Howe on the Hawkeyes - Random Thoughts

HN Columnist Rob Howe offers up his thoughts on recent Hawkeye News. In this edition, he discusses the future of Adrian Clayborn, the basketball ticket reductions and Jake Christensen's first comments since leaving Iowa.

Hello, from the guy who has been painted more than once on our message boards this week as a "glass-half-empty kind of dude." Yeah, that's probably a fair description when it comes to my sports views. They've been molded by being a long-suffering fan of the Mets, Jets and Knicks.

So, I came out of Iowa's Kids Day worried. I saw too many injuries to key performers. Shoot me.

I found it most difficult absorbing the absence of left tackle Bryan Bulaga, who sat out Saturday's open practice with a bum knee. I called it that because we were not supplied with an official diagnosis from Iowa.

The trouble with Bulaga being sidelined is obvious. He's Iowa's best offensive lineman and arguably one of the top ones in the conference and country.

In addition to that, we missed out on him locking up with defensive end Adrian Clayborn. For me, that proved to be the most entertaining part of the open (for the media) spring practice. I can't recall many occasions when two, sure-fire, high-level NFL prospects banged heads.

Before I get blasted for not giving other former Iowa players more credit, let me explain the rarity of this match-up. Iowa develops players. Many of them, like Rob Bruggeman and Bradley Fletcher, don't really show an NFL pedigree until late in their careers, sometimes it is as seniors.

Bulaga only was going through his second spring of practices, while Clayborn experienced his third. You would not have known that by watching them, at least if you were used to seeing these competitions at Iowa. I felt like I had been transported from the Kenyon Practice Facility to an NFL camp.

Which leads me to my point. Sorry it took so long to get here.

A lot of preseason talk has surrounded Bulaga's chances of leaving Iowa for the pros after this season. That came after an offseason of his name popping up all over 2010 Mock Drafts and being placed in the Top 10 overall by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

I'm not going to argue with the analysts, although it's probably a bit early to be predicting such things. My purpose here is to recognize the other guy.

I feel pretty strongly that Clayborn will have a decision to make at the end of this season. He's that good.

Clayborn has improved in each of his years on campus, but really got by with his athletic ability for most of his first two seasons as a starter. I noticed that he added a lot to his technique, including some advanced rush moves.

It's rare to see Bulaga get beat badly, but it happened in the spring. Clayborn shot off of the line, swam his left arm under Bulaga's left arm and shot around him with a free shot at quarterback Rick Stanzi.

With Bulaga out for Saturday's Kids Day, walk-on Kyle Haganman ran with the ones at left tackle. Behind him, true freshman Nolan MacMillan received his college football baptism under fire.

I've seen Haganman play real well and he's not some pushover walk-on. He and MacMillan are mountains of men. It became so ugly that the Iowa coaches pulled out Clayborn halfway through practice.

My best guess is that Bulaga and Clayborn both return for their senior seasons. But from my eyes, it looks like there's a decent chance both will have a choice to make.

That's Not the Ticket: The University of Iowa announced this week the reduced prices for the men's basketball tickets it had promised this spring. I heard, watched and read from different media reports about how they were "drastically" been cut.

I don't see the cuts being the least bit drastic.

Iowa is dropping its nonconference tickets to $12 each from $22 and $27 last season. That's a very nice gesture. But, oh yeah, it still will be $20 to see Drake, the only in-state rival the Hawkeyes play at home, and Virginia Tech, part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. But hey, if you want to see Northwest Southeast Central Missouri State, come on out for $12.

Tickets for Iowa's nine home Big Ten games will be $25 for weekend games and $20 for weeknight contests. That's a whopping $2 per ticket drop from last season.

Iowa plays four weekend conference games – Minnesota, Michigan State and Penn State, which will be three of the first four home contests, and Indiana to wrap up the Carver-Hawkeye campaign.

They needed to do more. Iowa has struggled during the first two seasons under Coach Todd Lickliter and to think there won't be a hangover from that is naïve.

Marketing Director Rick Klatt also painted himself into a corner when he was quoted in an Iowa City Press-Citizen report this week that Iowa would not reduce tickets to $10 as it did last season. They needed to drop them down there to keep the place from resembling a morgue.

Lickliter and his team could very well be headed in the right direction. If the school believes that, why the heck wouldn't it make it more enticing for fans to show up and give them a home court advantage?

Sour Grapes?: OK, so Jake Christensen didn't throw any haymakers at Iowa when he gave his first interview since transferring to Eastern Illinois. The former Hawkeye quarterback also didn't take the high road.

Christensen's first quote in the story came across as disingenuous:

"Even if I was the starter there (at Iowa), I can't say that I'd want to be there as opposed to here (Eastern Illinois).I love the coaches here, I love the guys and I'm happy."

I'm glad Christensen is happy. I can only remember him being a standup guy and an honest interview when he played here. But come on, he'd rather be the quarterback in the FCS instead of the FBS? Please.

Christensen went on to infer that his mechanics were hurt by too much weight lifting and the lack of a quarterbacks coach. He told the reporter in this piece that he spent the offseason working with his father and former NFL QB Steve DeBerg, something he did before the 2008 season. It didn't help.

"The coaches [at Iowa] focused more on the X's and O's than mechanics," Christensen said. "I don't think [offensive coordinator Ken] O'Keefe had much to do with mechanics. If you watch me now compared to last year, it'd be completely different throwing the ball, in a good way."

I find it hard to believe that anyone made him "over-lift" at Iowa. And he said the same things about his mechanics being improved by his dad and DeBerg before last season.

I grew to like Jake when he was here. I thought he handled last year's demotion with class. But I lost some respect for him after reading this piece. He would have been better off taking the high road.


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