Monday Morning QB with Chuck Hartlieb

It's Monday, so that means it's time for our weekly visit with former Iowa Hawkeye Quarterback Chuck Hartlieb. This week, we ask Chuck what this Iowa offense can do right now, given the obstacles it faces, we talk about the play at quarterback, defensive breakdowns from the last two weeks and more...

Q: The attrition in the passing game is a known issue, the young offensive line is struggling, you have a young quarterback that struggles at times as well, and all of those issues are connected. What do you do with this offense if you are the offensive coordinator right now?

Chuck Hartlieb: I think we all tend to look at the specifics after games and think about schemes and attacks and how you can do things differently. I think we are in a tough spot from a macro standpoint, in that the large majority of the issues right now are that we don't have top Big Ten talent in quite a few key positions right now. Some of that is through recruiting, but also injuries. Those combine to put the offense in a difficult spot. It is hard to be a coach on that side of the ball right now. Because you at a real disadvantage in going against some of these defenses. The positive of it is just trying to address the core issues. Consistency, just from an execution standpoint, of the basics. Not jumping offsides, trying to put six to eight play drives together, try to get two or three first downs. This team is capable of that. It was a tough environment on Saturday, but we were sorely lacking in some basic, core stuff. Regardless of the win and loss situation, it's imperative on this offense to try and take small steps and build. We are in a tough, tough spot for the rest of this season.

Q: Third and four would be a building block. Iowa was 3rd and almost 8 on their 16 third down attempts, on average. Your playbook gets smaller.

Hartlieb: You are exactly right. It has gotten to the point now, where you can talk about the scheme as much as you want, but its secondary to the fact that there is not equal talent on both sides of the ball and we are in a corner right now. What do you do? The blessing is that we have freshmen and sophomores on that side of the ball and not juniors and seniors. My advice to Jake would be that you have a chance to invest in a three year period, not a three game period. You have to go back to the core stuff and see a soft corner or one on one, you have to hit the 10 yard out route. If it's a blitz, you have to hit the three step and connect on a go route, like what Stross did late there on Saturday. It will be difficult to get to five or six wins this year. I just watch and try to see if they can come up with some basics. From an offensive line perspective, its identifying blitz and picking up the right guy and they are not doing that consistently right now.

Q: You brought up Jake and quarterback play. What were your thoughts on that area from Saturday.

Hartlieb: I can't remember a Hawkeye quarterback going through this type of situation. I think Matt Rogers had a little bit of that in 1989, Paul Burmesiter had this kind of season, where I think the quarterback has talent, but he is just boxed into a situation where they just don't have that group around him. If you are trying to pull something out of the game, it's his development. I think he is coming along fine. He could be coming along faster. The one thing that is interesting, is that I was amazed the last three years on Drew Tate's ability to avoid the rush. I consistently said that he saved two or three drives by his unique feet. That is the one thing that Jake is not getting us out of. His pocket presence will hopefully continue to evolve. He has the ability, but it's inconstant because he hasn't seen enough of it. I thought from the middle of the third qurter on, he avoided immediate scks and moved around in the pocket to create better plays. Early on in the game, that was not taking place. He got into that staying in the pocket, force his feet to the center mentality. I think the key is for him to dodge and weave a little more than staying straight ahead. I don't think our offensive line woes are going to correct themselves any time soon. This is a couple of year period here where it will be critical for us to have success in him managing the pocket. I give him a C there now, but it's only because of inexperience. One of the things I watch is how we manage the pocket, and how we are trying to get ourselves out of bad plays. The second piece of that is trying to find ways he can throw it away, because we can't have second and 14, we have to throw it away and not take the sack. It's easier said than done.

Q: How hard of a challenge do you think it is from a coaching standpoint to keep the hearts and minds of these kids when you are preaching the ‘stick with it mantra', and that is all we in the media know they are preaching because that is what Kirk is saying after each game, that there is no easy road or quick fix. One of the biggest coaching challenges is keeping morale up, and it might be as hard as it was when they turned things around in late 2000.

Hartlieb: You are right. As an aside, I would add that the more and more I hear, and I am not speaking directly about Hawkeye players, but in general, that 18 to 22 year old athlete is more and more difficult to coach. I think generally, they have a harder time motivating themselves. These kids have a hard time making it a life and death situation, putting every ounce they have into a season. I think that is a difficult thing, the type of kids these days are different than they were 10 or 20 years ago. They are not as passionate about the game. In general, in college football today you are seeing more upsets. It's harder to attract the minds of some of these kids and keep them on the right path and the coaches are facing that now. Don't let them wander, let's bring our pride to the forefront here. It's difficult. There is a job to do, pack the lunch bucket and do it day in and day out. You represent the black and gold.

Q: The defense on Saturday, played well enough in spots, but there were some breakdowns.

Hartlieb: I think there were some things uncharacteristic of coach Ferentz led teams were pass defense breakdowns. Losing Moylan was a big issue, but this was not a sophisticated offense and we put ourselves in a hole with the drastic miscommunication or missed assignments on the back end. That does go back to the overall defensive scheme. I am OK for the most part with the bend but don't break. But if you play that way, you have to have 100% intelligence. For the last two weeks, we missed out on some of the key basics on the back end on defense. There is no reason for that not to get better immediately. I think you do have some serious problems on the team if they can't turn that part around, either. That is just assignment/responsibility defense. The corners and the safeties have to understand where their areas are at. If we are not doing that, then we are really getting near rock bottom. I think that is another key piece to watch to see if this team is keeping it together or not.

Q: What is one thing that you are thinking about for this program going forward, not just for this year but for the future?

Hartlieb: Are we doing the best we can from a recruiting standpoint? We have to stay focused on the types of kids we get and hit the phones hard. We have to reload and get another level of players in here. Mr. Barta and Coach Ferentz have to find a way to get an advantage overall in the program, and I have mentioned that before. We have to stay focused on that process now, and that is the most critical piece for the next two or three years.

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