Monday Morning Quarterback with Jared Clauss

Former Iowa Defensive Lineman Jared Clauss is aware that some fans had some concerns regarding Iowa's two-minute defense on Saturday. That is just one of several topics we covered with Clauss this week, in addition to Rick Stanzi's maturation and the upcoming game against Penn State...

Q: Some fans were upset with how Illinois moved down the field against Iowa on that last drive. They feel that Iowa's defense has been susceptible to drives like this. Do you see it that way?

Jared Clauss: Any defense is at a disadvantage against a good offense in a two-minute drill, because a good offense can know where to hit you for short routes and quickly drive down the field, especially against a defense like Iowa's/. I can't tell you what coverages they were in, but it's tough to stop an offense that knows what they are doing if they have their timing right, in the two-minute drill. It's not hard to complete short passes. Illinois did a nice job of moving the ball at the end of the game. Once you saw them get into field goal range, Iowa brought more pressure to take them out of field goal range. They did that, they shut down the run and put pressure on the pass and the field goal kicker made a great kick at the end. You tip your cap to him. It was a tough game, a tough way to end a hard fought game.

Q: What do you say to people who saw some blitz pressure work near the end of that drive, as to why not use more pressure earlier in the drive, or is that just hindsight?

Clauss: That's 20/20 hindsight. In my opinion, the reason why Iowa was pressuring them there late on that drive was because they knew Illinois was playing for the field goal. It seemed to me like Illinois was settling for a field goal at the end and Iowa knew it, and they thought if they could knock them back another five yards, their chances to make it would go down. If you blitz in a two minute drill….I don't know. Usually, you don't throw a lot of blitzes in there at that time because it's a fast pace. You stick to your base defense where you can adjust out of rapidly, as opposed to corner's deciding who they are covering, chasing guys across the field if there is motion. You stick to a defense you can adjust with. I thought it was fine, and it was good execution by Illinois. The defense is at a disadvantage there and Illinois did a good job of executing.

Q: Why do you think Illinois was effective in slowing down Shonn Greene more than any other team this year?

Clauss: Shonn wasn't in a good rhythm in the first half, having missed a drive here or there. Any position on the field, be it kicker, punter, or snapper, or any position, you need to have rhythm and a feel for the game. My best quarters as a player was always in the second half because you had a feel for what the other team was trying to do. Towards the end o the game, you saw Shonn break open some runs. I don't think he had a good rhythm in the first half. I don't know if that was something Illinois was doing or not.

Q: In the first half and early on, I saw the Illinois defensive line slanting hard. What can that do to an offensive line?

Clauss: In zone blocking, you are stepping to a zone, you know at the snap where you are going, stepping into an area. Now, a team that slants a lot could cause some confusion on the offensive line. That might free up people occasionally for disruption in the backfield and make a back bounce things out wider. Personally, I have always felt against a zone running team, it's better to play it man up and just beat the blocks as opposed to outthink them by slanting. But that is not always correct if you have guys that are better at slanting, it can be rough for an offensive line at the snap not knowing where the defensive lineman is going to be.

Q: Rick Stanzi was making the third road start of his career, and he is a sophomore. He forced some balls, threw some balls that were off the mark, but he also made some great plays with his feet in this game and made some very tough throws. Is that just the sort of thing you have to live with with a young quarterback?

Clauss: Yeah, that is a part of it. What I was thinking during the game is that I hope he learns from it. He made some bad throws, but some good throws. I hope in the offseason he doesn't try to outthink himself and correct that feel that he has, because I think he has a good feel to make plays. Reading the defenses, his arm strength, his mechanics, all of those things will improve. But you don't want to take away his willingness or daringness to make a play. He showed that running the ball a couple of times. I was glad to see that. A few throws could have been better, but he also made a couple of really good throws. I didn't see as many checks at the line this game, but he made some good ones. Going forward, I am still encouraged by his play. Making those drives there at the end of the game the way he did, that takes some moxsie. Illinois ended up getting a few sacks on us this game, and they had good pressure all game. Even in the face of that, he wasn't afraid to stay in the pocket. Some fans might wonder why you stay there if you get pressure. If you are thinking of sacks when you walk to the line, you won't complete many balls. I appreciate the fact that he did stay in there. On that third down late in the game, he didn't get flustered and make a bad throw. He stayed in there and stayed active and ran for a first down. That is huge. He trusted the line. Yes, there were a few breakdowns in the game, but he didn't give up on them and he was worrying about what he can control. That shows a lot to me. I think he could have been rattled after six or so sacks.

Q: If you are a senior, you don't want to suffer these close losses, as this is your last go around. But now that you are away from the playing field and are more of a fan, is it easier to see the positives? How do you feel about the future of the program right now at 5-4 as opposed to last year at 6-6?

Clauss: I think they have been close in those losses this year. I feel like last year there were a lot more weaknesses. Last year, special teams was a weakness. Pass protection was a weakness. This year, I don't see a lot of weaknesses. I see a balanced football team that has weapons. They haven't caught a few breaks; they haven't made a few breaks. I see some good young guys behind some of these guys that are leaving. I like what I have seen from Chad Geary. He has good hips, he makes veteran plays along those lines. I like what I see from Klug. Geary and Klug look good to me, so does Binns. Yeah, we will lose two great Hawks that have been there for four years, but there is talent behind them so I am encouraged going forward.

Q: If Penn State wins out they will be playing for the national title. They had a bye week this past week. The weather will be in the low 40's and there will be wind this Saturday. You have to be able to run the ball in November to win at these northern latitudes. I think the fans will be very vocal this week. How do you feel about this weekend's match up? Would you be surprised if Iowa won?

Clauss: Here is how I see it. I think Penn State getting jumped in the BCS rankings by Texas Tech is going to anger them a little bit. I think that could fire them up. As well as Penn State had been playing, I think the bye week helps Iowa. Penn State had their rhythm down. They were not making penalties; they weren't turning over the ball. I think they have good talent, but not great. They were just playing extremely well as a team. Even though bye weeks help people get healthy, I am hopeful that they somehow get away from the rhythm they were in. You have to run the ball, and Iowa can do that. We know that. They can stop the run, too. Teams that give them trouble are not the teams that snap the ball and hand it off. It's when plays break down, quarterbacks scramble; that has given us some trouble, as it does to anyone. We will see what kind of game plan Penn State brings in, but it will be a great atmosphere in Kinnick. But I do think Texas Tech jumping Penn State will fire those guys up a lot.

Jared 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. He played for Iowa (1999-2003) as well as the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League

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