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Archive for June, 2008

Iowa and the best

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

The Sporting NewsMatt Hayes today came out with a list of bests for the upcoming football season, and five of them have Iowa ties.

Hayes listed Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, an Iowa alum, as the best program-building head coach. Hard to argue with that. Stoops has done quite a job in keeping the Sooners among the very best teams in college football.

Four players on Iowa’s 2008 schedule were listed by Hayes as the best in one category or another. He listed Purdue’s Curtis Painter as the best pro style quarterback in the nation. Painter lit up the Hawkeyes last year in West Lafayette, but he lost most of his receiving targets. If Painter can follow through on Hayes’ prediction this fall, we’ll know just how good he is. Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy is listed as the best running back between the tackles. McCoy, whom the Hawkeyes will try to contain Sept. 20, was a terror as a freshman last season, rushing for 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’ll be tough to stop, especially with Iowa breaking in two new starting linebackers and a pair of defensive ends. Michigan State running back Javon Ringer is Hayes’ best back on third-and-short. I don’t really get that one, as I don’t really see Ringer as a power back. Finally, Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum is tabbed the best tight end/receiver over the middle. Hard to argue with what Beckum has done the past two seasons. I don’t know that he’s going to play much tight end in the NFL, but he sure has been productive in the Badgers’ offense.

Speaking of Wisconsin … do you think running back John Clay is wishing he would have come to Iowa instead of staying home to play for the Badgers. Right now, coming off his redshirt year, Clay is listed No. 4 on UW’s depth chart. He had a nice performance in the spring game but is going to have a tough time getting carries this fall. If he were at Iowa, he, without question, would be entering fall camp as the starter.

Andy Staples of CNNSI.com has a great recruiting package on the Web site right now. Pretty interesting read on how it all works. Staples is new at SI, having come from the Florida beat at the Tampa Tribune. He’s done some good work in his first few months there but seems to really be hitting his stride lately. This one is definitely worth a look.

I saw today Ohio State just received commitments Nos. 19 and 20 from prospects in the class of 2009. Must be nice. Iowa has two thus far.

More on Brandon Wegher

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

The story I had on Iowa recruits today said Sioux City Heelan running back Brandon Wegher had 12 offers, which was right based on the information I had at the time. Seems he has picked up a few more.

According to Wegher’s personal Web site (http://www.wegherfootball.com/), he now has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Arizona, Buffalo, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Penn State, San Diego State, Texas Tech, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Reminds me of that song we used to sing in grade school: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut … you get the point. He has a lot of offers.

I hadn’t seen his Web site until today. Pretty nice way to get yourself out there to college coaches. There are more highlight films on there than the one we have on Hawkmania. So, check it out. It’s amazing the lengths high school athletes are going to these days to attract attention.  

Oh, and we didn’t get a Keenan Davis highlight video up yet. I put a request in to his high school coach a few weeks back, but then Cedar Rapids got hit with the flood, and I’d imagine Coach Lombardi had more to worry about than getting the tape in the mail. We’ll get it up as soon as we can.     

Back at it

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

OK, folks. I’ve been seriously neglecting my blog since the end of spring ball, and I’ve decided it’s time to make it a more everyday thing. I want this to be a regular conversation between me and you, the reader, even in the offseason when there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. So, if there is something you want to know, shoot me an email (epage@qctimes.com) and ask. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out. And I’ll be doing my best to keep you updated on anything related to Iowa or the Big Ten.  

A month from now, I’ll be headed to Chicago for the Big Ten’s annual media kickoff event at the downtown Hyatt (that’s assuming my wife has given birth to our first child, which is due July 22). When submitting my request for a credential, I placed my vote for the preseason top three teams and the offensive and defensive player of the year. I think it’s pretty obvious this year — some years it’s not — and it could be unanimous in all three categories. I voted Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin, in that order, for the league favorites (the Big Ten only releases a top three, though I’d expect Penn State to contend for No. 3). I had Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells as my offensive player of the year and Buckeyes linebacker James Laurinaitis as the top defensive player in the league. Let’s be honest, Ohio State is going to be scary good. The Bucks have almost everyone back from a team that, other than a late-season loss to Illinois, dominated the Big Ten. Their Sept. 13 game at USC might be the game of the year in all of college football, certainly the nonconference season.

I’ve seen a couple interesting preseason reads lately. The Sporting News’ Matt Hayes has a series of player and team rankings he’s come out with. In listing his top five players at each position in the Big Ten, only three Iowa players made the list: Tight end Brandon Myers, outside linebacker A.J. Edds and punter Ryan Donahue. I’d argue a few points: Myers probably isn’t even the best tight end on Iowa’s roster. And I certainly would have had senior Mitch King among my top five defensive lineman coming off an All-Big Ten campaign last season.

Hayes also ranks the nonconference schedules of Big Ten teams. He had the Hawkeyes eighth, ahead of Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota. Iowa plays Maine (FCS), Florida International, Iowa State and Pittsburgh. Wisconsin begged off a matchup with Virginia Tech and filled the open week with Cal Poly. Seriously, Cal Poly. Hayes’ top five games: Ohio State at USC, Illinois vs. Missouri, Utah at Michigan, Michigan State at California, Oregon State at Penn State. And his bottom five included Iowa’s Aug. 30 opener: Cal Poly at Wisconsin, Coastal Carolina at Penn State, Youngstown State at Ohio State, Murray State at Indiana, Maine at Iowa.

Concerning Iowa, according to the school’s online directory, running back Shonn Greene is back on campus. Greene played two seasons for the Hawkeyes before running into academic troubles last spring. He spent this past year at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids (not playing football) and apparently got his grades in order and is expected to be on the field in the fall. The big surprise is that safety Marcus Wilson also is back in school after leaving because of academic shortcomings last summer. He played a lot in 2006 and was listed as Iowa’s starter before last season. He might still have some work to do in order to get eligible, but he could give the Hawkeyes a big lift in an area they struggled last season.

Iowans have had a lot more on their minds than football these past few weeks as flood waters have taken over the state. The University of Iowa’s campus got hit pretty badly, and it was nice to see Iowa players helping out with the sand-bagging efforts there and with the tornado cleanup in Parkersburg. The floods forced the Iowa football program to cancel its elite camp, which is a potential blow to recruiting. Coaches use these camps as a chance to sell the campus, and the prospects get to know each other, which never hurts when it comes time to commit. You have to wonder if all the national press the Iowa flooding has received will have an effect on recruiting. When a kid sees a campus half covered in water on CNN, is that some place they want to move halfway across the country to play football? It’ll be interesting to see. I’m hoping to get in touch with recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson next week to see how this will change the way they move forward, if at all.    

Details in the Cedric Everson-Abe Satterfield rape case came out last week. Some pretty ugly stuff in those warrants. I’m not a legal expert, so I really don’t want to go there and probably won’t much as the legal process plays out.

Interesting bit from around the Big Ten: Clint Brewster, the son of Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, is leaving the Gophers after redshirting last season. The younger Brewster isn’t sure where he’s headed. He originally committed to Illinois out of high school but switched to Minnesota after his father got the job. Last year, he was stuck behind Adam Weber, who had a solid debut season as a second-year freshman. Clint probably figured, even with his dad in charge, he wasn’t going to get to play much for another three years.

My question to you: Would you take him at Iowa?  

Oh, and, of course, Comcast and the Big Ten Network finally got a deal in place that will let Comcast cable subscribers have the BTN on the basic package starting in August. Comcast was the big one. I’d expect Mediacom and the others to follow suit and get things worked out before the fall, which is good for Iowa fans, because with that schedule and a team coming off a rough season, the Hawks aren’t going to be first pick for ABC and ESPN.

Quick off-topic note before I sign off: I’ve been keeping an eye on the Olympic trails … Shawn Johnson is amazing. I hope all Iowa sports fans will be pulling for her this summer. 

Another decade of Iowa vs. ISU

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Official word came today from the Iowa and Iowa State athletic departments that the series between the schools’ football teams that has been played every year since 1977 will continue at least through 2017.

Not a real big surprise.

There had been some talk that Iowa was going to discontinue the series, and there was some question as to when the old contract was due to expire. In the end, it appears as though everyone is happy with the agreement, which will continue to pay 20 percent of ticket revenue to the visiting team for the next five years. After that, according to the release from ISU, the revenue sharing will be more in line with traditional home-and-home series.

As I said, it comes as no real surprise that Iowa and ISU extended the contract. When the state legislature stepped in and demanded the rivalry be renewed in 1977 — after it had not been played since 1934 — the message was pretty well sent that this thing was going to happen whether or not the parties were in favor. And why not? It’s a healthy rivalry for the fans and the citizens of a state where college football is king. Why not let the two premier programs in the state go head to head for bragging rights? (No offense to those FCS folks up in Cedar Falls who had the best team in the state last season.) It gives fans something to talk about for a week, it gives the media something to write about and it gives significance to an otherwise meaningless nonconference game.

I can see why Iowa might balk at the chance to play what is perceived to be — and, honestly, should be — a much weaker program. Iowa is, as they say in Columbus, Ohio, THE University of Iowa. It’s the Hawkeye state, right? Iowa has all the resources and tradition to dominate the series. So, much like playing your little brother in 1-on-1 in the driveway, if the Hawkeyes win, the line on the street and in the newspapers is, “Well, of course they should win.” And if they lose, like they’ve done seven of the past 10 years — including six of nine under Kirk Ferentz — it’s a disgrace. I can see why Ferentz, AD Gary Barta and others wearing black and gold would want to avoid such a series.

As for the Cyclones, I can even understand why a new coach like Gene Chizik might not want to keep it going – though, as I understand it, the folks at ISU love this thing much more than those at Iowa. The problem for ISU is that this game takes on so much more meaning than a typical nonconference game, and, as was the case last year, it often defines an entire season. If Chizik is going to turn the program around and make it relevant in the Big 12 again, those eight conference games have to be the most important of the season. The “at least we beat Iowa” line isn’t going to be enough. And another thing, a program like ISU that is trying to get back to a bowl game needs every nonconference gimme it can get. So, taking on a perceivably superior team like Iowa doesn’t really make sense. But, then again, it hasn’t hurt them in seven of the past 10 seasons.  

So, maybe from the outside looking in this series doesn’t make sense. Maybe the Hawkeyes and Cyclones would be better served if the ”which team is better argument” was only debated on bar stools and not decided on the field. Maybe both programs would be better off.

Come on … in the college football vacuum from Iowa City to Ames, this thing makes perfect sense.

And it will for another 10 years.