Behind Enemy Lines: Iowa

Maryland (4-2) plays host to Iowa (5-1) Oct. 11 at noon in Byrd Stadium, and in order to get a different perspective on the Hawkeyes, we spoke to HawkeyesInsider.com publisher Rob Howe.

Maryland (4-2) plays host to Iowa (5-1) Oct. 11 at noon in Byrd Stadium, and in order to get a different perspective on the Hawkeyes, we spoke to HawkeyesInsider.com publisher Rob Howe.

Here's our question-and-answer session with him:

Terrapin Times:I know the big storyline heading into Iowa's last game against Indiana was the supposed two-quarterback system the Hawkeyes were implementing. But it looks like Jake Rudock is the clear starter based on the numbers. Do you see him holding down the job moving forward, and is there relative confidence in him that he can jump-start the offense against better Big Ten defenses?

Rob Howe: Rudock is wrapped up in one of the most common phenomena of football. He's the imperfect starter with a capable back-up. It results in criticism from arm-chair quarterbacks.

As was tweeted by someone in our local media on Monday, Rudock stacks up pretty well to one of the most beloved signal callers in Hawkeye history, Ricky Stanzi, who won three bowl games. Each of their statistics through their first 18 starts: Rudock - 3,391 yards, 25 touchdown passes; Stanzi - 3,364 yards, 26 touchdowns.

Rudock isn't flashy but he firmly grasps the playbook and can read defenses very well. He's strong at play-action and even through he doesn't possess a cannon arm, can deliver the necessary throws in this offense.

There's disagreement in the fan base on who should be running the Iowa attack. The coaches don't feel that way. They believe Rudock is the man to get the offense going but they also know Beathard can provide a spark if things bog down. The trick will be pushing the right buttons.

TT: I know Iowa is 5-1, but are there any pressing concerns for the team as it heads into the heart of its Big Ten schedule? Are there enough playmakers -- on both sides of the ball -- to match the speed of some of the conference's more potent offenses, and to keep opposing defenses honest?

RH: It's understandable why Iowa's 5-1 mark has its skeptics. The combined record the teams it's beaten is 13-18. Iowa State (2-4) won at Kinnick Stadium.

Despite scoring 38 of the team's 45 against Indiana last week, the offense still is the Hawkeyes main area of concern. It's terribly inconsistent and the running game pales in comparison to years when the unit enjoys success.

There are play makers on both sides of the ball and overall team speed is light years ahead of where it was five years ago. Defenders are delivering big plays. The offense is picking it up in that area but lags behind the other side of the ball. The jury still is out on third-year offense coordinator Greg Davis. These last six games of the regular season will say a lot about whether or not his system will work in Iowa City.

TT: Iowa doesn't seem like it does much flashy defensively, but somehow they get the job done, and that's been true throughout Kirk Ferentz's tenure I believe. What do you attribute this to? The defensive coordinator? The beef up front owning the line of scrimmage? Disciplined players who don't make mistakes? In other words, why does this gap-control 4-3 work into today's game of spread, fast-paced offenses?

RH:You're right. More often than not, the Hawkeyes work out of their base 4-3. They will blitz, mostly in passing situations. They also have a three-man front they will trot out as well as some nickel and dime packages on a limited basis.

Defensive coordinator Phil Parker comes from the tree of his predecessor at Iowa, the late Norm Parker. He employs many of the root concepts of his mentor but has adjusted to the increased speed of offenses and spread attacks of which you mentioned.

Iowa is much fleeter of foot at linebacker than it ever was during the Norm Parker years. And Phil Parker is much more willing to blitz and come out of his base set if something isn't working or he finds an advantage in changing up things. It keeps offenses honest.

Iowa's tackle tandem of Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Past is as good as it gets in the league. The ends are efficient with Drew Ott emerging. The linebackers, and everybody on the defense really, understands how to play with leverage. That's the key to their success.

TT: Iowa's staff seems to like the recruits from the Maryland-D.C. area, having pulled in players like Nico Law, Darian Cooper, Jordan Lomax, Jim Poggi, Omar Truitt, Marcel Joly and others the last few years. Does that stem from Kirk Ferentz' connections to the area from his days as a Ravens assistant? And, if you recall, what has been the draw for some of those DMV kids to attend college in Iowa City? And do you think Iowa will put more of an emphasis on the DMV now that Maryland is in the Big Ten?

RH: I think it's less about Ferentz's connections to the area and more about it being a fertile ground where it seems everyone is trying to haul out players. It also helped that former assistant Derrell Wilson was connected there after coming up through New Jersey. Chris White, who handles the area for Iowa now, built up relationships there through his time at Syracuse and built upon Iowa's reputation created through Wilson's success there.

Iowa has the smallest population as any state that houses a Big Ten football program. Much of its recruiting efforts center on building relationships in certain regions of the country and then working them. Those areas can change but that usually happens over time. To that end, I see the Hawkeyes continuing to pursue prospects in the DMV hoping to attract them based on the success others from that part of the country have experienced at the school.

TT: College Park, Md., isn't exactly a short trip from Iowa City, though I know Hawkeyes fans do support their team well. Do you expect a large contingent of Iowa backers to make the flight/drive East for this game, especially since it's a team they haven't seen before? Are they excited about seeing a new team like Maryland? Curious? Apathetic?

RH: One thing about Iowa football fans - they're almost always engaged. Win or lose, they have an opinion and support their team. That's not hyperbole. It's just the case. It's a big reason why bowls pick the Hawkeyes to come to their locations. They know the faithful will travel well based on history.

I sense that Iowa fans will show up at this game. It's a new location with a lot to do in the surrounding area. They can make a vacation of it. There also quite a few Iowa fans in the metropolitan areas in that region - New York City, Philadelphia and Boston - who will use the opportunity to travel a much shorter distance to watch their favorite team.

As far as the Terps, I think Iowa fans are curious. It's a lot different, obviously, than when Nebraska joined the Big Ten because of location. But, this is an important game for Iowa if it hopes to win its division so that brings plenty of intrigue in and of itself.


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