A.J. Edds might be the best interview subject I have come across, with regards to a member of any college sports team. He can talk, no dead spaces, it seems as though he anticipates your questions and already has an answer...a lot like Kirk Ferentz. And he was very direct, too. He feels the Iowa defense can be faster this year, on the defensive line, just like Norm likes. He said that if Norm said this year's defense could be just as good if not better than last year's, then you should take whatever Norm says to the bank.
He heaped a lot of praise on Jewel Hampton and Jeff Brinson. With Hampton, he knows what it's like to get "hit in the teeth" in a Big Ten game and he showed what he was made of. With Brinson, he said that while Jeff might not be the best in the Big Ten at any singular aspect of running back, he might be the best all around back on the team....
Pat Angerer is a man of fewer words, but he is intense. He looked like he would have been very pleased had Kirk Ferentz leaned over and yelled, ‘Suit up!'. I think Pat would have been sprinting down the hall looking for someone to hit. When I asked him what this year's defense could improve upon from last year, he said "Everything. We can get better at everything and I think we will."
Those are pretty big words, even if few were used to get the point across, considering last year's defense was the best, statistically, of the Norm Parker era, and second best, statistically, since the 1981 squad.
The last question I asked him was, ‘This year will have been a success if ______ happens.' He said "If we do the little things, all of the time, until they become second nature.'
But look back to last year, in four losses by a combined 12 points...had Iowa taken care of the little things, we would have been looking at an historic season....
At the end of his Monday meeting with the Iowa media, Kirk Ferentz went out of his way to illuminate Tony Moeaki. He said a lot of real nice things about him, including saying something along the lines that Moeaki can be one of the best they have had at Iowa.
I have felt that since watching him play in the US Army All American game back in 2005. When I saw him block as a true freshman, I felt he was Dallas Clark's equal in Clark's last year, or even better.
As we all know, Tony has been plagued by some bad luck and injuries. I do not think for even a second that he isn't tough, or that he has some kind of ‘glass man' disease. Just the way things have bounced for him.
In talking with him on Tuesday, you could just see an extra glint in his eye...he said that he had a real good December, and that was the best he had felt since the summer. That once you get injured in season, as he has, that it takes longer to feel 100%. He said they went real, real hard in practice during December, which we heard over and over and over again from the parents of players back in Tampa. He said that his ability to perform the way he did in the Outback Bowl was a huge payoff from him, along with what he was able to do in practice.
Did Kirk throw a bone to a player that has had a tough go with things on the injury front, by singling him out? Probably, to some degree.
But Kirk seldom does things like that, and I don't think he would have done that if he didn't believe that Tony could deliver on those words. The kid has amazing skill for that position and he is as nice of a person as they come. I hope he is rewarded for this year.
Coming tomorrow from Jon: A Lap Around the Big Ten; What I Saw & Heard