Iowa Football with Chuck Hartlieb

In our latest conversation with former Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb, the focus turns to some thoughts on what might be troubling the Iowa football team in 2006 and areas that may need to be addressed this off season...

Q: Chuck, Iowa has now had two home losses back to back, but at least they put up a respectful fight against Wisconsin. However, we are to the point where that is some moral victory. What is your overall view on things right now?

Chuck Hartlieb: We have talked for several years now about how important I think momentum is. If I could simplify it more, I would talk about positive thought related to confidence. I feel this team is sorely lacking in that department and its lacking because they are not able to bounce back from that Indiana game. I also think that we completely underestimate the indirect impact that a struggling pass offense has.

I think that when you are a defensive lineman or a Miguel Merrick and you know how much your offensive is struggling to put points on the board, I think there is a trickle down effect on your entire team. There is not much room for error with the effectiveness of your team. You have to be at 100% to play all out in all areas of the game to win a game like the last two weeks. I think you are seeing an 80 to 90% Iowa team because of the lack of momentum that is coming from one portion of that team.

Q: Do you think that what you have described can play against team morale?

Hartlieb: I honestly do think that this is a decent defensive football team that has the ability to win nine games. I think the special teams have struggled. Certainly you would have to say that there have been plenty of positive attributes that could go towards the running game. I just think there is a deep hole in this pass offense that can't be ignored as to how much it impacts the entire team. It's something that has to be rectified.

Q: Can you go deeper into this problem?

Hartlieb: Fans and the media can beat the dropped passes to death, but I would recommend anyone that wants to understand this game, to think more about what is going on in that area of the game right now. One, Coach O'Keefe's philosophy was very straight forward in 2002, 2003 and 2004 and it worked wonderfully well. You keep it mainstream; move the chains, ball control passing attack. The talent on that side of the ball has decreased and the question you have to ask yourself going forward is what your expectation of talent is? This year and next year, the talent is neutral verses our opponents, and in some cases can be inferior. To present to your quarterback and receiving corps a mainstream passing attack, one could say that puts you at a disadvantage. That is one area where the pass offense philosophy could be something that is reevaluated.

Number two, I go past dropped balls. Forget those for a moment. Someone should take a look at the routes and what they are doing. I thought it was a microcosm of the pass offense on the last play of the game. In high school, the wide out runs a 12 yard curl in day in and day out. Here Dominique Doulgas comes out of his cut, and it looks to me like he cant decide if he will plant his right foot and turn around, or sprint across three or four yards or curl into the route. I see this time and time again, that their routes are run inconsistently. There are times where it takes six steps for a receiver to get out of his cuts. You combine that with dropped passes and a mainstream passing attack, and you are going to tell me that Drew Tate is a worse quarterback this year than his sophomore year? All of the facets of the game aren't controlled by one person. It takes all eleven guys and I am just frustrated by maybe a lack of diversification in the passing attack and secondly, just the routes, the routes these kids run.

Then thirdly, I have seen more dropped balls this year than I have in the last ten years combined. It's difficult. I think another thing that is interesting is that our program, I have never said that it should be compared to Michigan or Ohio State, but I think you can compare it to Wisconsin. I think that is comparable over the years with them and we have been superior. Here is a program that last year graduated every single kid that caught a ball, and now Wisconsin comes in and they don't have to keep it simple. If you saw five formations out of them on Saturday, you saw 20 different formations, different motion sets, different schemes and I don't know if you saw one or two dropped balls from them and they have had a tremendous passing attack without one returning letterman in the receiving crops. They had two WR's and two TE's drafted. Is their cupboard bare? No. What happens when you have Stocco and Tate going into their senior years? What if you flip flop them? I get frustrated that people don't see the bigger picture and people want to keep the focus on Tate.

Q: So you are suggesting, as have I, that Iowa remained with what they had done from previous years, regardless of the change of personnel, while a team like Wisconsin has mixed it up with different personnel.

Hartlieb: Yes. The last thing I would add to this is that a fan needs to realize that your tendencies and schemes get exposed each week you go deeper into the season. That is the other issue. Northwestern, Wisconsin and now Minnesota have one more week of seeing what our tendencies are. As seasons go on, you have offenses that just tweak their tendencies, add a scheme or formations because you don't want to see seven or eight straight weeks of the same stuff. If you do, you see what happens when a Fitzgerald or a Bielema can get ready for an Iowa attack. Back to the macro picture. If we can get back onto the recruiting trail and get the type of kids that can beat you one on one across the line of scrimmage nine or ten games out of 12, then stick with the way things are going. But you have to get better talent to do that. But if its more neutral in nature, I hope that at some point the offense starts to mix it up a little bit more.

Q: It looked like Iowa tried to mix it up a bit last week, flexing Tony Moeaki out wide in the first quarter.

Hartlieb: Maybe they hit the distress signal by putting Moeaki out at flanker and giving some other guys some more time. Still all in all, when critical times came, they ran wide receiver curl or tight end drag and really couldn't attack vertically at all.

Q: Would you have similar thoughts on the defense this year?

Hartlieb: On the defensive side of the ball, you have to look at things overall with regards to results. Norm Parker and his staff have been consistent in their careers at Iowa. I think they have had valid results. They give the offense an opportunity on the win if they put 17 to 24 points on the board. When you have a defense that week in and week out has to play 12 weeks in a row, that is continually losing the time of possession battle, you can't point the finger at those poor defensive linemen that are out on the field for the majority of the second half. The end result was 24 points allowed, but if we win the time of possession battle and control the ball more on offense, we could have held what has shown to be a big time offensive attack by Wisconsin, we could have held them to 17 points easily and put ourselves in a position to win, no problem. I think people get too wound up about defensive line pressure and our overall packages when really, if we can get that time of possession in our favor to neutral, and make them go on long drives and make turnovers, if we give up 14 to 21 points, that is fine. Northwestern was 21 and could have been 14. The defense is not the major issue here. They are doing fine.

Q: I have been hearing a lot from the fans about Kirk Ferentz's salary. I don't think it's a bad thing, him making what he is making, as I think his value to the program is probably on par with his paycheck. What are your thoughts about that?

Hartlieb: Any of us, if we get offered a raise, are going to accept the raise. Anyone that this year or on future years that gets frustrated at Coach Ferentz's salary, that is more a reflection of Bob Bowlsby's legacy than it is on Kirk Ferentz. He didn't go into Bob's office and guarantee 10 win seasons each year. He guaranteed a high class program that graduates student athletes and do the best he can on the field, and I think he is delivering that. I don't understand people that argue or get wound up about the coach's salary. To me, that is a reflection of the athletic department and the athletic director.

The Iowa Hawkeyes, at 6-5, are going to a bowl game this year. We at believe that there are three bowl possibilities for the Hawkeyes at this point, but most likely just two. Those bowls include the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio and the Bowl in Phoenix. What are our sources telling us at this point? CLICK HERE

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