Jared Clauss: Speaking from experience, we came in as a freshman class and it took us three years to get to a bowl game. We didn't know any different. I can't speak for the guys that have had a break and got it again their senior year, but it's a long off season. You work so hard and long and to not get that reward and opportunity to play one more game, it's tough. I know the coaches ramp up the off season training and they push you, it's tough and you are itching to get back on the field. I know they are ready to go, and I am excited to see what they do.
Q: Without being in the locker room this might be hard to answer, but you have spent some time in the NFL, and you had a chance to watch Iowa more closely last year. Have you sensed anything different from when you were there to now? Can you put your finger on anything?
Clauss: That is a tough question. It's tough to put your finger on something when you are not around everyone every day. I would say the most important thing for everyone is to just focus on improving, personal improvement, don't worry about that bowl game right now. Worry about Maine, worry about what you are going to do. I think that is how teams improve themselves, is you have 22 guys out there that are worrying about their responsibility and personal improvement. When everyone does that, that is how you get better. You can't focus on those other things until it's time to focus on them. It's tough to say that I have seen this or that since I am not there. In my opinion, I think they should worry about personal improvement.
Q: You were a part of some special mountaintop seasons at Iowa. Some fans, some media members want to say that over a three year period where a team is 19-18, maybe a coach needs to do this or that differently. Do you believe that the Iowa program can be turned back around and reach those levels of success that you were a part of? Is it that a hard thing to do?
Clauss: You always want to compare yourself to the programs that have success year in and year out. People need to realize that it's tough to stay on top. Things are cyclical; but if they have done it before, they can do it again. We went from 1-10 to three years in the top 10. The coaches knew what they were doing then and I am sure they still know what they are doing now. I am frustrated like everyone else, but I also realize that it's awfully tough to stay in that upper echelon. It's amazing to see teams do that, and there are very few that remain in the Top 10 every year. I am just excited for the season, to see what they do and I am excited to have Coach Ferentz leading the way there.
Q: When you look at this year's team, there are a couple of guys in the mix that will be four year starters at defensive line in Mitch King and Matt Kroul. How great of an accomplishment is that, and do you think people fully appreciate it?
Clauss: No, I don't (think they fully appreciate it). I have all the respect in the world for King and Kroul, because for one, the Big Ten is a smash mouth conference, with big offensive linemen, running up the gut type of play. I know that it is changing and things are spreading out a little bit, but it's still a run dominated league for most teams. For those guys to come in at the size they did as freshmen and have success and start for four years is pretty amazing. My hat is off to those guys. I know how hard it is to last through one season in this league with these gargantuan guys trying to tear your head off. That is great, good for them. They are great players and I am excited to see what they do this year because they have had a lot of success.
Q: You introduced the term spread offense into this conversation, not me. What do you think will be the magic bullet to stopping spreads, if there is such a thing? Back in the early 2000's, people said Norm Parker had the spread figured out, but as of late, sentiments have gone the other way. What was the reason for the success earlier this decade, or what will be the ‘magic bullet' to slow things down?
Clauss: It's a game of inches. It's a huge field, but it comes down to inches. You can look at all kinds of plays, a guy might have been a step slow, but I believe no matter what offense, defense or special teams philosophy you believe in, if you do it well you will have success. People are caught up in the spread offenses with four or five wides. I look at the NFL, why aren't those teams running the spread, with the best football players in the world, why aren't they running the spread? Balance is the key to an offense. Defensive philosophy is just personal opinion. The most important thing to do, is whatever you do decide on, be good at it. Coaches know what they are doing at every level, they are smart guys. We had success in that were really good on defense in what we were trying to do. I think they can be that again this year. The focal point was that when were there, we really believed in that defense and we were good at it, which is why we succeeded. We didn't do anything flashy, teams knew where we would be every play. It didn't matter. We were good at what we did and these guys can still be that way.
Q: Were those teams just that special, or can that success be duplicated with regularity?
Clauss: If I didn't think it could be duplicated with regularity, going to or watching games wouldn't be much fun. Mitch King is twice the player I was and makes more plays. What makes you think that they can't do exactly what we did? They have good players, they have the talent. My junior and senior year, even sophomore year, we caught some breaks because we believed in what we did. If they can catch some breaks like we did in 2002, it's tough to stop momentum. It's not like we were winning by 45 each game, there were some tough games in there. We just had momentum on our side. In the first couple games we will see if they can get some momentum going into the Big Ten. That will be a key this year to see if they can do that early and carry it through.
Q: The offense surrendered a lot of sacks last year, there was attrition at receiver, a young offensive line, inconsistent play at quarterback and most positions…do you think this group can make exponential improvement early on?
Clauss: I hope so. I think especially early in the season, in spring ball, in training camp, the defense is always going to have an advantage over the offense because there are less timing issues, there are less cohesiveness in terms of feeding off of each other. I think the experience they gained last year is going to be something that could propel them into some good plays, some momentum like I talked about a minute ago. It will be exciting to see if they can do that. I know that after 2001, once you get that first year under your belt that second year is a starter; it just comes easier, you see things better, your eyes are not so wide open in staring at stadiums and football is fun to play. I hope that offensive unit can do that early on this year.
Q: You said earlier that Kirk Ferentz was the right man to lead the Hawkeyes. Some people have criticized Coach Ferentz over the past year, there have been several off the field incidents and a 19-18 record over three years. How do you feel about Kirk?
Clauss: I can't put into words…he is the ultimate coach in my opinion. It's easy for me to say that, but I stand by it. I think he is a great man, a great coach and I have seen him treat people with respect for years. I have seen how he treats his staff, how he treats his players. I know that he made every effort to try and make our experience at Iowa the best it could be. I am thankful for that. That is all I know of that man and all I will ever know of him.
Jared Clauss played for Iowa between 2000-2003. He started his senior year on Iowa's 10-3 Outback Bowl Championship team, and played a key role during Iowa's Big Ten title season of 2002 in addition to Iowa's 2001 Alamo Bowl Championship campaign. Clauss was a three year veteran of the NFL, most notably with the Tennessee Titans.
Clauss is now a Financial Adviser with UBS Financial in West Des Moines, Iowa, back in the city where he starred for West Des Moines Valley as a prep football player.