Sept. 14, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa - University of Iowa assistant football coach Reese Morgan is pleased with the progress his defensive linemen have made through fall camp and the first two games of the season, but the veteran assistant also knows the Hawkeyes have a big challenge Saturday.
"Northern Iowa has an excellent football team, they are extremely well coached," said Morgan, as his group of defenders finished preparation for a second straight contest against an in-state opponent. "They have a veteran offensive line; all five guys have been in there, and four are returning starters. This is a real veteran line, more so than the others we have played so far. This quarterback is a young guy who gets the ball out quick, so it's difficulty to get pressure on him. It will be a real challenge to see if we can get to him."
Morgan, in his first season with Iowa defensive front, has been pleased with the progress his group has made through two games. The Hawkeyes are allowing just 13 points a game and 271.5 yards total offense per outing. Iowa has collected 16 tackles for loss.
"I think it is a work in progress, as you would expect," said Morgan of his group. "The great thing about it is the guys' attitudes; that has been very good, they are very receptive and open, they want to learn. There is tangible evidence on tape, from practice to practice, and in games, there is improvement. Are we there yet? No, not by any means. But we are making progress, and the attitude has been excellent."
Morgan took over a group that had little game experience coming into the season. That group has included between six and eight guys seeing action in the first two games of the season. Seniors Steve Bigach and Joe Gaglione are two of the guys leading the way.
"We've got some leaders; probably Steve Bigach stands out as our strongest leader. He is doing a great job," pointed out Morgan. "Joe has caught the attention of some people with his play-making ability. Joe has been great, he's been very receptive to things, and I would throw Dominic Alvis in there as well as one of our most experience players."
Among the defensive linemen, Gaglione has collected the most tackles (nine) in two games. Gaglione also leads the team with four tackles for loss and has caused a fumble in each of the first two games. Bigach has collected five tackles and Alvis recovered a fumble in the red zone against Iowa State.
Morgan also points out that you don't have to be in the starting line-up to be a leader.
"Another guy that hasn't gotten on the field, who is one of our best leaders, is Casey McMillan," noted Morgan. "He goes to practice each day and works his tail off. He is a guy behind the scenes who has given us leadership and been a good example for our group. We see him in the film room helping other guys all the time prior to practice. That's a real positive."
McMillan, a senior from Billings, Montana, moved from the offensive line to defense last spring, and then suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss practice time. Still, he has worked his way on to the field as a member of Iowa's PAT and field goal units.
Iowa hosts Northern Iowa Saturday at 2:42 p.m. (BTN) in Kinnick Stadium.