Former Iowa & NFL Defensive Lineman Jared Clauss offers his thoughts on the Iowa Hawkeyes
Q: Can you talk about that stand up or Raider rushing front Iowa is using? What are some of the challenges it presents for an offense
Jared Clauss: It looks as if they are bringing in some more speed on more obvious passing situations with a linebacker. They have three down lineman and are usually bringing two more on a blitz. We did not run much of that when I was there so I can’t do anything but speculate as to what the responsibilities are. They usually run a three man game inside. It has worked well, not always leading to a sack but a lot of pressure and disrupted throws. I’m sure each guy has a gap he knows he has to eventually get to and they are moving around pre snap to disguise where they are headed. When I was there we did more read pass rush games based on what protections were given to us. If a team used to certain protections, we would game plan certain things to take advantage of that.
The benefit of this scheme appears to have come about versus some more mobile quarterbacks. What happens when there are ‘crossing’ guys is that offensive lineman give ground to get into position as guys wrap around or come down on them. It causes the pocket to collapse and clogs up escape lanes for quarterbacks who have the ability to scramble as pass protection breaks down. That is one challenge, another is it’s a balanced look and not easy to identify who is coming. I like the adjustment the coaches have made. It’s a look that we haven’t shown much and sometimes when you throw something new at guys it takes a while to pick up. In this case it appears that everyone has been on the same page. We’ve got some more mobile quarterbacks coming in the next three weeks so I would assume we continue to use this package, maybe with a new wrinkle or two. I hope we are using it more because it would likely mean we have teams in third and long and that is a place we can have success. One of the challenges with Wisconsin was that our offense did not have as many ‘manageable’ third down situations and it makes life easier as a defensive lineman when you have a good idea it’s pass and you can pin your ears back.
I watched one play from the New England / Pittsburgh game this weekend and saw Brady throw an 80 yard pass because the safety was ‘peeking in the backfield’ It happens at every level; balanced teams create the most problems. I like when we are able to use these packages in situations where guys have a better idea of what’s coming from the offense.
Q: What type of running back was the most frustrating for you to play against (physical attributes…a big bruiser like Weisman, or a smaller quicker like Canzeri, etc)
Clauss: I used to love the big strong guys because you knew where they were going to be. Yes, they were strong but we were bigger and stronger and we made a living using leverage. I don’t care how much steam a running back has; he’s plowing into 280-310 lb. guy who’s job it is to not get knocked back. We usually won that one. The guys that frustrated me were the quick guys like Fred Russell who would leave you hugging air at times. The bigger guys were also always easier to see behind taller offensive lines. When I was at Iowa we had some tall offensive lineman (David Porter, Robert Gallery, Eric Steinbach, Sam Aiello, Pete McMahon, Andy Lightfoot, Ben Sobieski) and when you have a smaller guy running a zone play behind them, it’s tough to ‘throw off’ the offensive lineman and commit to a gap. I think the perfect running back body is a guy like Ray Rice for the Ravens in the NFL. Short, strong, and fast enough to get where he needs to go. Having said that there is no one size fits all for success. You look at some of the great backs currently in the NFL and college, there is no prototype running back. Having said all of that, a defensive back or linebacker would likely have a different perspective on a big running back coming their way. Once a big running back can get past the front four I would rather have that type of back and in general a type of back who can get yards after contact. Very few plays involve breakaway speed…it’s more about grinding out an extra 2-4 yards each time. The little guys made me feel pretty nonathletic sometimes, which is why I would rather go against a big guy, but with a full head of steam a defensive back would probably disagree with me.
Q: The safeties taking a lot of heat from fans. Are they more isolated this year as Iowa blitzes more?
Clauss: I can’t speak for what coverages have been in place all year, but we have given up some uncharacteristic over the top plays. When we bring pressure it will force guys to be on ‘an island’ more often than not. As a defensive lineman, you have to know that you need to get home quick when we bring pressure. It appears most of the big passing plays have been in the center of the field so it would be easy to point the finger there, but I don’t know what coverage they’re in so I can’t say what the issue is. The coaches always stressed doing your job and not worrying about others. When we gave up big passing plays when I was there I know the conversation among the defensive line on the sidelines was not of a finger pointing nature, but more about helping our guys out on the back end and getting more of a pass rush. Staying in your gap versus the run is a lot easier than covering a double move from a wide receiver.
Q: What are your thoughts on Desmond King’s play this year?
Clauss: I have been pleasantly surprised with King’s play. When the season began, it appeared teams were targeting him. As the season has progressed he has gained confidence and is growing each week. What I like about him is his ability to support the run. He is not a liability if the running back gets past the front seven. With us losing two of our starting DBs it’ll be nice to have him back next year.
On a final note, we have lost by around an average of 10 points a game (skewed by some late scores vs. Wisconsin) to four teams, all of which are in the top 25 and who have a combined three losses between them (should be two with the Wisconsin/Arizona State game). I am upset we haven’t been able to get another few W’s in there but I am also realistic about the progress the team is making and think that we have a shot to run the table if we can win the turnover battle these next three games. We have been in every game and just need to get that momentum back and make a play late like we did against Northwestern. ON IOWA.
NOTE: I’d like to thank Jared for sharing his thoughts with us again this year and also congratulate him on his inclusion in the Iowa High School Hall of Fame. Jared is one of the most humble persons I have ever met, and also someone who would lend a hand for most anyone at any time. He is deserving of such an honor and is a great example of the type of person the great state of Iowa is capable of producing – Jon