Q & A With Chuck Hartlieb

Chuck Hartlieb has been in some tough environments. The Kickoff Classic in 1987, winning a game in the Horseshoe that same season. Hartlieb talks about the challenges that Jason Manson and the Iowa offense faced this past week, what they will face this week, the program on the whole, 'The Stand' and more in this week's conversation.

Q: Jason Manson was called into spot duty on Saturday; put yourself in his helmet. A 5th year senior, never started beore, on the road in a dome; what did you think of his day?

Chuck Hartlieb: A tremendous amount of pressure. Not only a hostile environment in a dome on the east coast, but also just waiting for a start for four years and then getting the opportunity in that environment, that is a lot of pressure, and it's tough from the standpoint of the type of team we have right now, too. There are such high expectations. I think that it elevates the anxiety one would feel in that situation even more.

Q: A lot was made on the message boards and Manson in that game, and if there should have been a call to the bullpen for Jake Christensen. What is your take on things?

Hartlieb: First of all, you and I have referenced it a few times, and I know it's a lot of fun and all the great Hawkeye fans love to sit around the water cooler and hash it out, but you can't project or have any kind of understanding of the decision on quarterback play, evaluation of the quarterback and who should be playing unless you are the one living it 24-7 on the practice field, in the film room, watching the camaraderie with the teammates. I am not going to spend anytime this week thinking about Jason or Jake or Drew, because we can't relate to it. You have to rely on the coaches to do the best for the team and I think that is exactly what they are going to do. You will have fun this week chatting it up, but the bottom line is that Kirk and Ken are the only ones that know the total picture, and to project anything else other than that is not fruitful.

Q: Talk about the defensive stand. 7 plays from inside the two. They gain one yard. Kirk said it would have been easy after that last pass interference that gave Syracuse a new set of downs, for the defense to have a let down.

Hartlieb: Coach Ferentz's teams define character. I really am in awe of what he has created as far as just overall character in a football team. Nothing defines it more than what you saw in those seven plays. You need to come up with a nickname for that front seven, because it was mind boggling. Not only was it seven stops, but it was in a difficult environment with a warm field. Those guys had to be dog tired, and to just have the will and focus on each play and execute, that will go down as one of the best defensive series ever.

Q: It's tough to get in and analyze the offense because they didn't have Tate. The guys on ABC after the game said there may not be a bigger drop off in the nation than what Iowa had from Tate to its backup. Were you surprised by that, or was too much made of it?

Hartlieb: I don't think that would be fair to Jason or to Jake. One, you have to respect Greg Robinson. Anytime I see an NFL coach come to the college level, especially a defensive coordinator, you know he has things up his sleeve. It was his home opener in his second season, I am sure they disguised some things. If you watched their back four players, they were moving around. Combine that with it takes two to complete a pass, not just one. We have talked in these first few weeks that the receivers need to elevate their play. Even though we were getting single coverage on the outside, I can't say that I saw a lot of guys wide open throughout the game. If they were, we missed them and Jason would step up for that. But the responsibility for the offensive performance falls on 11 guys. To evaluate Manson only, I think that is a mistake. There are some other areas that continue to need to get better if we want to put 20 to 30 points on the board each week.

Q: In watching the tape, I was impressed with how the offensive line played, as we both know since we watched it together, they had five men on the line and then another three or four in the box for the entire day. I thought Manson had some decent time to make the throws and I thought that for the running yards Iowa got, I thought they did well.

Hartlieb: An excellent point. Again, go back to confusing schemes and mixing it up, as well as eight in the box situations, I felt really good about the offensive line before and I still do. I think that one of the things that you do well is educate the fans. When fans are watching on Saturday, they should count up the number of players between the tight end and the tackles, three yards off the ball. If you see eight or greater, its tough to establish a running game and its tough to pick up things in pass protection. You need to have quick, three-step opportunities and from an offensive line standpoint, that is what they gave Jason Manson. I thought he did fairly well and we still busted some up in the running game. But clearly, Syracuse came in wanting Iowa to throw the ball all day long and not get scared off by a big play here and there. Jon, I really think that is going to be a theme throughout the year.

Q: Even with Tate healthy, or a Chandler or Banks, McCarney brings the heat in this game and they know Iowa wants to establish the run and they are trying to take that away first. That is probably what they do on Saturday, no matter the quarterback.

Hartlieb: I agree. We talked a lot in how we have respect for Coach McCarney and Coach Skladaney, as they have mixed it up. However, Coach McCarney has to be one of the luckiest coaches in the Midwest when it comes to this rivalry. Brad Banks has two fumbles without contact, then Drew's dehydration in his first ISU game, his concussion in his second and now the stomach muscle in this one. Coach McCarney must be going to mass more on Sunday's than the rest of us, because I can't believe for four of the last five years, we are not going to have a quarterback as consistent as we do for the rest of the year. That will be the factor for the weekend. With or without Tate, I expect their strong safety to drop down, eight in the box, mix the coverages. Get it to the fans, its not just getting the quarterback to perform, but the entire pass offense. The tight end, the receivers, the running backs and the quarterbacks.

Q: This team is still searching for some big play threats to emerge.

Hartlieb: As the Iowa fans enjoy their team and are expecting a big season, that is still out there and it's another excellent team. But the theme we continue to talk about is what playmakers can stand up for us in big games like this. We talked in the past that there is a bit of an anomaly in that the Dallas Clark's, the Brad Banks', the Robert Gallery's are unique individuals. For us to have a championship type of season and win big games, we have to have those kind of guys stand up. I keep going back to who is going to make the big plays on offense and defense and who will lead this team. That is a theme that we really need to see develop further. It could be a receiver, it could be Moeaki, or Albert getting it going. Sims was a story on Saturday. Hopefully we get more and more playmakers stepping it up here in the next couple of weeks.

Q: Is the Iowa football program a bit fragile? I am not saying Kirk's era, more a comment on that there is less margin for error at Iowa, and we saw that Saturday. They are not Michigan or Ohio State and probably never will be. They still won the game, and that cannot be overlooked.

Hartlieb: I see where you are going as far as the word fragile and describing the program. After 20 or more years of watching Hawkeye football, I just don't think it's possible for us to be as stable as what is going on in Ann Arbor or Columbus. Happy Valley would be happier being in Iowa City as of late than what they have had. I think that what Coach Ferentz has done with this program is making it as stable a program as you possibly could in Iowa. We don't have 50 years of tradition, the recruiting base and financial support as they do in Michigan and Ohio State. We can compete year in and year out and we will be there, but the job that Coach Ferentz has done is better because he has a larger challenge. We are not going to have as deep a team compared to Michigan and Ohio State. Our recruiting classes are just going to have to be looking for those grinders more than the flash, five-star blue chips, and that is what Coach Ferentz has done. I can't say enough about the great job they have done.


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