6 Questions with the HN Staff: Syracuse

Read up on what Jon Miller, Rob Howe, and Brian Finley think about this Saturday's game against Syracuse in this week's installment of 6 Questions with the HN Staff

1. Will any more true freshmen see action this weekend, and if yes, who?

Rob: I don't think so. There's always a possibility with an injury or two, but many of the guys in line to play were on defense. That unit looked pretty good last week. If Harold Dalton is heavy enough to play, it looks like the defensive coaches feel comfortable with Brent Greenwood and Drew Gardner as their extra D-backs. They also can utilize Jordan Bernstine, who played as a true freshman against Northern Illinois. I'm not sure Syracuse offers a good enough offense for the need to unleash guys like Cedric Everson and Diauntae Morrow.

Jon: If Cody Hundertmark is on the fence for playing, then it might be wise to turn him loose.  Karl Klug was coming on, according to the coaching staff, before getting hurt last week.  He will be out three to five more weeks.  The defensive line rotation is perilously thin, it was before the year, it's more so now.  Had Mitch King not missed the third quarter due to dehydration, he probably would have played nearly all of the snaps, the way that his mates did.  Anton Narinskiy did a decent job in his place, and harassed the NIU QB on Charles Godfrey's second INT, deep in Iowa territory.

Brian: I believe we will see two more.  Cedric Everson as a 2nd-string CB, and Cody Hundertmark as a DT.  CB has some unproven backups outside of Fletcher, giving Everson's athleticism a chance to make an impact.  There is also an outside chance we may see Zach Furlong or Allen Reisner in at tight end, as there is very little that we've seen behind Brandon Myers.

2. In what area would you hope Iowa makes the most progress from Week 1 to Week 2?

Rob: I know a lot of people's eyes will be all over the pass receivers this week, and that's certainly fair. I would like to see a big step forward in the place kicking game. I thought Ryan Donahue performed well at punter outside of a shank, but the combo of Austin Signor and Daniel Murray need to be true in getting the ball through the uprights. This is an Iowa team that's likely to be in a lot of close, defensive battles this year, and several of them could come down to a big kick. 

Jon:  The drops.  Rob brings up a good point in the kicking game, too.  That can cost you games, but eight drops in a division one college football game by one team is unacceptable, and Iowa needs to clean that up.  That, and penalties on special teams.  

Brian: Offensive chemistry.  I don't believe that the drops are the problem as much as a symptom.  Jake Christensen and his receivers need to get on the same page.  Also, there were several plays against Northern Illinois where Albert Young seemed unsure of the play that Jake Christensen was checking into, and wasn't sure on the protection or route he was supposed to run.  If everyone can get on the same page, we should see some of those "explosive plays" Gerry DiNardo was calling for on the Big Ten Network last night.

3. What area of the team were you most impressed with last week and why?  Do you think it was a fluke, or will it continue?

Jon:  Offensive line play was very encouraging.  I really liked what I saw out of Kyle Calloway and Julian Vandevelde, as players who were in their first real game.  Gary Dolphin said on Wednesday night that Calloway might have a little Robert Gallery in him.  I concur, as Kyle is just taking off with regards to getting the messages that the staff has sent.  He also has a little nasty streak in him, head slapping NIU's best defensive player on the third play of the game, and knocking his helmet off.  I expect the line to get better as the year goes along.  That doesn't mean that collectively, they might not take a half step back here or there at some times.  But that was encouraging.  When Dace Richardson comes back, I don't think there is any way that Calloway comes off the field; he appears to easily be one of the five best linemen on the team.

Rob: I'll say a combo of the offensive line and the running backs. I think the blocking was much better than I anticipated it would be in Game 1, but Albert Young and Damian Sims really looked like veterans. They found the holes and powered forward after contact. 

Brian: Defensive line.  It's one thing to make a play or two, but for that line to be as consistently intense as they were, both in pass rush and run-stopping modes, was impressive.  Throw in the fact that they were nowhere near healthy nor consistent last year, and it was a great sight to see.  That freed up linebackers and DBs to play a bit freeer, without having to worry about a runningback getting to the safeties untouched.

4. What did you think of the Big Ten Network coverage from the weekend?

Jon:  It was the channel that I watched the most over the weekend, and I really love the extended highlight packages they had from every single Big Ten game.  That will be a great thing for Big Ten football fans, to get to know opposing teams better.  I really enjoyed seeing what everyone else looked like.  I think some of the analysts have nowhere to go but up, but that is picking nits.  That aspect will get better, and I think the network got off to a good start, especially since it carried the Michigan-Appalachian State game right out of the chute.  Having said that, I have seen the Ohio State-Michigan game from 2006 on the channel, in one form or another, at least four times (I have not watched it four times).  Memo to the BTN:  There are nine other schools that play football in the league.

Rob: I going to be honest here, and say I don't know. The one thing about traveling with the team is that you don't get to see many of the other games. That's why I soaked up the Florida State and Clemson game on Monday. I have watched some of the studio work during the week. It's entertaining, but I can't say that I watch it a lot yet. I'm interested to see how they do with Iowa this week as their primetime game. I'll DVR everything involving the Hawks. 

Brian: C'mon Jon, it's the first week.  They're building their game library now.  I really enjoyed the first week, particularly the coaches shows.  Watching Lloyd Carr and Ron Zook gave me a few chuckles throughout the week.  I was also impressed with the quality of their game broadcast, much better than ESPN+, in my opinion.  I'm quite excited to see some of the winter-spring sports on the network, especially Wrestling, a sport that can be even more exciting than football.

5. Will Iowa's defense keep up the pace it set against Northern Illinois?

Brian: Yes.  The Hawkeye defense hasn't felt that sort of adrenaline for quite some time, especially for an entire game.  They'll be craving that, and will feed off the promise of the excitement.  The home crowd will energize them even more, combined with a Syracuse offensive line that showed little interest in stopping much of anyone last Saturday.  I'd expect another great performance from the front line, with the safeties getting into the action a bit more.

Rob: If the same Syracuse offensive line that played against Washington makes the trip to Iowa City, most definitely. Iowa's defensive line played with an edge again despite the starters logging huge minutes. It's amazing how you don't really notice new safeties when the line and linebackers are flying around. 

Jon:  I think it will because Syracuse is not a great football team.  Washington, who was picked to finish 9th in the PAC-10 by the preseason magazine aggregate ‘poll', is just not a great football team, and they absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Syracuse to just 13 rushing yards on Saturday.  I don't know how much better Syracuse is than Northern Illinois.  It actually might be a pretty good football game, because the two teams seem somewhat even.  I think Iowa's defense has another day similar to what we saw in week one.

6. Who is your pick to click?

Brian: Jake Christensen.  After a game of putting everything he had on the ball, and it costing him in some instances, he'll find a way to put some more touch on the ball.  He'll complete some short passes early which, combined with a great running game, should allow him to land at least 2 or 3 passes over 30 yards against a very veteran Syracuse defensive backfield.

Rob: I'll go with Mike Klinkenborg. This will be a special game for him as last year's Syracuse game was the last that his father saw him play for passing away. The defensive line did a great job of keeping blockers off the linebackers last week. If does that again, which I think it will, Klink could enjoy one of those 15-tackle days.

Jon:  Damian Sims.  I think that he and Albert will once again form a strong 1-2 punch, and they could each go over the 100-yard mark.  Damian would have outgained Young last week, were it not for a long run being called back.  I really like the combination of these two backs; Thunder and Lightning, Iowa style.

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