>> Senior running back Rex Burkhead didn’t practice Monday. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said Burkhead’s progress was “a day-to-day type thing.”
“I know he’s doing a lot of working out, running, things like that,” Beck said. “But as far as what we did today, he didn’t do anything. It’s hard. He’s such a competitor. He says he’s 100 percent, so how do you know?”
>> Beck said sophomore running back Braylon Heard has been impressive in his limited number of carries in recent weeks, and could earn more vs. Michigan.
“He’s been very good at getting a chance to get in there and make plays,” Beck said. “It seems every time he touches the ball, he’s gaining five, eight, ten, 12 yards. We probably need to get him in there a little bit more at times. A lot depends on how Rex’s situation is.
>> Beck compared Michigan’s defense to facing a knuckleball pitcher because it runs “odd” defensive fronts. Not literally odd. Numerically so. Three down linemen with an occasional spinner.
“Ohio State didn’t do it, Northwestern didn’t do it, Wisconsin, most of the teams we play don’t line up like that,” Beck said. Earlier in the day, tackle Jeremiah Sirles said that South Carolina and UCLA ran odd fronts on occasion.
So it’s a week, Beck said, where coach Bo Pelini can provide more input on how to beat that defense.
“He might say ‘Hey, this route’s going to hurt this defense based on how they’re playing,’” Beck said.
>> One key to beating Michigan’s defense this year: Winning on third down, Beck said.
“Being able to handle their pressure packages and the thing that they have in their third down (defense), because they do a good job over there,” Beck said. “Staying on the field, keeping their offense off the field.”
>> Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski — who last year coached on an Iowa staff that slowed down Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson considerably in a 20-13 Hawkeye win — said the key to slowing down Shoelaces was team pursuit.
“One guy isn’t going to bring him down,” Kaczenski said. “You have to turn him back inside. You gotta be coming from the inside-out. It’s going to take 11 guys. You can’t tackle him with just one guy. I haven’t seen it.”
Kaczenski mentioned that Iowa hit Robinson pretty hard, too, on a full house zero blitz.
“We banged him up a little bit,” Kaczenski said.