“Hi guys. What’s up. Heiko, what’s going on?”
MGo: Not much. Just hangin' out.
“It’s really good to see you.”
MGo: It’s good to see you, too.
“I’m not just saying that.”
MGoBeaming: Really? Aw.
“Yeah, I kind of am.”
What’s the word of the day?
“What’s the word of the day? I had one. If you wouldn’t have asked me, I would have come up with it.”
“No. That was coming up somewhere, but … let me think. I’ll get back to you on that, okay?”
Can you define Denard?
“Can I define Denard? Fast. That’s the first word that comes into my mind. Like those word associations that you do ... Denard Robinson, fast!”
“Devin Gardner? Funny. Pretty funny guy.”
In all seriousness, Denard’s legacy? Can you discuss?
“Well, I can honestly say he is the most electric player that I have ever coached. That would be the first thing that comes to mind. And a joy to coach, I might add. Comes with energy every day. Wants to learn. Tough. Competitive. All those things. His demeanor might lead you to believe that’s not true, but he’s highly competitive.”
What does it say about a program to have two Big Ten Players of the Week at quarterback in the same season?
“That’s pretty cool. I mean, that’s neat. How many guys do that? That’s pretty cool. Yeah, that’s a pretty good deal to have two kids that can fill the position and produce. Some guys don’t even have one. I’ve had years where I didn’t even have one, so yeah, that is a neat thing. Makes you sleep a little better.”
Have you done things with Denard on the sideline that utilizes his experience?
“Yes. Yes. Absolutely yes. Mostly just in encouragement things and observations based on his experience. Every so often coach Denard will get on the phone with me and suggest something. But he’s been awesome. I think Devin would tell you that. It’s driving him crazy not being able to play, for obvious reasons, but he is into the game as much as he would be if he were playing. From a mental perspective, anyway.”
He gives you suggestions on the phone?
“Oh every so often he’ll come up with something. I’ll usually slam dunk him -- but no, that’s not true. Anything he says is always worth listening to.”
What kinds of suggestions does coach Denard have?
“Maybe just a play. He might see something in coverage. He’ll say something. The guy’s playing inside or … he’s watching. I’m saying that tongue in cheek, but he’s willing to give useful input, as he did when he was playing. Both of these kids know what’s going on around them. I’ve had kids that were not as observant or instinctive. But these kids both are pretty instinctive kids.”
Do you think he’d make a good coach some day?
“I think he could. You bet. If he wanted to jump in with both feet and know what it takes. The thing I tell players is coaching and playing are completely different. You can have a love for football that may go away when you start coaching because it’s just a different dynamic, a different deal. But some guys don’t. They’re so passionate about the game that they can’t leave the game. That happened with me. I loved football. I loved baseball. I lvoed coaching football more than I loved coaching baseball, and I wasn’t really all that good a player. I didn’t want to leave the game, so this is what I do. If guys can find that passion, then you make a good coach. You’ll develop yourself as a good coach, because it’s amazing the amount of guys that have.”
Did Denard call any plays?
“No. No. I leave that pretty much to me.”
So just suggestions?
Did Devin make progress from start one to start two?
“Oh yeah, I think he did. Yeah, he did. And we did a few more things with him because of … The thing about the quarterback is you spoon feed the quarterback a little bit. You start him off -- I won’t say ground zero because Devin wasn’t at ground zero. He’d played a lot of quarterback. His transition was, I won’t say seamless, but it was easier because he repped a lot more at quarterback thanhe did at wide receiver. But that being said, we did not want to overload him or inundate him with a bunch of data that confused him the first week. Now the second week, when he got his feet underneath him a little bit more, we gave him a little bit more. And we did the same with Denard, and we’ll continue to do the same thing with any quarterback who gains experience. I get a question every week about audibles, you know. Well, the more you know, the more you audible. The less you know, the less you audible.”
Is there a little more of a propensity to set up the run with the pass when Devin is in at quarterback?
“I don’t know, but I have your word now: propensity, okay? Thank you.
“Nah. No. Maybe a little bit, but our approach, although schematically a little different, our thinking is we want to run the football now. That’s critical to our success. If it isn’t huge yards, at least it’s respectable yards so that other phases of our game open up. That’s just huge to us, but do we go in with the idea that we set up the run with the pass? Not at all. We go in with the idea that we want to be balanced, and however that comes about, so be it.”
MGoQuestion: Did you see progress in the offensive line?
“In certain areas, absolutely. In other areas, we’re still not winning enough gaps. We’re still not finishing blocks like we should, but our protection was better. Our targeting was very good. We had very few assignment errors, which is huge, because if you don’t make an assignment error, you get a lot of plays started. But yeah, there was some progress there, but we still have not arrived.”
What does Patrick Omameh bring to the line and the team?
“Uh, toughness. Intelligence. Experience. Integrity. Wonderful, and I do mean it with a capital W. Wonderful human being. All those things, plus a good offensive lineman. A productive kid who’s got a lot of starts. All those things. I hope my son grows up to be like Patrick Omameh, and I can’t think of a better compliment than that.”
Are there things that you’ve seen that he’s done?
“On and off the field? Yeah. A lot of it’s been documented. I’m not going into all that because I don’t know the particulars of it, and it wouldn’t be fair, but if you look at what Pat’s done academically, off the field, on the field, he’s to me a model player and student-athlete. He’s everything you’re looking for in a guy.”
Do you sense Devin becoming more of a respected leader now that he’s maturing a bit?
“As you gain success, those things tend to come. And I say the tend to come because -- just because you’re successful doesn’t make you a leader. Some guys grasp that. Some guys don’t. He is beginning to evolve into a better leader all the time, but it’s hard to lead until you’ve gained the respect of your teammates. He’s in the process, I think, of doing that. But still a work in progress.”
How has your week changed the last two weeks vs. when Denard was healthy?
“Hasn’t changed any. Same stuff. It’s like Pavlov’s dog. I do the same stuff at this time. I had a blitz meeting this morning, followed by going over two-minute offense, blah blah. It’s the same deal. I get home pretty much the same time. My week doesn’t change --”
Their skill sets don’t change the way you prepare?
“Well the game planning can change to a degree, but the thing about our offense is we’ve featured phases of our offense based on who the quarterback was, but the offense itself -- we have not reinvented the wheel in terms of our schematic because Devin Gardner’s played the last two weeks. I know a lot of people think that. We’re just featuring different phases of our offense that have been in our offense all along.”
When you saw the play that set up the game-tying field goal, what were your thoughts?
“I thought of Notre Dame. Because it was the same play. Just went to a different guy. Was the same play.”
Notre Dame, Michigan State, this last game … What about this team makes it so easy to come back when you’re down?
Not easy --
“Boy, that’s a bad word. You had a good [question], and now you trumped it with a bad one. Go ahead, ask it again. I tend to be too sarcastic. My mother yells at me all the time.”
What about this team allows them to stage those comebacks?
“I think just will. And I’m going to say this, guys. I’ve worked -- this is going to sound like I’m brown-nosing the head coach, but I’m not -- the head coach I’ve worked with for four years, his teams don’t quit. They’re not going to quit, okay? They’re going to play until the end. Now we didn’t win them all, haven’t won them all, and won’t win them all. But he does a wonderful job of keeping his teams in the game. I think that comes from the top. Now we all do it. It’s not all Brady, but his lead is instrumental in how we approach being ahead, being behind, being tied, or whatever. I think he’s got a lot to do with that. Not all, but a lot.”
Has Devin’s accuracy that surprised you?
“No. Not at all. He’s always thrown the ball pretty accurately. We chart all that during two-a-days. We chart all that in camp and in spring ball. His numbers have always been pretty good from an accuracy perspective.”
How’s he doing with his progressions?
“Pretty good. I mean, he missed a couple reads, but for the most part, he’s been pretty good. He checked one ball down, we ran for a touchdown on it. It was a really good deicision. But for the most part the decisions were more on the plus side than on the minus side. If we can just eliminate a couple of shaky ones, because we did have three balls that shouldn’t have been thrown, but for the most part we were pretty good.”
What goes into drawing as many offsides penalties as you’ve done the last two games?
“I won’t answer that question. It’s too -- tells too much.”
MGo: It’s a play.
“You -- I’m surprised YOU didn’t ask that question. You usually ask some schematic questions.”
MGo: Well, I think I know how that play works …
Is it fair to say it’s more than just a hard count?
“I’m not answering any questions. You guys haven’t figured out what I’m going to answer, but it’s like -- where’s Michael? He’s not here today -- he’s going to ask anyway. ‘I had to try it.’ That’s what reporters say. ‘I had to try.’ ”
Are you more comfortable with Devin’s skillset than you are with Denard’s?
“Nope. No. We just go to a different plan. There is no more comfort one way or another. As long as the ball’s moving, I’m comfortable.”
Is someone filling Devin’s role at receiver?
“Jerald [Robinson] has been one of them. We’ve got Joe Reynolds. I don’t know if Joe’s caught a ball, but Joe has sprung us on a couple of runs with some nice blocks. Those two have been a bigger part, plus we’ve tried to -- Jeremy and Roy have really kind of surfaced, made some plays over and above. Tree’s play at the end. There’s been some nice plays on the perimeter.”
Has Devin been giving them more opportunities?
“I think there’s been some opportunities. I think there’s probably been a few more passes, so that’s probably the biggest reason.”
I think Gallon had five of the first six catches -- what does that do for the quarterback and the offense?
“It helps tremendously. Knowing that you can trust him, A to do the right thing and B to go up and get the ball. He made a catch on a double move in this last game with the safety bearing down on him. I’m not sure everybody would have gone for that ball or come down with that ball, but that’s Jeremy Gallon. He plays fearlessly and plays bigger than his height.”
Nothing flashy about Iowa’s defense. What makes them so effective?
“They are extremely well coached, and you guys hear me say that every week probably, but these guys know their system. They’ve changed coordinators, yet it’s been almost a seamless change. I think the new coach Parker has kind of added his little pinch to the defense, but the core is still intact. They play blocks. You step, they step. They make you block them. And playing Iowa has been this way since I can remember. They play their coverages really well, a lot like Northwestern. They play their coverages really well. They generally don’t give up any big plays unless you’re fortunate, but they’re an impressive group to me. They always have been. Tough team to beat because they don’t beat themselves too much on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t look at the offensive side of the ball much, but defensive side of the ball they’re sound.”
MGoQuestion: Last year Iowa held you to 16 points. What did you learn from that loss with regard to the game plan and playcalling?
“Well. We, and I told you this before, but when you lose, there’s always a lot of reason for it. Generally the first thing is turnovers. That’s usually the first reason you lose. It’s not always the reason, because you can not get turnovers and still lose. We had a few in that game. We dropped a few balls. I’m sure the playcalling was not perfect. I’m sure the game plan wasn’t perfect. I’ll be the first one to admit that. We had to come as an offensive team more ready to play the game, and you always think you do, you think you are, but we were doing some things that we had not been doing up to that point, and it was just … But you know, you live and learn from those things, and I think we did. I think we did after that football game. We came out and I think played pretty well for most of the regular season. But that’s it. I mean, some days you’re just not in sync. As a playcaller it’s tough because you’re trying to find something, and that was kind of one of those games.”
You threw Justice Hayes in earlier in the game. Were you just looking for something a little different?
“Yeah, just give him the ball. Try and give him the ball. That was a terrible call. I called a fly sweep into a free safety blitz. Didn’t even give him a chance. That wasn’t his fault.”
Do you expect him to be in the mix with Thomas Rawls?
“Eh, we’ll see. We’ll see. That’s another of those questions where you knew I wasn’t going to answer, but you tried, and that’s okay.”
How slowly have you had to groom Devin the last two weeks?
“It hasn’t been slow. I’d love to use that word, but it’s been a cram course. When you haven’t played quarterback for a while … It wasn’t difficult. You weren’t starting from ground zero, but it’s been a cram course because he had to get back in form real quick and produce, you know? So I wouldn’t use the word ‘slowly.’ I think it’s been quicker out of necessity. It’s been fast.”
When you talk about his instincts, where do you see them show up the most?
“Well, a lot of times pulling the ball down, running it for first downs, anticipatory on throws. He made a great read and throw on our sideline on a corner route. Very instinctive. He saw the coverage rolling toward the boundary. Threw the ball back to the single-covered guy, made a beautiful throw. That takes some instincts and some experience, and he made that. But I think a lot of times just pulling the ball down, just running for first downs, doing a lot of that stuff. There’s a delicate balance at quarterback is how much do you give the throw a chance, and when is it time to get out of there? I think that’s an instinctive thing. You can coach some of that, but some guys just got it.”
Was it the pass to Roy you’re talking about?
MGoSneakOneInAsHe’sLeaving: It's called a freeze play, right?
“You won’t give up!”