Media Day: Ken O'Keefe

Iowa Offensive Coordinator talks about the mix of experience and inexperience on the offensive line, youth being served at receiver, as well as the roles he sees from his tight ends this year, the position that might be the most deep on the team...

Q: Your offensive line appears to be a mix of experience and youth. Talk about Dace Richardson, who will be a first year starter at left tackle and a true sophomore.

Ken Okeefe: Deace is really a young guy from an experience standpoint. We got all the reps we could give him in the spring time which really helps from an experience standpoint, but that is nothing like being full time in the ball game. He is doing very well. Reese Morgan is doing a great job with him. He has a lot of athletic ability and he needs to keep working on his basic fundamentals and techniques, and perfect the position. The biggest area most guys work on right away is dealing with the volume and speed at which the game is played at this level, their full time out as a true starter. Dace has worked hard on all that, especially in his pass protection. That is where he will have to step up and make his biggest gain, because the speed of the guys rushing on the outside are different in the Big Ten than in high school.

Q: You have Rafael Eubanks, Mike Elgin and Seth Olsen basically battling for two positions. Does it come down to if Eubanks is a better center option than Olsen is at guard, Elgin is the guard, or the opposite?

Okeefe: What we try to do is put our best five guys out there. This year we are determined to iron that out a little bit earlier if we can. Other things have gotten in the way of that in the past. That will work itself out here. We are just three practices in and we have 26 more to go before the first game, so we are a long way from having that settled. The best five guys are what we are looking for. The three guys inside are critical, because they have to work so much together. They depend on each other so much and the chemistry is critical.

Q: The tight end position is very deep. Scott Chandler had a great year last year, and Tony Moeaki might be the most talented of the bunch. Will you involve Tony more in the offense this year?

Okeefe: We are fortunate. We have been giving (Tight Ends Coach) Eric Johnson a hard time. He has his own army there. All the guys are talented. Scott had a great off season, bigger and stronger in the weight room. He knows what he is doing in the offense and we look to him for leadership and to grow as a player and improve. Tony is an outstanding player. He will work himself into the mix because of who we are and how we go about things with our offense. He has the potential to be a dominant run blocker, and he is nifty enough to run some great passes and he has excellent hands as well, so we are excited about him. We need to find ways to get him the ball.

Q: This might be as inexperienced at the receiver position as you have been here at Iowa. Talk about some of the new guys you will have coming in this year.

Okeefe: I haven't spent much time thinking about how empty the tank was, or whatever. But we don't have starting experience with the graduations last year, than we normally would. But guys like Grigsby, Brodell and Davis, they have played and they know what its like to be out there in a Big Ten game. They understand what we are looking for. We have guys like Jason Manson, Kennon Christian, trying to work their way through things. We have some freshmen coming in, that depending on how things go, are going to have a chance to get on the field and play.

Q: Kirk Herbstreit said in Chicago that he felt Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was the best prep player he saw from the state of Ohio last year. Is he the most talented player you guys have had come in as a freshman?

Okeefe: We like this freshman class from a skill standpoint, especially at the receiver position. But we are three days into it. They kind of hit the wall yesterday as their legs were tired and some cramps. Derrell has a lot of ability, but he played quarterback for the most part in high school. Whenever there was a play in doubt, he just took off with the ball. Learning how to play the wide receiver position is a whole new thing and it's going to take him some time to make the adjustment, but he is doing well now. We were fortunate in this situation to have a guy like Lester Erb who does a great job of teaching his position. He is great with young guys, and is one of the true experts at what he does. That will help guys like Anthony Bowman, Dominique Douglass, Paul Chaney, as well as Derrell and some of the other guys that are coming up through the ranks.


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