Wow, time flies. In just under 24 hours we'll be getting for what we waited all Summer, Hawkeye football. Time for some T's and P's, that's my thoughts and prayers. Here we go, Tennessee Tech:
I looked at the Tech defense and tried to decide which guy deserves our thoughts and prayers the most. Ya know what? I couldn't pick just one. So, I picked a few from the starting Golden Eagle defense (for a complete roster click here):
Let's stop beating around the bush and trying to sugar coat this. These cats are going to get smashed. I mean good luck dudes trying to stop this:
(It's all in good fun folks, good luck Golden Eagles, seriously)
Well, a little over 24 hours and we'll be in Hawkeye football bliss. Before I get to the links you should read before heading off to Kinnick I thought I'd start with some Hawks in the NFL. Hawkeye Drive again gives us a schedule of NFL games and what former Hawkeyes will be participating.
The final cuts are coming soon in the NFL and some former Hawks are hoping to make teams. Ryan Donahue is one of those former Hawks and Mike Hlas, of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, has a nice write-up about Iowa's former punter.
You may want to be in your seat prior to the opening kickoff Saturday. Scott Dochterman writes that improved special teams play has been a focus of Iowas. Watch out for Jordan Bernstine on the kick return team.
St. Louis Today writes that receiver Marvin McNutt's decision to bypass the NFL draft and return for his senior season was a "gut call."
McNutt's QB, James Vandenberg, gets a nice write-up by Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
I wanted to take a good look at Tennessee Tech and their offense in order to make a solid prediction for this week's defensive player of the game. I'm taking Mike Daniels. Going out on a limb, I know. I'll explain why I believe Mike Diesel will have a fantastic Saturday, but I should mention that footage of Tennessee Tech playing football is hard to find.
We get a look at a couple of Tennessee Tech plays in this video from their second scrimmage last month. You have to forward to the :52 mark to see a shotgun formation. In this set you see one back directly behind the quarterback, the fullback off-set one yard behind the tackle, and the wide receiver in tight.
Not a lot different that a single wing really or even a wishbone or more traditional option look. The differences are the quarterback's position and how you spread the field with wide receivers. In college you have extended hash marks giving you extreme wide sides of the field. Spreading the field with wide receivers extends the space in which you have to make plays.
Above, we see the play begin to develop. The line all blocks down and the single back steps left and then moves straight ahead to take the ball on a fake or the dive. The single back is the first option in this offense. If the hole is there or the backside doesn't crash down, the quarterback takes option number one. You can also see the fullback and wide receiver start their motion to option left.
Okay, so the dive wasn't there but the defensive tackles went for the fake. As the play develops you see number 92 (the option side defensive end) getting too deep inside and getting hooked by the fullback. The defensive end should have been the option defender on this play but because he was sucked so far inside the fullback has an easy scrape and the option takes off to the outside (ball has yet to leave the QB's hands). Also note the backside linebacker. Instead of scraping the defensive end he is sucked inside. He is visible between the DE and DT.
Now, in the image above you can clearly see the defensive end is completely out of the play. He's in poor position and the quarterback has yet to pitch the ball but still has a pitch man (no longer pictured). The outside linebacker is still too far inside and is about to be cut off by the pulling fullback. The lane for the quarterback is just off the fullback's hip and in this play he goes for an easy six.
That's just one play. Nice and easy right? What it shows in how disciplined the tackles, linebackers, and defensive ends have to be Saturday. The ends can't get sucked in by the dive action. They have to fill the gap by the down blocking offensive tackle and keep their pads square (parallel to the LOS). The linebackers have to know their assignments and can't get sucked in either. The DE should be there to put a solid pop on the QB and if the ball is pitched get down the LOS and pursue the option back.
Tennessee Tech's quarterback is Tre Lamb. He's 5'9" 185 pounds. A few pops and he'll be antsy to pitch. Plus coach Brown will have to consider a full season that lies ahead for his quarterback and his team.
Again, I don't know much about Tennessee Tech's offense other than a few scrimmage plays and that their coach, Watson Brown, said "We're going to play the Oregon style." Brown was referring to the tempo of his offense. An offense he tabbed the "Fastest 60 Minutes in Football."
A fast tempo can wear down defenses, especially with a deep team like Brown claims he has. There is a downside however. Fast tempo offenses can be fast three-and-out offenses. Those quick three-and-outs can lead to a quick 30 to nothing lead for the opposition.
Now, let's see how Auburn stuffed the Oregon attack:
Watch Nick Fairley. That's why I picked Mike Daniels to click this week. If Tech runs the midline option (the option defender is the DT instead of the DE, the first option is the running back, the second the QB keeper) and leaves Daniels unblocked, look out. I can't see that happening. I can see Daniels as a one man wrecking crew in the middle of the field. He should handle the dive and Tennessee Tech's first option.
We have to remember too that even with all of this Oregon talk, Tennessee Tech isn't Oregon. In fact, it's not even close.
Finally, if you watched Auburn in that clip you'll see multiple defensive looks. Auburn runs a base 4-3, a 4-3 over or under, and also will replace a linebacker with a defensive back (a nickel look). It also appeared at times that Auburn used a 4-3 defense with a safety/defensive back as the third linebacker. They wanted to match Oregon's speed.
I will not be surprised if Iowa does something similar this Saturday. Coach Ferentz may have tipped his cap a bit regarding this. In Tuesday's press conference when asked about Tom Donatell, Ferentz said, "That position (OLB) has evolved over the years with guys out in space an awful lot. In some ways it’s like being a safety. This week, that guy will be more of a safety than he will be a linebacker. There’s a blend there. I think it seems like it’s worked out well for both parties."
Ferentz also went out of his way to mention Jordan Bernstine quite a bit. Might he or Donatell be the safety to replace an OLB from Iowa's base 4-3? We've heard about the speed of both Hitchens and Kirksey. Add Bernstine into the mix against a shotgun read option team and you might have something.
There have been rumors, on Hawkeye Report (I think), of AJ Derby running some specialized packages at the quarterback position. At yesterday's press conference Ferentz was asked"Do you have any special packages for Derby?" Ferentz replied with, "I think right now we’re going to give James his opportunity and see what happens, see how it goes from there." A non-denial, denial!
Ferentz was asked a couple of other questions about Iowa's newest #2 QB, here they are:
Q. How much has A.J. had to come along in terms of the type of quarterback he was in high school and for what you want him to do?
Ferentz: I think it was a big learning curve for him certainly. One thing about him, he’s an excellent high school football player. I think he’s becoming a good college quarterback. It’s a progression. The one thing he has, probably as good as anybody we have back there, he’s got excellent feet. That’s a good thing for him. He’s got great size. He’s a competitive guy.
It’s coming along well. Just hopefully he’ll continue to improve, and we expect him to.
Q. Is it tricky to do what you need him to do but keep his best assets?
Ferentz: I don’t think so. We can bend left or right depending on who we’ve got. We’ve tried to do that through the years. Guys that can run around a little bit, you think about Drew Tate, certainly Brad Banks, they could move around a little bit back there. Other guys haven’t been quite as nimble. I’m not saying he’s Brad or Drew. But he’ll move around a little bit and move the ball around a little bit more than maybe some other guys would.
So, reading between the lines there, Derby can run. I ask why not give him some snaps to do just that?
The first thing I thought of was Florida's handling of Tim Tebow his freshman season (2006). Now, to be clear, I'm not saying that Derby is or will be the next Tim Tebow. What I am saying is that Florida had an established and accomplished college quarterback in Chris Leak. They also brought their freshman quarterback in to give the opposition a different look. Tebow, as a freshman at Florida, played in all 14 games. He had a total of 469 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. In those 14 games he attempted only 33 passes, completing 22. So, he was brought in to do mostly one thing, run with the football.
After QB keeper after keeper Florida would occasionally throw in this play (this is from 2009 but we remember this in 2006 too):
By now everyone has seen the spread/read option in some form or another. Iowa has, in the past, ran at least one or two option reads from the shotgun formation. Remember Ricky Stanzi pulling back the hand off and running up the middle for a first down at Penn State in 2009? Iowa also showed a shotgun option look a time or two with Stanzi at quarterback during the Spring scrimmage in 2008.
Nice tutorial but note, Iowa will never be Oregon (only posted for informational purposes):
What about this? Not an option but a designed QB run.
Now is an excellent time for Iowa to put together a specialized package. AJ Derby recently won the back-up position over John Wienke and if the competition was that close you still have a back-up to Vandenberg if Derby is injured. There are four quarterbacks on campus, the position isn't thin.
Derby, in high school, with the option from the "I-form"
I doubt that we see anything like this against Tennessee Tech. If Iowa is putting together six to eight plays out of a shotgun look for Derby it would make more sense to save it for Iowa State, or even Pitt. But, you could give the Cyclones and Panthers another package to prepare for if you unveil these formations in the season opener. Like I mentioned before, the shotgun read option or quarterback keeper isn't new to college football. But, they would have to note when AJ was on the field and prepare defensive packages to defend it.
Pat Harty, of Hawk Central, reports that Iowa has lost another fullback. Scott Covert, a redshirt sophomore from Lake Forest, Illinois, is no longer listed on Iowa's football roster. Harty also adds that Covert is no longer unrolled at Iowa.
Covert never saw game action as a Hawkeye. He arrived as a two star rated (by Rivals) defensive tackle. He is the son of former Chicago Bear Jimbo Covert.
Covert, along with Jonathan Gimm, Matt Meyers and Cameron Olsen all made the switch to fullback last spring. Iowa lost Brett Morse to graduation and returning number two fullback Brad Rogers is being held out due to health reasons. The two-deeps for Tennessee Tech include Meyers on top with Gimm the number two fullback. I believe Covert did not participate in Iowa's fall camp.
Yesterday I rolled out my Big Ten predictions for the 2011 season. Today I'll break down my picks for Iowa's season. Here we go:
Tennessee Tech at Iowa:
This is nothing more than an organized scrimmage that counts in the record books. The Hawks will establish dominance along the lines early and get Coker a lot of yards. Vandenberg will get to air it out once Tech has committed to stopping the run and plenty of young Hawks will see the field.
Iowa 45 Tennessee Tech 3
Iowa at Iowa State:
Iowa takes a lot of young players on the road for the first time. They have experience where it matters though, along the lines. The crowd noise won't hinder the offense and after a few jitters the Hawkeyes pull away. This won't be the pounding it has been the last two years. Iowa's defense will miss the departures along the defensive line.
Iowa 30 Iowa State 10
Pitt at Iowa:
Possibly Iowa's first real test of the season. Pitt has a couple of cupcakes on their early schedule and will come to Kinnick looking to put themselves on the map. Coker and the home crowd will be too much, Iowa puts it away late.
Iowa 24 Pitt 17
Louisiana Monroe at Iowa:
The Hawks should have an easy time with this one and it will serve as a final warm-up before a bye week and Big Ten play. Iowa's offense should be coming together and I expect the Hawks to jump all over ULM early.
Iowa 42 ULM 9
Iowa at Penn State:
Iowa is coming off a bye and Penn State may be a tired team. But, PSU is bringing back every letter winner for this one. Iowa's had JoPa's number but I think this is the year they get one back.
Penn State 17 Iowa 14
Northwestern at Iowa:
A week after suffering their first loss the Hawks will get back in the win column over a team that has been a thorn in their side. Just the opposite of the week prior, Iowa will host NW at night in Kinnick. Hawks pound it out on the ground and get one back on the Wildcats.
Iowa 31 NW 16
Indiana at Iowa:
Indiana will suffer growing pains with first year head coach Kevin Wilson trying to turn things around. They will struggle on offense and Iowa will win the T.O.P and field position battle. It could be a long year for Indiana and Iowa will win this to improve to 6-1.
Iowa 44 Indiana 10
Iowa at Minnesota:
The Hawks will have Floyd on their minds and head to Minnesota for the second year in a row to face the Gophers. Minnesota is still rebuilding and will give the Hawks a tough battle. I've got Iowa winning but not by much.
Iowa 27 Minnesota 21
Michigan at Iowa:
Brady Hoke will have Michigan improved and by this time his new offense will have worked out the kinks. I think Michigan will hit Iowa where's it's weakest, up the middle. Michigan's defense is still a work in progress but new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will have his team ready. I think this will be a battle of ranked teams and Iowa fans may not like the outcome.
Michigan 27 Iowa 24
Michigan State at Iowa:
If it weren't for Russell Wilson's transfer to Wisconsin I would have picked Kirk Cousins for Big Ten offensive POY. The Hawkeyes have broken Michigan State's heart two years in a row and this time MSU comes out on top. Michigan State, like Michigan, will pound the heart of the Hawkeye defense with the running game and Kirk Cousins will finally get a W against the Hawks.
Michigan State 28 Iowa 14
Iowa at Purdue:
Another year, another new quarterback at Purdue. I've got Purdue struggling again this season in what could be the final try for coach Hope. Iowa's protected rivalry will be a dud as Iowa is coming off two losses and Purdue entrenched in another losing season. Hawks win and get off the two game slide.
Iowa 27 Purdue 10
Iowa at Nebraska:
The Hawks head to Lincoln for the first Hero's game and what will become a classic border rivalry. Nebraska's defense will be too tough for the Hawks in what will be a hard fought game. My Big Ten predictions have Iowa at 8-3 facing a 9-2 Cornhusker team. If that's the case both teams may be ranked. Nebraska wins but not without a fight.
Nebraska 21 Iowa 17
Iowa's offensive POY: Marcus Coker
Iowa's defensive POY: James Morris
Iowa's newcomer of the year: Torrey Campbell
Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1)
Ohio State 9-3 (5-3)
Penn State 7-5 (4-4)
Illinois 7-5 (4-4)
Purdue 4-8 (1-7)
Indiana 4-8 (1-7)
Big Ten title game:
Wisconsin over Michigan State
Big Ten Awards:
Big Ten MVP: Russell Wilson - WIS
Big Ten Offensive POY: Russell Wilson - WIS
Big Ten Defensive POY: Jared Crick - NEB
Big Ten Freshman of the year: Braxton Miller OSU
Big Ten Coach of the year: Mark Dantonio MSU
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. BCS at-large
Orange Bowl: Michigan State vs. BCS ACC champ
Capital One Bowl: Nebraska vs. SEC
Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. SEC
Gator Bowl: Iowa vs. SEC
Insight.com Bowl: Penn State vs. Big 12
Texas Bowl: Illinois vs. Big 12
Dallas Football Classic: Northwestern vs. Conference USA
These are certain to be wrong as proven by my past picks. But hey, it's all for fun right!
Have your own picks? Feel free to leave a comment below.