium Q&A.

CHRIS SPIELMAN

You were just talking about Michigan and Ohio State. Can we talk about Iowa?

(Laughs) My whole off season is Big Ten. I love kind of keeping an eye on all of the spring balls. It's interesting to compare what I think to what I hear the coach (Kirk Ferentz) talking about there. So, he goes down the line – "Albert Young, we're solid. Drew Tate, we're solid. Offensive line, we're going to be Iowa. We're going to be good. Defensive line, we've got four guys back. We have to replace two guys at linebacker. We should be fine. Safeties are good." Where do you struggle? The obvious question marks for me are wide receiver. It's not necessarily that's you're losing Solomon and Hinkel. But the guys that are going to take their place have to step up. I saw a couple of games last year where depth was a problem. I know you have Grigsby, but the game I did, one of the games, was Purdue. I think he had four or five dropped balls. Drew's success is directly related to how these receivers come on and play. Corner, if I'm and Iowa fan, I'm not so much concerned with corner because of the defense Norm plays. Norm is going to play man to man maybe twice a game, if that. He's going to have those guys in great position. They'll be well coached, and they'll keep their men in front of them and they'll make tackles. He's going to put them in position to be successful.

Iowa's pretty talented at tight end. How much can that make up for the lack of experience and depth at wide receiver?

Well, unless they're 4.4 guys running down and spreading the field…It can help. But I always cringe a little bit when I hear somebody saying their best receivers are tight ends. If there's a big drop-off between your wide receivers and tight end, and your best receiver is your tight end, you're in trouble. He's in the middle of the field. You have a linebacker banging him. You might have a defensive end knocking him around at the line of scrimmage and you might have a safety picking him up from there. What's the point if you don' t have any receivers to help that tight end become a threat, you're in trouble. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you don't have a tight end that can help the receivers to occupy the safeties, you're in trouble. So, that's their question mark. If they answer that question, Iowa is as good as anybody.

Albert Young told me that you got his cell phone ringing by saying during last year's Outback Bowl that you think he could be a Heisman candidate this season. Do you still feel that way?

Yeah. He's a warrior, man. I look at what he's accomplished. I am a sucker for a story for stories about perseverance. I know how hard it is to be 18 years old and go to school and have all these high expectations and get injured. I've seen it over and over again. The thing that I love is when guys finally get their shot and they jump on it. That's why with how hard he's ran and how hard he's played…he's one of those guys that no matter how many times you run him, he's going to look on the 30th carry like he did on the first carry.

I think Ohio State and Michigan have been a part of every Big Ten title since '68.

(Laughs) That's the way it should be. That's the way it is, except for Michigan.

What does it take to be a consistent threat?

Kirk is going as good a job as you can possibly do at Iowa. All I'm saying, and I think Kirk would say this, that Ohio State and Michigan have the luxury that I call my Storm Trooper theory. You lose three guys in the first three rounds of the NFL at linebacker, well, they've got three guys that look like the Storm Troopers in Star Wars in the white helmets. They got down, here come three more guys that look like these guys. Are they NFL players yet? Well, no. But are they very, very good players? Yes. At Iowa, it may take two or three years to develop a kid to be a redshirt sophomore or junior before he's a very, very good football player. At Ohio State, freshmen or redshirt freshmen or sophomore, you're in. Go play. There are a lot of them. There are not a lot of them at Iowa. This is a credit to Kirk and his staff. You've got to get a quarterback from South Dakota and recognize that this kid is going to be a No. 1 pick at linebacker one day. You have to go get a middle linebacker that's very productive from Miami. Ohio State can go 50 miles east or west or south or in Columbus. That's just the way it is. And that's the way that it's going to be.

One through 11, the other schools can compete. It's the 12th, 13th and 14th guys where there's a drop-off.

Yeah. And I asked coaches that. And not one of them disagreed with me. It's a reality and it's huge. It's the same with Coach Mason in Minnesota. They're in the same situation. John L. Smith was talking about that in his press conference. It is what it is and it's always going to be that way.

Are you in favor of instant replay, especially what happened at last year's Outback Bowl?

Yeah. I don't know what calls were reviewable. I know I got excited about that, and I took a little grief for being so adamant about it. But I've also heard from the other side that said it was about time that somebody called it out. I know officials try to do the best job they can do. But a lot of times, guys' jobs are on the line. And if I can see something from the booth – I'm talking about the onsides kick – and clearly know in a split second that he is clearly not offsides, Greenway, you have to have competent officials that can not make that kind of mistake with the game on the balance. It's a bowl game. It's a Big Ten-SEC. It's a big game for both schools. To make that kind of mistake, you can't have that. It shouldn't be permissible. I know they're trying, but it's not good enough. I try to make a trillion dollars. I can't, but I'm trying. But I'm not good enough to make that kind of money. And I don't think it's unreasonable for me as an analyst or coaches or players to have a high standard for the officials. I really don't.

Do you regret coming out like that with some of the negative feedback you received?

No. If anybody knows me…if I as wrong, I would ask for a meeting with the Sun Belt Conference officials and apologize to each and every one of those guys personally. The other (call) that got me was the 12 men on the field and Iwebema's hit on the quarterback. You know, come on. You can't miss those. You can understand some subjective calls, like interference or holding or things like that, that's fine. But those ones where Iwebema goes and gets Leak, that guy was reaching for his flag almost before the hit. That's what bothers me.


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