Aug. 17, 2011
Editor's Note: The BTN will air its Iowa football preview show tonight at 7 p.m. Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith were in Iowa City to see the Hawkeyes last Friday.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa football team is in a position that fits its persona -- coming in under the radar in the Big Ten Conference and on the national scene. Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith, the three-man crew for the BTN Football Preview Tour, which visited Iowa City Friday, think that's just fine.
"I believe that they are in the perfect position because this is when Iowa really excels when they are under the radar and when people are looking at a lot of the other teams to step up and have a chance to win the championship," said Griffith. "I think Iowa is going to be there. This league is going to be driven on quarterback play, and they have an outstanding quarterback here."
James Vandenberg steps into the starting quarterback role after playing in seven games in his first three seasons with the Hawkeyes. Vandenberg has attempted just 95 passes in his UI career, but he studied under three-year starter Ricky Stanzi each season.
"James Vandenberg is going to be a real strength as people try and defend the Iowa running game by bringing secondary players up," said DiNardo. "You need someone to take advantage of that, and I think James is the perfect guy."
"It looks like an NFL practice. If you look around during individuals (drills), every single coach at every single group is giving instant feedback. A player does something and a coach is talking to that player. It is as good a learning environment as I have ever seen."
"People wonder about Vandenberg and how good he is going to be," said Revsine. "It is pretty clear that he can make all the throws, so I do not think they have any kind of issue there."
The running game will be anchored by sophomore Marcus Coker. The Maryland native rushed for 622 yards with three touchdowns in his freshman season, which included an Iowa bowl record 219 yards and two scores in the Insight Bowl victory over No. 12 Missouri.
"Coker is a proven commodity," said Griffith. "There is no question about that. You know what you are going to get with him, and he is going to continue to excel. His game only can go higher because he has an understanding of the zone blocking scheme. He is patient and that is what it takes to be an outstanding running back in this scheme."
Griffith sees the need for the Hawkeyes to develop depth behind Coker, but he sees talent waiting in the wings.
"I think they have some young talent there," he said. "You think about Mika'il McCall -- he is going to be a guy who is really going to have an opportunity to step up and make some plays. I like the way he is built physically, 6-0, 215.
"History tells us, Iowa needs a lot of running backs. They have a stable of them here; they are young, but I think they will be able to step up and really help if they have to."
"I guess it is uncharacteristic that at Iowa your questions would be more about the defense than about the offense," he said. "I don't think that is a bad thing because you have got one of the absolute greatest defensive minds in charge (Norm Parker).
"One thing that stuck out, and I talked about this a little bit with Norm, is they can really run. They have a lot of guys who can move, and that is an important thing to have."
Each year Revsine, DiNardo and Griffith are impressed with the teaching environment displayed by the Iowa coaching staff, and that was no different in 2011.
"It is always refreshing to come to Iowa because you know what you are going to get," said Revsine. "It is always going to be really solid. You have the same head coach, the same coordinators, so it is all very familiar."
"It looks like an NFL practice," said DiNardo. "If you look around during individuals (drills), every single coach at every single group is giving instant feedback. A player does something and a coach is talking to that player. It is as good a learning environment as I have ever seen."