Posted by: marcmwm | April 21, 2009

Greenwood conversation

Iowa's Brett Greenwood (30) knocks away a pass intended for Michigan State's Mark Dell in the end zone during the second quarter of their Big Ten Conference football game Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008 in East Lansing, Mich. Iowa lost, 16-13. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa's Brett Greenwood (30) knocks away a pass intended for Michigan State's Mark Dell in the end zone during the second quarter of their Big Ten Conference football game Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008 in East Lansing, Mich. Iowa lost, 16-13. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Brett Greenwood might not be a very good poker player.

Asked if he hears or reads what is out there on the internet about him, he smiled a little. The Iowa free safety said one thing, but that smile might’ve been a tell.

Of course, we’ve had this conversation here. A lot of internet folk are down — way down — on Greenwood. The complaints range from bad angles to missed tackles to few big hits. I’m still throwing it out there for concrete examples. I know there are missed tackles, but I can’t think of one from Greenwood that led to a loss or a big play. I’m not saying that example isn’t out there, though. None jump out at me.

Strong safety Tyler Sash was out of position for a 52-yarder against Michigan State that led to points and a 50-yard TD at Illinois. Sash was a first-year starter finding his way. By the end of the season, he found his way. Four of his tied-for-team-high five interceptions came in Iowa’s final four games, including the pick that set up Iowa’s game-winning drive against then-No. 3 Penn State, which helped him earn Big Ten defensive player of the week.

Can’t think of those plays for Greenwood (except for the late-hit penalty at Pitt, that hurt). I’m not trying to be too harsh on Sash. I think he grew and was all-Big Ten caliber at the end of the year. What am I missing on Greenwood?

Greenwood’s first start — at Penn State in 2007 — was tough. That one stood out. He had a lot of “teaching moments” during his first season, when he made the transition from walk-on. Last season, Greenwood was one of Iowa’s most improved defenders. He finished tied for third on the team with 68 tackles last season, two picks and six pass breakups.

If Greenwood picks up on the internet vitriol, he’s not letting on. Not really.

“Nah,” he said to the question. “To be honest with you, I really try not to pay attention to the outside noise or whatever, you know. All that really matters is what happens in here and wins and losses. That’s all that really matters.

He paused.

“We had a pretty solid defense last year.”

By the end of the season, Greenwood was playing with a bum left shoulder. He wore a harness (one of those neoprene thingies; you can tell a player has a shoulder injury if half his biceps is covered with neoprene) for at least the final four games. By the Outback Bowl, Greenwood was gutting it out.

As it turned out, Greenwood, Sash and outside linebacker A.J. Edds were gutting it out. All three had shoulder surgery during the offseason. On the same day. One right after the other.

“I had surgery with the other two,” Greenwood said. “The doctors sort of went down the line, all on the same day. From Sash to me to Edds. It was all right.”

(Edds didn’t participate Saturday, but he was catching some punts in before practice began. Instead of running the ball back to the punter, he threw it. He was throwing it 60 yards. I pointed that out to him and he said the shoulder was fine.)

What can you do during spring practice when you can’t practice?

“I’ve just tried to stay mentally sharp with our defense, if we put new calls in or whatever it might be, just staying on top of that,” Greenwood said. “Also, I’m trying to help the younger guys. They come in and they’re not as assertive, maybe a little nervous. Just trying to help them with their reads and everything.”

Sophomore David Cato and freshman Jack Swanson filled in for Greenwood and Sash during spring. Swanson had a pick during a play that was blown dead just before QB Ricky Stanzi let it go.

Did secondary coach Phil Parker’s belief in Sash (two-year starter next fall) and Greenwood (three-year starter) give Lance Tillison (who was officially a linebacker when he left, not a safety) and Diauntae Morrow reason to transfer? Probably. But are the results there? I think yes.

Iowa has two more years of Greenwood and three more of Sash. That’s a good thing, IMO. Historically, Iowa’s safeties have gotten better with age, and that includes Bob Sanders, who went from rocket knockout punch to rocket knockout punch with good coverage skills by the time he was a senior.

I’m not saying he’s an all-American, but Greenwood is a plus for Iowa’s defense, perhaps an all-Big Ten candidate next season. He didn’t make the same mistakes he made in 2007. Follow that growth, he should be a year better this season.

We can argue now. Bring specifics and, please, be respectful.

 Minnesota's Duane Bennett, left, tries to break a tackle by Iowa's Brett Greenwood during the first half of a football game, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007, in Iowa City, Iowa. Greenwood has been a target of dissatisfied internetters for awhile. Let's hug it out on this, people. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Minnesota's Duane Bennett, left, tries to break a tackle by Iowa's Brett Greenwood during the first half of a football game, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007, in Iowa City, Iowa. Greenwood has been a target of dissatisfied internetters for awhile. Let's hug it out on this, people. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)



  1. We’ll see.

    I just think sometimes the staff falls in love with the “hard worker” walk-on type. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Morrow was a physical specimen that could not be ignored.

    Maybe D Morrow would be an All-American this fall if he had all the playing time Greenwood got.

  2. I have hard time thinking of too many specific instances just because I’m not taking notes of every play or something while I’m watching the game. I just know that I’ve seen him miss tackles and be late helping over the top quite a bit. I can remember him being horrendously out of position for most of McCoy’s long runs in the Pitt game, and missing a tackle on Ringer that allowed MSU to run out the clock in that game. I also seem to recall Northwestern exploiting him in coverage quite a bit.

    I’m not saying he’ll never been any good. He does have two more years, and I hope he gets better. I just think that, so far, he’s been the definite weak point in Iowa’s defense and hasn’t done anything to live up to the “next great walk-on safety!” hype he always gets from the coaching staff.

  3. Paul, I totally get the “hard worker” thing. I think that’s probably a soft spot for a lot of coaches everywhere. But, yes, I can see that. Would you say that Travis Meade once fell in that category?

    On Morrow, I can only go by who showed up on the field. Did he get a fair shot? I don’t know. I would assume. Coaches like to win. That leads them to putting the best players on the field. Are there politics? I don’t know any specifics in this case, but theoretically, there certainly could’ve been some.

    And maybe you’re right about Morrow. Maybe he’d have been the man. We won’t know now.

  4. Adam, Pitt does stand out to me. There were a few big runs in that game — McCoy’s and the backup QB’s one run for a TD. Yeah, I could see that. A lot of guys were out of position on those. I’ll take your word on Ringer and NW. Those plays don’t stand out to me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t stand out to you. I can concede that.

    The “next great walk-on safety,” that comes from Norm. Does he deserve it? He has started two years, but “next great” is certainly up for debate. I wouldn’t go that far, not yet.

    I think JTG might’ve put it best when we last had this conversation, “I’m not anti-Greenwood, but I’m not going to run out and buy his jersey.”

    I think he’s a solid player with potential.

    Is he the weak link? I don’t see it, but, Adam, you do. And that’s cool. It’s sports. It’s all up for debate.

  5. Thanks Marc. Brett is way better than he gets credit for amongst the interwebs rabble.

  6. Bucket, he’s a lightning rod and that’s OK.

    I think one part of his game that hasn’t shown up a lot is the kill shot. He hasn’t had a lot of those, none that stand out.

    Everyone wants their safeties to knock helmets off. Greenwood hasn’t done that yet. (Wait, did you break a Minnesota receiver in half or was that someone else? I remember a few killshots in that game.)

    Every season, a player seems to fall into this debate — coaches’ fave, fans don’t get it.

    Albert Young had a little of that with Damian Sims. Of course, there was Jake at the beginning of last year. Kevin Worthy and Chad Greenway, though that one worked itself out. Travis Meade certainly fit here. Bulaga stepped in there. That worked out.

  7. Marc, as you know this is a hot button for me and I have this conversation ad infinitum with Iowa & ISU fans alike. Truly what it comes down to is bias against the “non-4 star kids” and more importantly poor knowledge about the landscape of football. I don’t know how fast or athletic Diuante Morrow is, but I’m on record that Greenwood is way faster than the “Internet” coaches are aware. I’ll go so far as to say Greenwood will ultimately put up faster “times” than Morrow will. We as fans, rather than do the research, let our selves be “tricked” by the recruiting services and times we read on high school scouting reports. All the while just assuming Iowa can’t continue to get “lucky” with walk-ons. Never mind the fact that Iowa produces NFL-defensive players (many, many walk-ons) as well as most anyone. Case in point Sfty, Lendy Holes from OU, former 4 star DB was said to have run a 4.4 high school time. Guess what, he ran anywhere from 4.68 to 4.74 this off-season. Nic Harris, also a former 4 star Sfty who ran a 4.5 forty???? REALLY ran a 4.74 to 4.83. I can assure you with utmost certainty that Greenwood is faster than that. Heck many of our Lbers are faster than that. But alas the critics will think what they want. When he shows up the NFL they’ll deny their disdain….Mike Humpal anyone?!

  8. Walk-ons from Iowa will always be a large percent of Iowa’s roster. I did the math a few years ago. Can’t remember exactly, but I think it’s at least 25 percent.

    A certain percentage of those guys has to come through with unexpected production.

    I don’t blame anyone for biting on what the recruiting services sell. It’s a free market. Plus, who doesn’t like to find out about the new guys? But a corollary to that is the hype and unwieldy expectations.

    We all have to be careful with the info we receive. I look at the recruiting stuff as much as anyone. I always file it in “let’s wait a few years until I actually see this kid play a down at the University of Iowa and in the Big Ten.” It’s a huge file, as you might imagine. I’ve used the rankings in stories to try to make that point (the 2005 class and last year’s class, which was ranked by Rivals and Scout 9th or 10th in the conference). Let’s wait and see.

    For Greenwood, half of the evidence is in. He has a chance to win over the doubters, but his job is also tied to pass rush and others doing their jobs.

  9. Marc – lightening rods are skinny and metal. What sort of properties do you see in Greenwood that make him a chemical element whose atoms readily lose electrons to form positive ions (cations), and form metallic bonds between other metal atoms and ionic bonds between nonmetal atoms…. that was totally wiki’ed by the way.

    For what it’s worth, I think BG is a decent safety. I thought some of the guys behind him had much more raw talent though.

  10. Stormin’, I thought you were leading me to the “planted in the ground” part of a lightning rod.

    I may be fighting an uphill battle here.

  11. ‘House-

    Not sure where I fall on the Greenwood debate. I was at Beaver Stadium in 2007 watching that ugly initiation. While I was very disappointed to see Morrow transfer, I think that the Iowa defense in two years could be scary good, perhaps the best in the KF era.

    I think we will see both Greenwood and Sash develop considerably this year into a tandem that maybe does not strike fear in the eyes of WRs, but nonetheless plays smart football and keeps those WRs in front.

    Go Hawks!

  12. AM, I was there, too, and, yes, it was an ugly initiation.

    No one had a good day that day. Absolutely no one. I remember KF snapped at me about a spread offense question. Can’t remember what it was, but he wasn’t in a pleasant mood.

  13. Once again the one and only reason people assume the Kids behind Brett have better raw talent is because he is a walk-on and they had “some” stars after their profile. It really is that simple. Jerry Rice, Tony Romo, Terrell Owens and the thousands of walk-on, no star, 2 star players that went on to All-conference & ultimately NFL careers attest to the fact that the fans no far less than the coaches.

  14. Marc, seems like a high number of shoulder surgeries at the end of the season. Any discussion on what is causing them? and, are shoulders really repaired after surgery, or do the players have limitations or weakness?

  15. When KF snapped did he stare you down, was he really PO’d?

    And have you two ever talked about it since?

    Do you ever BS with any of the coaches off the record? I don’t necessarily mean something you won’t write about but things in general outside of football?

  16. EP,
    KF is still mad at him. So I’ve heard…:)

    Travis Meade was a similar situation, yes.

    About the walk-on thing: I’m all for it, and love it when it works out. But let’s look at the DJK thing for a minute. He is truly talented and performs like an All-American when the ball goes his way. Toward the end of ’08 is all the proof you need when he got out of the doghouse.

    But now, the staff wants him to work harder and they are ignoring him for not. I know, I know…”if he’s lazy then he shouldn’t play”….but what if he’s too good to ignore?

    We need his talent. And my whole point is that D Morrow was that kind of talent. He just was. He needed some playing time to work it out. And No, I’m not his mother.:) But he just got lost.

    “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. Sometimes that should read “Experience beats talent when talent doesn’t have any experience.”

    Wow. I just amazed myself with that last thought.

    No more beers tonight.:)

  17. Pete, I don’t know. I suppose it’s like the knee injuries in ’04.

    As far as limitations, I imagine that the weightlifting takes a hit. December, January and February are when, I believe, they do their heavy lifting, trying to increase bulk. A January shoulder surgery slows that, I imagine.

    Is the number four, Sash, Greenwood, Edds and Kuempel? Kuempel has been out a while. That’s a concern.

  18. E, the worst I ever got it was after a couple Michigan games a few years ago. I don’t think it’s ever personal. We don’t trade Christmas cards, but my relationships have always been professional. I enjoy my interactions with players and coaches, for the most part. I’m sure there are times they don’t want to see me coming, but I’m trying to do my job, which doesn’t exactly come with a handbook. I try to be respectful and I’d say 99.9 percent of interviews and whatnot have been respectful toward me.

    We used to BS more. Not as much now. Always a camera going. Lots of media.

  19. Impressive, Paul.

    I don’t know if I can argue with that one. I believe you’ve got an air-tight tautology there.

    I think I’m going to have to have a beer to try to top that.

  20. Chad has it right. I would go further though and say that a lot of white people assume other white people can’t be athletic and thus assume that some walk on can’t possibly have any “talent”. Lucky for them sports is the closest thing we have in society to a true meritocracy and if they can play – they will.

    One more thing….DJK is talented but he is not as good as he is made out to be. How many lackluster kickoff returns does a guy get before his “legend” bubble is bursted? Seriously.

  21. Jebus, that’s a great point, DJK kickoffs.

    Remember when he first started? He was electric. I want to say the first two games he did it as a frosh. The night game at Wisconsin stands out.

    I liked what Jewel did last season.

    Great point on meritocracy, too. I think that’s the greatest thing about football. The only thing that overrides talent, as far as who plays and who doesn’t, is attitude. That’s always been my impression at Iowa.

    Race is part of the discussion. Iowa walk-ons mostly come from the state of Iowa. A certain perception comes with that, just as it comes with an African-American player from Florida. Smart coaches see past it and peel away the stereotype to see what’s really there.

  22. tautology.

    Good point on the DJK thing Jeb. I get it.

    What I find interesting in all this recruiting/walk-on stuff is what Mac Brown said about recruiting Texas kids. Sure, 95% of their kids on that team come from Texas and commit before August. But they have to be real careful about who they pick because the high school football programs are SO GOOD in TX that a lot of kids are near reaching their true potential when they are graduating from high school. They have MAJOR weight training and lifting programs in MIDDLE SCHOOL and in HS and we, in Iowa….well, we’re working on it.

    But these Iowa kids start to “get it” a lot when they are juniors and seniors in high school, and realize they might be able to really do something….next thing you know ol’ Jeb’s a millionaire…

    All of a sudden our “10th place in the Big Ten” recruiting class is challenging for the conference title 4 years later.

    Point is, I have no point.:)
    Just that it is really, really hard to say what Morrow would have played like by now, but I truely suspect Greenwood will be just fine.


  23. Excellent point about potential, Paul.

    I’ve often said that a lot of the highly regarded recruits coming out of high school were simply kids who matured earlier. They obviously have to have to athletic talent, but if you hit puberty at age 10, you’re going to literally be a man amongst boys by the time you get to high school. There is limited upside with those kids compared to a kid that has a lot of growing still to do.

  24. One more thing……..don’t you think Greenwood looks a little like Haley Joel Osment?

  25. Maybe a little bit, Jeeb.

  26. I was very disappointed with Greenwood’s play in 2007. I just couldn’t believe he was the best we had on the bench. He progressively got better and in 2008 he did quite a nice job. I think Sash helps out a lot as he can cover more ground allowing Greenwood to concentrate more on stopping the run. Sure he made mistakes but not near the amount as he did in 2007. If progression continues, he should have an outstanding 2009 season.

  27. […] and Chad Geary obviously,” Ferentz said. He expects all other injured players, including linebacker A.J. Edds and safeties Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash, to be ready for summer workouts, which start in early June. All three of those players are […]

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