April 17, 2013
"This is really a great time of year if you're a coach, because you can teach and you can spend time on fundamentals," Morgan said Wednesday at a news conference in the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
Morgan, entering his second season as defensive line coach (and 14th overall) for the Hawkeye football program, followed offense line coach Brian Ferentz at the microphone four hours before the UI participated in its 10th practice of the spring season.
"You can work individually with guys when they come up and ask for assistance," Morgan continued. "And a day like (Tuesday), where we have an extended period of time to watch tape and do some things -- this is fun."
Much more fun than trying to contain Jordan Lynch, Kain Colter, and Taylor Martinez -- three elusive quarterbacks that return to the Hawkeyes' schedule in 2013. But Morgan knows that these 15 practices in March and April are nothing close to game-prep week. With three freshmen and four sophomores listed among the top 10 linemen on the defensive two-deep, this is teaching time.
"They want to be coached," Morgan said. "They are coming along, but we have a long way to go."
Last season the Hawkeyes allowed 162.1 rushing yards per game and compiled 13 sacks (nine fewer that their opponents). The UI defensive line is working to reduce that yardage total and increase the sack numbers.
"(Pressuring the quarterback) is going to be a big focus for us," Morgan said. "When we get the green light to go ahead with pass rush, we have to get there, and that is an area statistically we have to improve upon."
Iowa returns four letterwinners on the defensive line: senior Dominic Alvis, juniors Carl Davis and Mike Hardy, and sophomore Darian Cooper. Others on the two-deep are sophomores Drew Ott and Riley McMinn, and freshmen Jaleel Johnson, Faith Ekakitie, and Daumantas Venkus-Cucchiara.
"In our two-deep we have four (first-year players) that a year ago at this time were picking out a tux for prom. Now they are going to be on the field for us in the fall."
UI defensive line coach
This is what Morgan had to say when asked about several Hawkeyes:
Carl Davis: "He's having a very good spring. Carl has some special abilities. He's buying into things, he's working harder, he's improving more, but it doesn't come consistently."
Darian Cooper: "Coop has got some good skills. He's still coming back from a little down time, but we would like to have some guys inside that have some girth that can stand up against the run."
Riley McMinn/Melvin "Bud" Spears: "You have Riley, Bud, some of the guys that have been around, but they just need to step up."
Faith Ekakitie: "We think he is a guy for the future because he is very athletic, he can run, he's smart. He's just young, really young."
Dominic Alvis: "He's having a very good spring. He and (offensive tackle) Brandon (Scherff) are going head-to-head; two very good players."
Jaleel Johnson: "I really like Jaleel. He is such a great, great young man. He's raw and he's tough. That's what you love about him. He has a lot of pride and he is competitive. But he is still a work-in-progress, as all of our guys are."
Nate Meier: "I think he has found a home with us. He is a very competitive young man, a very talented young man. He brings quickness, some toughness, and competitive spirit to our group."
Since many teams on the Hawkeyes' schedule prefer a fast-paced offense, Morgan said he expects to once again shuffle two units into the game, a strategy that worked well last season.
"We think with the up-tempo offense, we need to do it," Morgan said. "A tired guy that is out there with that first group is probably not as effective as a fresh guy that is coming in. That's our feeling and experience and so we are committed to doing that."
The Hawkeyes will hold an open practice Saturday, April 27, inside Kinnick Stadium, beginning at 2 p.m. (CT).