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Archive for January, 2010

Hawks getting their kicks, too

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

ou won’t see any punters and kickers on the list of scholarship recruits that Iowa will sign next week, but with Ryan Donahue and Daniel Murray both being seniors next year, Kirk Ferentz and his staff are looking to the future.

Punter Jonny Mullings will come on board as a “grayshirt,’’ which means he won’t enroll in school until next January. And the Hawkeyes enticed place-kicker Mike Meyer to join them as a walk-on.

Both are pretty intriguing prospects.

Mullings is a 21-year-old former rugby player who grew up in England and now lives in Austra-lia. In between, he spent a year as a foreign exchange student in Ottumwa, where he wasn’t even eligible to play in varsity games but once launched an 85-yard punt in a JV game. He’s a big guy – 6-foot-4, 215 pounds – whose rugby style punts could really be effective in some of the windswept stadiums of the Big Ten.

Meyer, a senior at Dubuque Wahlert, also brings a tremendously strong leg. He kicked off 30 times last season and 28 of them went for touchbacks. He also was eight for nine on field goals with six of those coming from beyond 40 yards and one of them coming from 56 yards. He could actually have an immediate impact because neither Murray nor sophomore Trent Mossbrucker, who figures to eventually replace him as the Hawkeyes’ place-kicker, has an extremely strong leg. (Murray had just five touchbacks on 66 kickoffs last season and averaged 60.8 yards per kickoff.) It’s possible that Meyer could be used on kickoffs and long field goals next fall with Murray handling extra points and short-range field goals.

Maybe one more recruit?

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Upon further review, maybe the Hawkeyes aren’t quite finished recruiting.

It looks as though they could get one more recruit this weekend when Lorain (Ohio) Clearview star Anthony Hitchens makes his official visit to the Iowa campus. Hitchens was regarded as a fall-back recruit – someone the Hawkeyes only would take if other recruiting pitches fell through — but they made him an offer earlier this week and in comments he made to Rivals.com, Hitchens sounded as though he was thinking he would give his commitment before leaving Iowa City.

Hitchens made an unofficial visit to Iowa to watch the Hawkeyes’ game with Indiana in October and felt then that this is where he’d like to go. He had offers on the table from Kansas, Indiana and other schools, but was holding off on a commitment, waiting to hear from Iowa.

While most of those other schools see the 6-foot-1, 195-pound speedster as a running back, the Hawkeyes probably will play him at safety. He rushed for 1,428 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall, but also made 76 tackles and had two interceptions on the defensive side. He’s only rated a two-star recruit and he’s not ranked among the top 75 players in Ohio, but he’s the kind of recruit the Hawk-eyes love to develop.

He won’t be the only recruit visiting campus this weekend. Nine players who already have made verbal commitments to Iowa – Marcus Coker, Andrew Donnal, Austin Gray, Matt Hardy, Christian Kirksey, James Morris, Brandon Scherff, Don Shumpert and Austin Vier – also will be making their official visits.

This is how backward recruiting has gotten. Many of those players have been committed for close to a year. Morris, whose father is Iowa’s equipment manager, has been committed for more than two years. But they’re just now making their visits.

Recruiting done, just waiting to sign ‘em

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

With the national signing date now just two weeks away, Iowa recruiting class is holding steady with 19 recruits. There probably will not be any more additions to the class. Coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff are just hoping there won’t be any more subtractions.

One player who was committed to signing with Iowa for 5½ months, Matt Hoch of Harlan, Iowa, changed his mind in late December and is now committed to Missouri, where his older brother is a starting offensive lineman. Hoch admitted he knew he was going to switch even before he made an official visit to Missouri the weekend before Christmas. He said he really wanted to play tight end and the Hawkeyes planned to use him in the defensive line.

On the same day Hoch switched to Missouri, the Hawks got another commitment from wide receiver/kick returner Kevonte Martin-Manley of Brother Rice High School in suburban Detroit. Martin-Manley, from the same high school that produced former Iowa basketball star B.J. Armstrong, had been thought to be headed for Bowling Green. He supposedly is an exceptional punt returner.

The current Iowa class is rated No. 37 in the country and No. 5 in the Big Ten by Rivals.com. Penn State is No. 9 nationally with Michigan 19th, Ohio State 22nd and Michigan State 29th.

Spievey not a No. 1, but he’s a keeper

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The latest projections by Scout, Inc. have Bryan Bulaga listed as the 27th best player available in April’s NFL Draft. MyNFLDraft.com projects him going No. 28 to Green Bay in the first round of the draft.

Amari Spievey? He’s nowhere to be found in any draft projections. But the junior cornerback is going to test the waters anyway. Spievey confirmed Monday what most of us already assumed to be the case, that he was foregoing his senior season at Iowa to enter the draft.

I have a feeling Spievey, like Bulaga, could be in the NFL for a very long time. Both play positions that always are in great demand at the next level. Everyone seems to be looking for a competent cover corner or a left tackle who can pass block.

But while Bulaga apparently is going to get the big money that comes with being a first-round pick, I’m guessing Spievey won’t get selected until the third or fourth round of the draft. He has fairly average size and speed for his position. And since so many opponents this season avoided throwing the ball in his direction, there may not be a lot on video that will impress the scouts. Whoever picks him, however, probably is going to get a guy that will do a solid job for the next decade or so.

With Spievey turning pro, it seems likely that the Hawkeyes will have six players who are almost certain to get drafted. A recent CBSSports.com listing of the top seniors in the draft had Kyle Calloway listed as the 49th best prospect with Tony Moeaki 74th, A.J. Edds 82nd and Pat Angerer 110th.

Bulaga gone, but reinforcements on hand

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

A few thoughts on Iowa’s offensive line situation as I sit here killing time in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, waiting for Delta Airlines to find a way to get me home from Miami:

I hope Bryan Bulaga knows what he’s doing. Iowa’s junior left tackle has declared for this spring’s NFL draft and while there never has been any doubt that Bulaga was destined to play in the pros, I would have liked his chances a lot more with one more year of college. He could be a late first-round pick this time. Had he waited, he might have been a top-five guy.

One concern is that Bulaga, although very mature both physically and emotionally, will not turn 21 years old until March 21. There weren’t any players in the NFL this season under the age of 21. In fact, the youngest player in the history of the league was Houston Texans defensive lineman Amobi Okoye, who was two months past his 20th birthday when he debuted in 2007.

This puts it in perspective: Riley Reiff, the redshirt freshman who figures to replace Bulaga at left tackle for the Hawkeyes, is actually three months older than Bulaga.

I just hope he’s not jumping too soon.

Even without Bulaga, Dace Richardson, Rafael Eubanks and Kyle Calloway, Iowa is going to have a good offensive line next season.

My guess at a projected starting lineup:

LT – Reiff. Reminiscent of Ross Verba in that he’s not overly big but very efficient. If he holds this position for the next three years, he would be 24 by the time he plays his final college game.

LG – Adam Gettis. Once he gets some experience and improves his pass blocking, he should be a star.

C – Josh Koeppel. He pushed Rafael Eubanks for the job this fall and could finally get his chance as a senior.

RG – Julian Vandervelde. Davenport native will be the leader of this group. If another guard emerges, he could get moved to center.

RT – Nolan MacMillan. After a year of prep school and a redshirt year, the Canadian native is about as physically mature as any freshman around.

Cody Hundertmark, who moved recently from defense to offense, could figure in the mix somewhere, too, as could James Ferentz, Kyle Haganman, Markus Zusevics, Casey McMillan and others. There were five other freshman offensive linemen who were redshirted this season. There’s more depth and talent here than people realize.

Hawks will be at least No. 8, maybe higher

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

After handling Georgia Tech 24-14 in Tuesday’s night’s Orange Bowl, the Iowa football team probably is going to finish in a very familiar spot in the final Associated Press poll.

The Hawkeyes are likely to be eighth, which is exactly where they were at the end of the 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons.

They were 10th entering the bowls and they clearly are going to leap ahead of No. 9 Georgia Tech and No. 7 Oregon, which lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

The only way they can go higher is if the voters severely penalize No. 4 Cincinnati for getting routed by No.5 Florida in the Sugar Bowl. It was the Bearcats’ first loss, but I could see some voters dropping them down below the Hawkeyes. No. 3 TCU also lost but it was a close enough game that I don’t think they’ll fall to lower than sixth.

If the Hawkeyes should get up the No. 6 or No. 7, it will be their highest ranking since they were third in the 1960 poll.

The most impressive thing about Iowa’s 24-14 conquest of Georgia Tech, I think, is that the Hawks didn’t even radically change their defense to shut down Tech’s much-feared (and clearly overrated) triple option. They didn’t need to bring their safeties up close to the line to add extra run support.

They left it to their front seven to manhandle Tech’s front, and they did.

I came away thinking that if Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan is a top 10 NFL draft choice, as some experts are saying, then Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn is too. Fortunately, Clayborn is not going pro this year. Look for him on some All-American teams next season.

Lots of black and gold on South Beach

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

 The Iowa fans have begun to descend on South Florida for Tuesday’s Orange Bowl. A bunch of them took over the Clevelander, an outdoor bar along Ocean Drive in South Beach on Sunday afternoon. It was quite a show.

 

They had the proprietors playing the Iowa fight song and everything.
It’s one of those bars they have in South Beach where almost naked women are dancing at various places around the establishment. One of them was having a big gold Hawk painted on her biscuits and the word I-O-W-A stenciling across her chest while I was there. (I shot video but I don’t think I can show it here.)

 

There don’t seem to be many Georgia Tech fans around. Maybe it’s just that they don’t wear the school colors everywhere they go, as the Iowa fans do. I’ll bet they don’t have as much fun either.