April 4, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Reese Morgan has crafted quite a reputation as a recruiter, scouring the back roads to flush out less-than-ballyhooed talents like NFL players Chad Greenway, Karl Klug and Riley Reiff.
Morgan once again has an opportunity to develop virtual unknowns from shadows to limelight, but this time it is with personnel already on the University of Iowa football roster.
Morgan, who enters his 13th season, will begin his first season coaching defensive linemen after spending three years as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, and the past nine as offensive line coach. Morgan and UI wide receivers coach Erik Campbell gathered with media Wednesday in the player's auditorium inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
"It's challenging; you're always looking for that guy that no one's going to drive to go see or no one thinks is good enough...Chad Greenway, Riley Reiff, Karl Klug," Morgan said of his recruiting style. "Nobody wanted Klug, Chad asked if he was good enough to play at Iowa. Riley went through that, too."
Morgan's new challenge is finding Big Ten Conference-level dominance from a defensive line group that returns one letterwinner -- senior tackle Steve Bigach -- to the spring depth chart. But Morgan the educator refuses to sell the Hawkeye talent level short. Will the next uncovered star be Dean Tsopanides, Melvin Spears, Louis Trinca-Pasat, Darian Cooper, Joe Gaglione, Riley McMinn or Mike Hardy? How about rehabbing veterans Dominic Alvis or Carl Davis?
"We have a young, inexperienced group and they're eager to learn," Morgan said. "They're great young men. They've bought into what we're trying to do and it has been fun. We're off to a good start but we aren't ready for a game yet. We're young."
The salty veteran of the group is Bigach, who played 12 games in 2011, compiling 24 tackles and a sack.
"We have a young, inexperienced group and they're eager to learn. They're great young men. They've bought into what we're trying to do and it has been fun. We're off to a good start but we aren't ready for a game yet. We're young."
UI defensive line coach
"It makes it a little easier having some playing time and knowing a little what it's like out in Kinnick in the fall," Bigach said. "It's competitive. Who's to say I'm to start next year? I'm working and I have a lot of things to work on; everyone else is working, too. Everyone wants a chance to play."
In nine games last season, Alvis was in on 30 stops, 3 ½ for a loss. Gaglione made seven tackles, Davis had two, and Trinca-Pasat made one.
Morgan intends to work in between six and eight players on the defensive line next season, and he is eager to see who emerges to take advantage of and opportunity created by the graduation of Broderick Binns, Mike Daniels, Lebron Daniel and Thomas Nardo.
"The progress has been good. I think some guys have stepped up and taken advantage of their opportunities," Morgan said. "We've got a group of guys that nobody knows about, but I'm excited to work with them."
Among the "no name/new name" defensive front are Cooper and McMinn, who Morgan calls physical, yet raw, talents.
Morgan consulted NFL defensive coaches Ron Aiken (Cardinals) and Juan Castillo (Eagles) and the consensus is that coaching the two line positions are comparable in many respects.
"You'll be surprised how many similarities there are -- the leverage, pad level, footwork," Morgan said. "When you get in and start teaching technique in the room, you can see it's all the same. We can tell the guy, `Hey, this is what the guy is trying to do.' Conceptually they can learn more, try to understand what the offensive guy is trying to do, which will hopefully make them a better player individually."
Morgan and the Hawkeyes return to Kinnick Stadium on Wednesday for their sixth practice of the spring.
"It has been energizing, rejuvenating, fun," Morgan said. "I'm not sleeping a lot at night. I keep thinking about fundamentals, technique. Other than my wife not getting a lot of sleep, it's pretty good."
Return to hawkeyesports.com Thursday to read a recap of what Campbell had to say about the Hawkeye receiving corps.