Monday Morning QB with Chuck Hartlieb

Former Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb certainly knows a thing or two about the game. But right about now, he is like many of you; at a loss for what is going on and what we are seeing from week to week. Still, Hartlieb does his best to break down the latest themes involved with the team, including offering an Iowa-MSU prediction that might surprise some Iowa fans...

Q: Chuck, what were some of your overall thoughts from Saturday's loss at Purdue?

Chuck Hartlieb: I sat watching the first half and I have to be honest, I didn't watch the entire second half. I don't know why I get interviewed anymore, because I don't know enough about this team to comment on it. I think the simplest thing on the road with a young offense is to concentrate on time of possession, keep your defense off the field and focus on your best player on the offensive side which is Albert Young. We don't know the ins and outs of the offense from a personnel or scheme standpoint. I don't anymore, and you don't either. We are making observations from a Saturday, where you need to have a 24-7 understanding of the entire program to make an astute commentary. I am at a loss, because I can't see what is happening from a strategic standpoint. I am clearly missing something. Perhaps its me not being very close to the program, so I am speaking apologetically here. I would think that you would focus on the run, as that has been the key to your wins so far. Indiana was a game where you abandon the run in a winnable game and it didn't work out that way. There must be something there, from a personnel standpoint that makes them believe that passing the ball is better. I don't understand it I guess.

Q: As you say, none of us is there during practice. Coaches are only human, and given the decimation of one personnel group on offense, and that is the pass catching game, we have a good idea of what defensive coordinators are going to do with that, and we have seen the blitzes and the heat. Do you think that the coaches can get in a rut too, or be out of sorts? In my words, and I have said this before, sometimes it looks like we are zigging when we should be zagging on offense.

Hartlieb: It's very possible that you can look at the defensive front, and feel like you have more confidence in younger wide receivers to attack man on man schemes on the outside verses trying to run against eight in the box. We ran against eight in the box four or five years ago with success. We have had times in previous games, and on Saturday, where we got three yards here or six there. I think it's doable, but it might be a situation where the biggest exploitable defense is the pass defense, but it sure seems like with all the factors involved that it would make more sense to run it more. But again, I am not there, I am not talking like an expert tonight because I am clearly out of touch with what is going on.

Q: You sound like a lot of Iowa fans now; people are hurting over this season. Is this season cause for alarm?

Hartlieb: I also look at this team the last few weeks and think they are not that far away. I am pretty proud of the way the defense has played this year. I think Coach Parker has done great with the personnel he has had. Losing Moylan, or not having an experienced free safety has really hurt against the passing teams and I think the admittance of that was trying to make Shada into a safety for a week or two. We really struggled with teams that put the ball in the air well. Without that piece, I think the defense has been competitive and I think there is talent on that side. Offensively, You have to think back and think how we would have done with Moeaki and one of the wide receivers, because then you take a little bit of pressure off of Jake an the offensive line. You make yourself more diverse. On the other hand, there clearly is a lack of depth at position, and it goes back to the story of talent more than anything else, and that is recruiting. I don't know if I am at the point of panic; I have a lot of confidence in coach Ferentz, but there are some underlying issues that he will address in the coming weeks and in the off-season.

Q: If Tony Moeaki can come back healthy soon, if he can do that, is that a big boost to the offense?

Hartlieb: No, I think that is one piece of the pie that needs to be there for us to be success. We need a go to wide receiver, a playmaker on the outside that we do not have with consistency. We do need to have a tight end that can make some plays. We have to have a quarterback that is a little bit more accurate. I think Jake is very much worth the investment we will put into him over the next two years. But he should be coming off of a game saying that he missed two or three opportunities, but for the most part he made the most of what was given to him. But in this game, there were seven or eight shots where he could have made a difference and we missed out on those. The deep balls, a well thrown ball had the opportunity to be completed. We were throwing behind receivers sometimes, maybe a bad read here or there. Jake has to raise his level of play some. Again, I am not seeing the films and don't know what goes on play by play. But he has to elevate his play . Moeaki is one of four or five moving parts.

Q: There are four games left, and Iowa could still qualify for a bowl game. How important would those 15 bowl practices be for the program?

Hartlieb: Just for the momentum of the program, it's critical. We have to show recruits that are watching us that this is a program that is on the cusp of a Top 20 run again for three or four years, and that we will turn things around pretty quickly. I think more about recruiting than I do extra 15 practices. We really need to earn respect. It's difficult to recruit to Iowa City. That is as much of a reason as anything.

Q: That is an interesting point. Hypothetically speaking say that Iowa doesn't go to a bowl game, which is probably most likely at this point. That would mean that the coaches could then focus totally on recruiting for the 45 to 60 days after the Western Michigan game, where if they had a bowl game to prepare for, they wouldn't be able to focus that much. I am only saying this because of your reiterating the recruiting theme.

Hartlieb: I am neutral on that issue. I think that from a strategic standpoint, there is a lot of clout going into a recruit's living room and saying look, we have players, but we need you to come in here and make a difference and play right away. I think a recruit believes that more when you go 5-7 than when you are going to a bowl game. The work that the coaches can put in is important, but your message gets strong on the recruiting front from that side. But the next coach might say that he would much rather go into a living room talking about a consecutive bowl streak than the fact that we went 5-7. It goes both ways and is a flip of the coin in my mind.

Q: What do you see coming from this week's game, against Michigan State?

Hartlieb: I don't normally do this in this column, but I am going to predict a nice win for the Hawks. I feel good about our match up here. I think Iowa is gaining some momentum at home off the Illinois win. MSU is a smash mouth team, and our defense will welcome that. I think we are getting them in a good spot, with them laying it all out there against Ohio State, that sets up well. Hopefully Iowa fans will be just as supportive this week as they were for the Illinois game, and hopefully we find a few playmakers that make a big offensive difference. I think we will win the game 21-10.

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