Iowa Q&A With The Hlog Blog and Cedar Rapids Gazette’s Mike Hlas

OK, so the market has plummeted and you’re feeling kind of down? No worries, LTP here to take you on the purple boat of happiness which means time to visit Iowa City! Rivalry week rolls on which means time for some more Hawkeyes chat (and as you can see I’m concentrating on them just a tad more than Illinois because it is that much more fun than rehashing Wrigley). Almost as if we drew it up, USA Today released their Top 25 Coaches Poll today and both Iowa and NU were in “others receiving votes” with the Hawkeyes and ‘Cats right next to each other at 30th and 31st respectively. Of course.  Today we welcome the return of Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the man behind the ever popular The Hlog.  Why mess around, let’s jump right to it.

LTP: Mike, welcome back! It is Rivalry Week on LTP and from Northwestern fans’ perspective a rivalry may not be quite there yet, but one is in the works based on the recent success against Iowa. Educate us on the
2011 perspective of rivlaries through Iowa fans’ eyes including arrows up and arrows down.

Hlog: I don’t know if most Iowa fans are ready to call it a rivalry, but they certainly call Northwestern a major irritant. How or why the Big Ten Network (yeah, yeah, they say it’s called BTN now. That doesn’t mean I have to call it that, and I’m sure not using that ridiculous ‘B1G.’) fixed things so that NU-Iowa is at night, I don’t know. but it’s assured of having a great atmosphere for television. The Hawkeye fans are beyond frustrated with how these Northwestern games have gone, and they plan on releasing those feelings that night.

Iowa fans’ biggest rivalry, however, is with a team it hasn’t played in 11 years. Nebraska. A lot of people here have been consumed with this season-ending game since the Cornhuskers joined the league. Last week, the two schools unveiled the “Heroes Game” (ed note: I LOVE this concept, I hope they get it right) moniker for the series, and Tom Osborne said he thought this would be a classy, respectful rivalry. We’ll see.

LTP: Paul Myerberg recently wrote that Kirk Ferentz teams, when ranked in the preseason, end the season unranked. When they’re not ranked, they end the season ranked. Based on that history and the modest
expectations by “experts” on Iowa in 2011, does this team end up ranked or unranked? Why?

HLOG: You would go broke predicting Iowa’s seasons in August. There was no reason the team shouldn’t have been King Kong last year. Well, there was. The linebackers got hurt. Jeff Tarpinian may stick with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent. He missed too much of last season. James Morris did well for a freshman MLB and might become a truly great one, but he was a freshman. … Overall, the defense didn’t live up to its hype, period. Its fourth-quarter performance against Northwestern told that story.

I think the schedule sets up very favorably for Iowa to play in a January bowl, and I think it is a better team than is being advertised in most circles. I also don’t think the Legends Division (ugh to that, too) is anything too wonderful. Nebraska has a killer schedule while Iowa doesn’t play Ohio State or Wisconsin, and gets Michigan, MSU and Northwestern at home where Kirk Ferentz’s teams are tough every year.

To me, going 9-4 would mean being ranked at the end of the season, so yes, I think Iowa will finish the season in the rankings. But I wouldn’t have dreamed 11-2 in 2009 or five losses in 2010.

LTP: The question marks surrounding the front seven is a consistent theme across the conference with Northwestern and Iowa being no different. With the star-studded DL loss to the NFL, is Iowa simply going to replenish the DL like they always do or is this the year there is genuine concern?

Hlog: The D-line lost three seniors who all got drafted into the NFL. Yet, I don’t think the dropoff will be major because Mike Daniels moves into a more prominent role, and Daniels was often as good as they had on the line last year even though he was used in a rotation. Broderick Binns may be one of the 10 or 15 best defensive ends in the nation. Senior end Lebron Daniel needs to step up. A sophomore DE named Dominic Alvis from smalltown Iowa could be heard from sooner rather than later. This program doesn’t send many wide receivers or running backs to the NFL, but it produces lots of pro linemen on both sides of the ball.

LTP: The Ricky Stanzi era is over and all eyes are on James “resist the urge to capitalize the “d” Vandenberg who is part of the All-Big Ten Most Misspelled Team (tie with MarQueis and Scheelhaase) in 2011.The WR unit suffered a big loss with DJK and of course the RB situation is once again typical Iowa – injuries or suspensions put adeep depth charter in to the limelight. Marcus Coker made a hugestatement late last year and has everyone’s attention.  Where is the worry on offense for Iowa in 2011? Is it too simple to say it rests on the QB?

Hlog:  It’s on James Vandenberg, the junior quarterback. If he is solid, the offense could be very good. The offensive line is good. Riley Reiff is a big-time tackle, James Ferentz has become a very effective center … the offensive line is good. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (“DJK”) and his doghouse are gone, but Marvin McNutt is a big-play receiver who has scored a lot of touchdowns in his two years at WR, and junior Keenan Davis is a very talented guy who finally gets his chance to start. Redshirt freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley may become Iowa’s next good hyphenated receiver. He needs to play ball, and not become “KMM.”

LTP:How do you like the match-up with Northwestern under the lights in mid-October? Is this the year Iowa has us where they want us? With NU potentially favored in Kinnick?

Hlog: I don’t know who will be favored by the time Northwestern plays in Kinnick, but there will be no lack of attention on Iowa’s part for this game. I watched a replay of Iowa-NU this summer, and Dan Persa was even better than I remembered. I think he and his mates will have to be as good if not better for the Wildcats to prevail yet again. Iowa will have focus on the field and bloodlust in the bleachers.

LTP: I’m a big fan of chemistry and Iowa’s off-season would lend anoutsider to speculate the (over) workout incident that hospitalizeddouble-digit Hawkeyes might have caused friction within the Iowa
football family? True or untrue? Explain

Hlog:  I have sensed no backlash among players for the bizarre rhabdomyolysis incident of the winter. Whether that was more skillful management by Ferentz and his coaches, or the players accepting the premise it was all a fluke that was the fault of no one, I have no clue. The Iowa football culture is built on toughness, on players believing they must push harder in the offseason than anyone else because they aren’t as physically or athletically gifted as the Big Ten’s superpowers. They believe they have to win with brawn more than speed and deftness, and that’s probably true.

Virtually everyone buys in to it or they don’t stay around for long. There’s no question the coaches weren’t happy with much about the regular-season, particularly because it called conditioning and toughness into question (see the 4th-quarter of the Northwestern game). What really happened during that fateful workout that led to the hospitalization of 13 players is something the players haven’t discussed with the media. No shock there.

But former players instantly rallied to the defense of Ferentz and strength coach Chris Doyle, and many of Iowa’s NFL players flocked back to Iowa City during the lockout to work out under Doyle’s guidance. When Iowa OT Robert Gallery was at the NFL draft in 2004, he flew Ferentz, his offensive line coach, and Doyle to New York for the event.

This rhabdo incident would have caused some programs to become undone. At Iowa, where Ferentz has an 11-year body of work that the vast majority of fans deeply appreciate with good reason, no such worry existed.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that his team beat Missouri in the Insight Bowl to end the season on a high note. A loss in that game would have meant four straight defeats to end a season of such promise. That combined with the rhabdo outbreak would have caused a winter of serious discontent.

LTP: Thanks my friend. It was great to reconnect and we look forward to going primetime under the lights at Kinnick! You were also a tad too civil and rationale so tomorrow we’ll be brining on BlackHeartGoldPants to crank things up a few notches. 

LTP Purple Pledge Challenge
We have some movment on the leaderboard! Mike W. has jumped to the head of the class with five referral season ticket packages today. David T. got a pair of season tickets (as a Young Alum birthday present from his supercool girlfriend) and Michael B. added one new season ticket for eight total for the day. Great stuff! The explanation of the LTP Purple Pledge Challenge is below.

This is a daily update on the LTP Purple Pledge Challenge for NEW season tickets in conjunction with Northwestern. LTP has told NU we can deliver 500 NEW season ticket holders by 8/31/11 as part of the new Northwestern season ticket referral program. The challenge is pretty simple. Get new season ticket holders to sign up (season tickets start as low as $116 for end zone or $100 for young alums and go up to $200 for sideline sections) and have them give your account executive’s name. Or, if you want, call your new season ticket holder and give him/her your season-ticket-holder to be’s information so it can be tracked. We as a community will be sharing a fantastic prize to celebrate our accomplishment (TBD soon) and you’ll be able to get individual prizes as well based on how many tickets you’ve referred. For a full list of complete details and tips on how to convert friends, please click here. Also, remember you can DONATE your season ticket or purchase one, give it to LTP and I’ll ensure it gets put to use by PURPLE people. If you’d like to donate a season ticket to NU, simply click here. If you want me to be your referral contact me at laketheposts@gmail.com Remember the ticket office # is 888-GO-Purple (888-467-8775). Including our year-to-date LTP Purple Pledge (prior to 8/1) we have 88 season tickets and need 412 more in the next 27 days! Let’s get over the 125 mark this week. PS, I’m reaching out to NU today to see if we can work out a $200/two season tickets deal for father/sons. Stay tuned.

  • Mark

    Thanks Mike! Football is supposed to be fun for the players and fans so Hlas is on it. Nice to know that others aren’t buying BTN, B1G and Legends/Leaders. There may not be such a thing as bad publicity, but trying to join the endless monopoly capitalism PR string of renaming is aggravating. I can’t keep track of the major league and NFL stadiums, but know where Camp Randall, the Big House, the Horseshoe, etc. are. (End of tirade.)

  • db

    Baylor @ Welsh Ryan, Sunday 12/4/11

  • Mike Hlas

    I always enjoy give-and-take with LTP. Just one note: I used (or intended to use) the word “skillful,” not “killful.”

    “Killful” isn’t a word, but I suspect it can still have an unpleasant interpretation.

    Thanks, all.

  • Lake The Posts

    @Mike Hlas – indeed it was sent without the “s”, but happy to correct. Amazing how a typo in the wrong spot can have dramatic context change.