Griffith Likes the Hawkeyes

March 31, 2010

Iowa Football Practice Photos (Wednesday, March 31) | Video interview with Howard Griffith

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Spring football practice isn’t just for the players and coaches to get back in the groove again. It’s also an opportunity for analysts to dust off their roster sheets and notebooks and start preparing for the upcoming season.

Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith of the Big Ten Network made it out to the Kenyon Football Practice Facility on Wednesday to get their first glimpse of the Hawkeyes.

“I think you have to be really excited when you think about what you have coming back on defense,” Griffith said. “Yes, you lose two tremendous linebackers, but you have two outstanding safeties (Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash). You talk about a defensive line that is going to be great; the quarterback position is settled. You’ve got a guy like Ricky Stanzi who’s been there, he’s been in tough games. The running backs are going to get better and you’ll have more competition there.”

Iowa caught the attention of the conference and the nation a year ago when it won its first nine games and finished 11-2 overall and was victorious in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Sixteen Hawkeye starters return, including eight from a defense that ranked 10th in the nation for allowing the fewest yards per game (276.54).

Strong defense and successful seasons are becoming common for the Hawkeyes. In fact, Griffith said that watching the UI go through drills Wednesday is not much different than watching in August, October or December.

“They’re so consistent, it’s almost like you really don’t have to watch practice to know what you’re going to get out of this team,” Griffith said. “It’s going to be well-coached, fundamentally-sound, that defense of Norm Parker’s is going to run the same thing. It’s a fun team to watch because what I really appreciate from those guys is how hard they work in practice. They do an outstanding job.”

Calling Iowa “one of the better teams in the Big Ten,” Griffith said that taking care of the football would be key in 2010. As UI head coach Kirk Ferentz frequently reminds, there is a narrow margin between winning and losing in the Big Ten.

“They were able to overcome those obstacles last year, but you don’t want to put your team or your defense in that situation again,” Griffith said. “If you can learn from the mistakes and minimize turnovers and take care of the football, I think you can go out and be as good as you can be.”

Last season, the Hawkeyes gained 30 turnovers, but also lost eight fumbles with 20 interceptions.

Griffith was impressed with the way Iowa’s young running backs moved the ball in hostile environments last fall and he liked the way the Hawkeye wide receivers and quarterbacks made plays.

Iowa finished its fifth practice of the spring Wednesday. On Saturday, April 17, there will be a final practice open to the public inside Kinnick Stadium, beginning at 1:05 p.m.