Monday Morning QB with Chuck Hartlieb

Chuck Hartlieb is back for this week's Monday Morning Quarterback, Wednesday edition. We look at the game that was against Montana as well as a look forward not only to Iowa State, but some of the themes that could challenge the Hawkeyes this year.

Q: Was the Montana contest a good game for the team from a coaching perspective? What did they get out of it and was it better than what they got out of Ball State last year?

Chuck Hartlieb: I think it was better than what they got from Ball State last year. It was more competitive, and I think from a coaching perspective you can look at it as giving a basis to work from; areas to motivate kids to take it to another level. It was a good start. It was vanilla, they didn't do a whole heck of a lot, but there are some areas that need to be upgraded and I am sure they will over the next few weeks.

Q: What do you think those areas are that need to be buttoned down?

Hartlieb: I thought it was ironic that the non-conference opener was a team that spreads you out, and you and I talked a lot last year about our personnel and our strategy versus three and four wide receiver sets. We saw it right off the bat this year. Coach Parker does not play a lot of nickel, and relies on the third linebacker to cover the third wide receiver in the slot. That was the challenge for Chad Greenway last year, a big time All American. Now, Norm is looking to develop that next guy. Chad was challenged by that last year. Now, we need to have a Humpal or whoever step up and make those plays. Montana was the start, but I would compare; this game was an Iowa high school track meet, Iowa State will be an NCAA track meet, and when Ohio State spreads you out it will be an Olympic track meet. It was a starting point they can see on film. The speed of what they want to accomplish will increase over the next few weeks.

Q: You are talking about being susceptible to the spread.

Hartlieb: You look back and Iowa State spread them last year, but I think we played find defensively, giving up 16 points on short fields. It was the Ohio State game that makes us susceptible. OSU is an offensive powerhouse. I am sure they have some ideas on how they might counter that speed, but it was good for the Montana game to see that look and they can upgrade and improve from here.

Q: Talk about the receiving corps. There were some drops right out of the gate, something we talked about being a key last week.

Hartlieb: That is an area of concern going into this season. The first issue is always drops. If you want to have a BCS season, I would think you have seven or eight games out of 12 that don't have a drop in them. If your goal is to walk off the field as a unit with no drops, we had four or five, that area needs to shore up. The second piece that needs to improve is the concept of separation. When we get one on one opportunities, or are just doing simple route running against certain defensive packages, our receivers need to separate out of their cuts and into their breaks with two to four feet of leverage on the defensive back. The challenging thing I saw on Saturday was that separation was not as strong as it could have been. We were running out routes and comebacks, and the DB's sat right on the route. If Montana is going to do that, the upcoming games will be more of a challenge. Hopefully we see greater separation as the weeks go on as a unit. These guys have to get open. It's not just Tate's responsibility, or Coach O'Keefe's play calling, they have to get open on their own.

Q: We talked a lot about the running backs being more involved in the passing game this year. Between Young, Sims and Greene, the running backs caught eight balls and they looked good doing that.

Hartlieb: I thought that was huge. Especially with the type of defenses we see, the more you can make the backfield a threat in the passing game, the more opportunistic you will be. Young has a good set of hands, I like the way he runs routes and anytime you have the ball in his hands, there is a chance to break a big one. That was a big step and I hope they can build upon. Secondly, I thought I saw Scott Chandler take his game to another level this week. He looks bigger, quicker and I really liked the way he ran routes. He really looked like a prime target for Drew and hopefully Moeaki will follow in his footsteps in the coming weeks.

Q: Does Chandler get his due? Is he a product of the offense?

Hartlieb: There were some times last year where he had a hard time getting open and getting separation. We will watch that this year, but I thought he played as good a game as I have seen him play last week. I think he is the type of kid that can be first team all Big Ten this year. Last year, with his blocking and maybe just trying to grow into the position, I think he gets his due this year. I bet he has an all Big Ten season.

Q: What did you see from the offensive line?

Hartlieb: The strength last year, I thought, was more pass protection than run blocking. There were very few times where Drew had someone in his face. They are sound technically and fundamentally. The running game, that is one of the areas that I feel that any point is a good starting point. I bet they felt like they should have blown them off the ball more. But it was an experienced defensive front. The first game shows the kinks. The greatest improvement comes between your first and second game. It was a starting point for the running game and I think that it will come to another level in the next week or two.

Q: Iowa's defense allowed 10 yards rushing against Montana. It's hard to make that out due to the opponent, but I don't think they blitzed at all, and the front four was disruptive. Mattison went to another gear. How did things look to you?

Hartlieb: I agree. I thought Mattison, Kanellis and King looked bigger and quicker. You never know what kind of talent was in that offensive line, but the fact that they put a lot of pressure against that spread was a good sign. I always enjoy watching Coach Parker and his staff because they are fundamentally sound. They are always in great position, they play tremendously well together as a unit and that was neat to see with new cornerbacks and new linebackers meshed with the defensive line, I saw a fundamentally sound, well organized and intense group of players. I think that bodes well for the future.

Q: Talk about how the Iowa secondary played against Montana's spread offense.

Hartlieb: You can't replicate in practice that kind of an attack. It was a starting point and the way that secondary responded leads me to think that they can be improved over last year. I was impressed by the whole unit. I thought they broke on the ball well and mixed coverages well and I thought they tackled well. I think if there is one thing that might be obvious early on, is that I think our corners will be better tacklers than they were last year. I think they will improve in pass coverage and we have to stop the run with the defensive backs and they all look to be sound tacklers.

Q: Syracuse is the first road game of the year, its in a dome and all of that. They didn't break 150 yards of total offense against Wake Forest. What do you see here.

Hartlieb: I don't know much bout their personnel, but any kind of a victory over there will be good for two or three reasons. One, just traveling east is a challenge. Combine that with the dome environment and a new environment, that is worth some points for them and Iowa has to overcome that. Finally, if I am the Syracuse head coach, the second season is more critical to me and this home game sets the tone. I am sure he will have some things up his sleeve. This could be a statement game even if he can keep it close. I don't think that it's a slam dunk. I think there are some hurdles out there that this Hawkeye team will have to focus on, the last one being, don't think about the Cyclones this week. Think about Syracuse and the Iowa State game will be here soon enough. I would like to see that passing game get going here a little bit more. I am sure the running game will, and defensively, we have to handle that spread offense throughout the year. If there is a spread in there, it will be good for that group.


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