Dec. 26, 2013
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By DARREN MILLER
TAMPA, Fla. — ESPN analyst Jon Gruden was doing homework on the University of Iowa football team Thursday at Jesuit High School.
Gruden, Mike Tirico, and Lisa Salters will call the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 between the Hawkeyes (8-4 overall) and No. 14 LSU (9-3). While he was doing research, he couldn’t help but morph back to coach Gruden, who spent four seasons as head coach of the Oakland Raiders and seven with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I used to watch when (former Hawkeye defensive coordinator) Norm Parker was here running a stunt 4-3. I was a big fan of his since his Michigan State days,” Gruden said. “How do you not like Iowa football? My dad (Jim) coached at Indiana when Lee Corso was there. I remember Bob Commings was at Iowa; no matter what their record was, (Kinnick Stadium) was packed. They could be 2-9 and the place was juiced. Hopefully they don’t forget how far (head coach Kirk Ferentz) has taken this program now that they’re winning every year; every year they’re a contender.”
Because he has been working so many NFL games, Gruden is just beginning his Outback Bowl preparation.
“I like the style coach Ferentz plays at Iowa, I always have. They’re tough, high-effort teams. They don’t beat themselves. You can’t find the fundamentals and techniques in an offensive line anywhere else in the country. You’re looking at a team that is well-coached; look at the amount of reps they get in one practice. It’s impressive.”
“Three tight ends, I love it,” Gruden said. “I love the style of football they play at Iowa. It’s the kind of football I grew up with.”
This season, Gruden has watched the Hawkeyes play Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Nebraska. He will study tape of the other games.
“I’ve always been a big football fan and Iowa is usually involved in big games,” he said. “I like (running back Mark) Weisman, I like No. 33 (running back Jordan Canzeri). He’s a quick little guy.”
And he is a big fan of Ferentz.
“I like the style coach Ferentz plays at Iowa, I always have,” Gruden said. “They’re tough, high-effort teams. They don’t beat themselves. You can’t find the fundamentals and techniques in an offensive line anywhere else in the country. You’re looking at a team that is well-coached; look at the amount of reps they get in one practice. It’s impressive.”
As for the 2014 Outback Bowl, Gruden predicts an entertaining game between two traditional style teams that are under center a lot.
“Very good, physical teams,” he said. “Play action pass, running game, staying ahead in the chains is very important to Iowa.”
Gruden says he is still coming up with possible Hawkeye “Gruden Grinder” candidates — his award for a game’s toughest performer.
“I do like (offensive left tackle Brandon) Scherff, I like the way he finishes,” Gruden said. “It seems he has the perfect temperament in a left tackle.”
Iowa has a day off from practice Friday to attend a function at Busch Gardens. The Hawkeyes return for their third practice in Tampa on Saturday.