Monday Morning Quarterback: Chuck Hartlieb

Chuck Hartlieb took on a lot of questions in this week's Monday Morning Quarterback and provides some pointed commentary. The topics; Iowa's offensive woes, defensive assignments based on key players from the opposition, Iowa's kicking game, flow to play calling on offense and his opinions on the overall status of the Iowa football program. You don't want to miss out on this one...

Q: Let's start with the offense. They have a ways to go this year, to say the least. No position is out in the open more than quarterback, and you played that position at Iowa. Given what Iowa's offense is dealing with, to the injuries at receiver, the offensive line coming along, a young quarterback that didn't have his best game…some fans calling for the backup quarterback in the 4th quarter. What is your take on that?

Chuck Hartlieb: I have a boring answer to start off with. I am not going to be the one to act like I know what is going on coming out of the huddle during a snap right now, during the week. The things that go into executing any play are 10 or 12 different factors that have to be accounted for. Certainly, and Jake would be the first one to say, Saturday's performance was probably his weakest yet. It's hard watching on TV to assume that there are certain problems with him directly or what is going on.

I know that last year, it could be an offensive line breakdown, and the next play it could be the wide out running the wrong route, and the next play the running back picks up the wrong blocking scheme. So many different things happen in a play that can make a quarterback look bad. I hate to always point the finger at the quarterback. I think Jake has a lot of talent, a ton of potential and I think he is a great leader out there. It didn't even cross my mind about any other quarterback coming into the game. He can play winning football for you, but you have to have 11 guys on the same page for that to happen.

Q: In watching the last two games, I have felt that the offense maybe could have zagged when they zigged, running into eight man fronts against Wisconsin. Then against Indiana, for the first time all year, a team played Iowa and didn't sell out to stop the run. In Iowa's first three series, in 12 plays, they threw the ball eight times and ran the ball four times. And the run was there, and Indiana was presenting to you that it was there.

Hartlieb: I was also thinking about what is going on during the week. What is the coaching staff seeing that we are missing. There could be something that is not obvious to the regular fan. But I think the strength of this team is its two running backs and Indiana's weakness was their run defense. I was really surprised in the first series when we went three and out with two passes, and then the next series we had three passes in a row. But I do know that the first four runs gained a minimum of five yards (actually four rushes for 19 yards, an average of 4.75). I felt like the entire game, the offensive line did a heck of a job, combined with the running backs, on executing the running game well.

I didn't understand how you have depth issues at wide receiver, a young quarterback and strength at tailback, and your run pass ratio wouldn't be 60/40 or 70/30 to the run, when it was primarily pass for four quarters. Second and six to second and 12, I would believe we would be right now about 75 to 80 percent pass. I think with the defense they were playing, and what we are capable of, if you can just get a nice four to six yard gain…one of the problems facing the offense are the number of third down's that face us are third and seven or greater. If we could be in more third and two or third and fives, which means there is nothing wrong with running on second and ten if it's the right front, I think it's something to watch as the weeks play out here. We don't know what is going on Monday through Friday, but that is a question I would have.

Q: Trey Stross spiked the ball after his touchdown, and he and assistant coach Eric Johnson had a few words, a few shoves, it was on television. You were not down there, but when you see things like that, does that heat of the moment stuff happen a lot or is it cause for concern?

Hartlieb: I wouldn't want to venture too much not knowing the entire situation. But I think that any time a situation like that happens on the field, it's an assistant coach's responsibility to make a point to correct it to the player immediately, and to the entire team that that is unacceptable behavior. I don't know what was the overall language and conversation that went on down there, but the bottom line is that that is not typical of a winning football team and it's not something that can be condoned, especially at a critical point in the game. You want to play winning football at all times, and I am sure that Coach Johnson was trying to make a point and how far it went, I don't know. I am glad that he did make that point, because that is the last thing that team needed at that point.

Q: This was the second year in a row where Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis played a great game against Iowa, James Hardy got off again, too. Iowa's struggles against the spread continue to mount. Bradley Fletcher was on Hardy quite a bit. Is it common, for when you know you have a tough out like Hardy, is it luck of the draw as to who guards him in a zone? Can't an offense come out and scheme against that?

Hartlieb: On Hardy's first touchdown on the 20 yard dig, that would have been a rolled coverage with the free safety over the top, so they were in a good coverage to concentrate on Hardy there. Unfortunately, Adam Shada took a poor angle for the tackle. It ended up in seven. The second touchdown, Iowa would agree with you that you are taking a chance if you are letting a backup cornerback go one on one against Hardy on the outside. That is correctable, and it can be avoided. But when you do double up a wide receiver like Hardy, you soften up other areas. You expose yourself to run maybe away, you are leaving someone else in single coverage. Maybe their tendencies were not always concentrating on Hardy, and maybe there is another threat. But your point is well taken and it has to be taken into account. Hardy has been the guy that has beaten Iowa, and leaving him with a backup cornerback hurt Iowa.

Q: Special teams. That was certainly a disappointing aspect for Iowa on Saturday, and the kicking game has been disappointing all year. The 10+ win Iowa teams in recent years, special teams have been a huge factor, along with great defenses and offenses that did enough to get out of the way in two of those three years. There are two huge areas where Iowa is down this year, and I don't recall such a kicking game struggle as this in decades.

Hartlieb: All of us fans watched it on Saturday. I don't know what else you can say about it. I agree. I am speechless as far as what is going on in the kicking game right now. So much of that part of a game is mental. Just getting guys confident in their ability so they can go out and play and execute at 110%. It's just not there right now. It has to be perplexing to the staff. It would be interesting to see how they play during the week. But it's not happening on Saturdays.

Q: Going forward, this is uncharted territory for these coaches. They have been in situations like this before, but that was when the curve was going up, not going down. Iowa is 3-8 over the last 11 games and they have lost seven straight league games. Do you think this team is close to any sort of turnaround?

Hartlieb: I guess I might disagree with you from the standpoint of uncharted waters. This coaching staff has in the back of their mind the Big Ten losing streak and how they have played the last 10 or 12 games. This is an extension of it. The coaches know what they have on their hands. They are giving everything they can to get it all from their players. They are well into this losing streak, and it's at a point now where you just kind of pray and hope and see if there are three or four kids that can start to make a difference that aren't right now. Where the competitiveness and winning streak gets started is getting tougher and tougher to find.

Q: What are your overall thoughts on where this program is right now?

Hartlieb: If you look back over the last few years, you can see a steady decline of NFL draftees. You can also see that we are in a period of time here as Hawkeye fans where the talent is not as great as it has been in previous years. It's not necessarily being worried about what is going on on Saturday right now; the talent pool might be mid-level Big Ten at best right now. The question is how can we recruit better? I am more concerned about the next couple of years in recruiting than this year, because I have to tell you that this is a teal where there are not a ton of playmakers. It will be a tough battle each week.

I have to think back and say as a program, I really think the University and the Athletic Department need to figure out a way to help Coach Ferentz recruit better. I think we have fallen behind in our facilities. I think when a recruit comes to Iowa City, they need to have something stand out. In the late 80's and 90's, our facilities were in the top two or three in the Big Ten. But with the stadium renovation, we have let that go. The number one factor in facilities for any recruit is the quality of its indoor practice facility. It would be interesting to do some analysis of the age of indoor practice facilities. I really think we need to look long and hard from an overall facilities standpoint at how we rank amongst our peers in the Big Ten and it starts with the indoor facility. It's below average.

If we don't have top three talent, do we have top three facilities, because Iowa City needs a selling point like that versus the Madison's, Ann Arbor's, Columbus' and Happy Valley's. The core of the problem is not Saturday execution; it's getting talent in here that can compete week to week at a high level. That is the issue that is in front of us, not just with Coach Ferentz, but with Mr. Barta as well.


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