In using a lot of players this year has that helped your depth for bowl preparation?
Any time you can use a lot of guys, that makes more guys happy. They're happy and their mothers are happy. So, everybody is happy.
But, yeah, we got some guys and they got in and contributed and did some good things.
What have you seen from South Carolina?
Spurrier is a very confident guy. He's not afraid to line up in any crazy formation. When he goes golfing and hits the ball in the trap he goes in the trap and draws plays in the sand. He's got all kinds of gadgets and he's not afraid to use them because he's a very confident guy. He doesn't have anything to lose. It's not going to bother him and he knows what he's doing. He's very good at throwing the ball and getting you in matchups and coaching the passing game; you know, the timing of the passing game.
When he was at Florida, I was at a couple of practices there. The timing of everything, he's just on the top of the game that way.
Did you coach against him when you were at Vanderbilt?
Yes, we used to play them when we were at Vanderbilt. He had Danny Wuerffel and Jevon Kearse. We always played them fairly decent. He had great players there. They were the national champs. They'd just shut you down with the Kearse and those guys. The defense would come off the field and you'd get a Gatorade to go because you would be right back out there on the field. But he's good. He's very good. He's very successful.
And then one time a long time ago he was the offensive coordinator at Duke and I was the defensive coordinator at East Carolina. It was 1981, I think. He probably doesn't remember it. But I remembered.
You guys don't change your defense much no matter the offense you're playing. Will that be the case in the Outback Bowl? Will you do what's been successful?
You have to do what your players know how to do. We play the defense that we know how to play. When you try to invent a defense, all of that is nice if they do what they're supposed to do. But if all of a sudden they come out in another formation and you haven't worked on it and the kids look at you like "Coach, what do we do now?" And you look at them like, "I don't know." What dod we do now? So, you have to do what you do and do what you know. You have to sort of go with the one that you brought to the dance.
Has this defense performed up to what you thought it could coming into the season?
Coming into the season, I thought that we could be a decent defense. And I think we were probably a decent defense. We got better as the year went on. Spievey was a pleasant surprise. We talked about Spievey, but we didn't know that he would have that kind of year. He's been a real pleasant surprise.
The good thing about the defense is that the three seniors – King, Kroul and Fletcher – played the best football of their career as seniors. That's what they're supposed to do. When I guy gets to be a senior, that's when he's supposed to be at his best. Those kids never thought they, hey, I have it made. I'm not going to get any better. And we can get a lot better from the Minnesota game to the bowl game. We should get better. We're a couple of weeks older; a couple of weeks stronger; a couple of weeks more mature. In theory, everybody should be a better football player than they were during that game. And if everybody can get this much better (Holds thumb and pointer finger about two inches apart) than as a group you get that much better (Holds hands about two feet apart).
The fun part about these guys is that there really aren't any…I guess you could say King and Kroul are the stars, but it wasn't a group where you had stars out there. It was just a bunch of guys that played together and collectively as a group they were pretty good. I don't want to say pretty good. They were decent.
Statistically, this group ranks right up there with any group you've had here at Iowa. Would you put them with the 2004 defense?
Are you talking about that group with Roth and those guys? Yeah, maybe there were more guys in that group that had a little bit more flash. Roth could make a whole bunch of big plays. King can make big plays. But you know, that was Greenway and Hodge and those guys. They were probably more of what you'd say "name" guys on that group of guys than there are on this one. But I think this one is as good, yeah.
This group has been fun to work with because they work hard. They've worked hard. They've studied hard. They've done the right things. It's really easy to work with.
Coming into the season, you had to have questions at corner. How have they developed?
Like I say, Spievey was a very pleasant surprise. And then Fletcher played better than Fletcher had ever played before. Fletcher played his best as a senior. Consequently, we ended up with two pretty good corners. I think those two kids played well during the course of the year. But it was a lot of hard work by both of them; Spievey catching up and Fletcher puttng his nose to the grindstone and deciding I'm going to be really good my senior year. He had a good senior year. He's a good kid. He worked hard.
What about your defensive ends? They were kind of in the same boat, although you might have known more about them.
They were two guys coming into the year, Adrian and Ballard, we thought they had potential and that they could be could. We lost Mattison and Iwebema. But we thought that we were going to be alright at defensive end and thought those two kids were going to be pretty good. They've grown. They've got a whole heck of a lot of improvement left to go. Some day in the future they could be really good guys.
Are we talking National Football League good?
I didn't say that (laughs). Yeah, those guys probably have the size and the height and the speed. When the National Football League comes in, they want to look at how tall are you; how big are you?; how fast are you? And those guys probably have all of those qualifications.
A guy that's as good of a football player that we've had here is King. But in terms of the National Football League coming in and looking at him and saying wow, look at this guy, that's not the case because he's not 6-foot-5, 290 pounds and runs a 4.6. But he's as good of a football player as we've had. He's as good a college football player as we've had since we've been here on defense. He and Kroul are both very good.
That said, do you see (King) playing in the NFL?
I don't know where he'll go, but I wouldn't be surprised if he went somewhere and made it. They spend millions of dollars testing these guys, feeling these guys, giving them psychological tests, everything you could humanly do to somebody and they can't get it right. Look at Kampman. They draft him in the sixth round and he's all-pro. So, it still gets down a little bit about what you've got inside of you whether you make it or not.
Can you talk about Pat Angerer and his progress?
Pat is like a lot of college guys. He doesn't mind me saying it. He was a little bit immature in the way that he approached it in his early years. All of a sudden, he decided that he wanted to be a football player and he wanted to be a student. It was time for him to grow up and he grew up and did the job. I think his improvement was probably from the shoulders up. He grew up. He was a young kid. That happens with a lot of guys. They're not ready for that yet. It hasn't clicked in that this is what I have to do to succeed at this level.
You focused strictly on coordinator duties this year. How has that helped you as a coach?
It probably helps the rest of the players because I don't coach them anymore. What it's really done is that I sort of go from drill to drill. I go and screw up this drill for a while and then I go and screw up another drill. In doing so, I've gotten to know the players better as a group. When I coached the linebackers, I knew my guys. That's who I really knew. I knew who the other guys were and everything. But I didn't know them like I know them now. I didn't have the relationship with them like I do now when I drift around from drill to drill. But it's lonely. You have to go over and talk to the weight coach for a while and talk to the trainer. It's a lonely world out there trying to talk to somebody.
What kind of safety would Shonn Greene have been?
A big one. Shonn I don't think is a safety. He'd be closer to being a linebacker. He'd be a big-ass safety, I'll tell you that. He'd be the world's biggest safety. That's what he'd be. He'd be the biggest.
You got to see him there during one of the bowl preps when you were thin there.
That's why he's a running back. He's a good running back.
How do you stop him?
I've got no idea. I like it when he's playing because the best way to play defense is to sit on the bench and say, "Way to go, Shonn." (claps hands in applause) – first down. You just keep sitting there just watching him run. He probably helped our defense as much as anyone. He's probably our most valuable defensive player because he kept us off of the field. It helps when you have a guy like that.
Back to King and Kroul, does it seem hard to believe that this will be their last game in an Iowa uniform?
Yeah, it seems like they've been here forever. They've been here for a long time. It's amazing. They didn't come in here as five-star recruits and all that crazy stuff. They both came in here as linebackers. We took them and thought that we made what we thought were good defensive tackles. It took some talking to get King convinced that he was a defensive tackle.
It's just hard work. There's nobody that works harder than Matt Kroul. Really I don't know all of the defensive linemen in the country and don't pretend to know them all, but if you had to take two defensive tackles I'd just as soon have our two guys as any two, They work good together and they work hard ands they're leaders. They're everything that you could ever want in not only in football players but in people. They're good guys. Good guys that are hard workers. Kroul's dad is a farmer. He was born and raised on a farm. He's got an unbelievable work ethic. He's never missed a practice and he's never missed a class since he's been at Iowa. What more could you want from a guy? He's everything you'd ever want in a person. And everybody in the state of Iowa, especially Mount Vernon, they should be proud of the guy. He's done well. It's the result of his mother and dad. His mother and dad are good people. They're hard working people. Other kids for spring break go to the Bahamas or wherever. He goes out to farm and works. So, he's a hard working kid. But that's the way a lot of these kids are. That's the way Greenway was.
Can you talk about Greenway and Sash and how they've developed?
Greenwood has really come along. As you know, he was a walk-on. We always compared him when he was young, you know, he's a young Considine or a young Pagel. He sort of came the same way. He's become more assertive out there. The free safety has to be the quarterback out there a little bit. Here was a freshman that just got off a yellow school bus and he's supposed to tell these other guys what to do. That's not that easy. The more he's learned it, the better he's gotten at being assertive out there.
My impression of Sash is I think he's a darn good athlete. He's like a lot of young guys. He really didn't know if he was as good as the other guys. All of a sudden he's found out practicing to say, "Hey, I'm as good as those guys." Since then, he's sort of taken off. He's got a little swagger to him. These two kids are going to be excellent in the future. They're just babies.
Offensively, defensively, special teams, is there a play that stands out in your mind as your favorite this season?
I kind of liked it when Penn State was trying to get in there down at the goal line and Clayborn knocked that guy back. I thought that was pretty good. That last field goal of the Penn State game, that wasn't bad now. But I thought that play that Clayborn made down there against Penn State on the goal line that knocked them back was a good play.
Norm, how are you doing? How are you feeling?
I feel like I'm 20 years younger. You know, I'm above the ground.
Looking at Joe Paterno just signing an extension, would you like to be around that long?
Eight five? Hell no. (laughter) At 85, you'd have to dig me up to coach. You'd have to open the box and get me out. That's amazing that guy can do that. It's amazing that he can do it and still have the energy to do it. I mean, I don't know how he does it.
What are your thoughts on some of the national coaching moves that have been going on?
Well, like Chizik to Auburn?
I'm probably better off not to comment on that. (laughter) What's the temperature in Auburn today?