Archive for August, 2010

A look at the quarterbacks

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Projected starter – Ricky Stanzi (6-4, 230, sr.)

Top reserves – James Vandenberg (6-3, 212, so.), John Wienke (6-5, 220, so.)

Futures – A.J. Derby (6-4, 225, fr.), Wyatt Suess (6-2, 200, fr.)

Stanzi’s touchdown-to-interception ratio isn’t going to land him any All-Big Ten votes, but this one statistic looks pretty good: He is 18-4 as a starter over the past two seasons. The Hawkeyes were 9-0 with him at the controls last season when he went down in a heap in the end zone against Northwestern. His 2009 season was marked by moments of electric efficiency punctuated by moments of amazing ineptness. Four of his Big Ten-leading 15 interceptions were returned for touchdowns, but his leadership qualities are unquestioned. He spent the off-season studying the interceptions and analyzing why they happened. Don’t be shocked if he is immensely improved this fall.

Vandenberg looked lost after replacing Stanzi in the Northwestern game, then staked his claim to the job for the future by nearly engineering an upset of Ohio State on the road the following week. Kirk Ferentz said Wienke may have been the most improved player on the team in spring drills so he may yet challenge Vandenberg for the backup job.

Derby was regarded by many as the top recruit in the state of Iowa last season, but there already are rumblings that his future may lie at some other position. But at the Kids Day scrimmage on Aug. 14, he looked to have as strong an arm as any quarterback on the team. Some of us fully expect him to remain at quarterback for the duration of his career.

A look at the receivers/tight ends

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Projected starters – Wide receivers Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (6-1, 200, sr.) and Marvin McNutt (6-4, 215, jr.); tight end Allen Reisner (6-3, 248, sr.)

Top reserves – Colin Sandeman (6-1, 200, sr.), Keenan Davis (6-3, 215, so.), Brad Herman (6-5, 247, jr.), Paul Chaney (5-9, 170, sr.), Jordan Cotton (6-1, 185, fr.), Don Nordmann (6-6, 211, sr.)

Futures – C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-7, 250, fr.), Jonathan Gimm (6-3, 240, so.), Dakota Getz (6-4, 230, fr.), Zach Derby (6-3, 235, so.), Austin Vier (6-7, 228, fr.), Kevonte Martin-Manley (6-0, 190, fr.), Don Shumpert (6-3, 185, fr.), James Hurt (6-1, 200, so.), Steven Skaggs (6-3, 195, so.)

Iowa seldom has been as strong and as deep at the wide receiver positions as it is going into this season. Johnson-Koulianos, though listed as a co-starter with Sandeman on the preseason depth chart, is in position to break the school records for receptions and yards in a career. He has had 38, 44 and 45 catches in the first three years of his college career and needs only 31 more to become the all-time record-holder. McNutt probably has an even brighter future. In his first year as a receiver after making the switch from quarterback, he caught 34 passes for 674 yards and eight touchdowns and produced some of the biggest plays of the Hawkeyes’ season. DJK and McNutt combined for 1,424 yards receiving last season and have an excellent shot at topping the best mark ever by a pair of Hawkeye wideouts – 1,649 yards, by Clint Solomon and Ed Hinkel in 2004.

Sandeman is a solid third receiver and excellent punt returner, and Davis may be ready to fulfill his vast promise after a disappointing freshman season. Behind them are Chaney, who is coming off knee surgery, and Cotton, who caught the eye of the coaches with his energy and hustle in spring drills. And don’t be shocked if another receiver makes his presence felt. Martin-Manley appears to have the sort of game-breaking speed that the Hawkeyes have seldom had through the years.

Reisner isn’t the best tight end in Iowa history, but he’ll be a decent replacement for the departed Tony Moeaki. He has caught 25 passes in a reserve role the past two years and is a serviceable blocker. There are several players behind him with possibilities, but perhaps none more so than Fiedorowicz, who arrives rated by some as the top tight end prospect in the country. He has the size and skills to make an immediate impact.

A look at the offensive line

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Projected starters – LT Riley Reiff (6-6, 300, so.); LG Julian Vandervelde (6-3, 300, sr.); RG Adam Gettis (6-4, 280, jr.); RT Markus Zusevics (6-5, 295, jr.); C Josh Koeppel (6-2, 273, sr.) or James Ferentz (6-2, 275, so.)

Top reserves – Cody Hundertmark (6-4, 285, jr.), Woody Orne (6-5, 295, jr.), Brett Van Sloten (6-7, 290, fr.), Matt Tobin (6-6, 285, so.), Kyle Haganman (6-5, 285, sr.)

Futures – Nolan MacMillan (6-6, 288, fr.), Connor Bofelli (6-5, 285, fr.), Andrew Donnal (6-7, 285, fr.), Brandon Scherff (6-5, 310, fr.), Casey McMillan (6-4, 305, so.), Drew Clark (6-4, 288, fr.)

This is the biggest question mark area on the entire Iowa team and it undoubtedly will be a work in progress as the Hawkeyes prepare for the start of Big Ten play. The major building block is Reiff, who started 11 games at three different positions while earning third-team freshman All-American honors last season. He figures to be the starting left tackle for the next three years. Vandervelde brings the most experience with 24 career starts. After that come the question marks.

Gettis and Zusevics, two juniors from the Chicago area, have slowly worked their way up the depth chart through the years but both have limited playing experience. Gettis started one game last season. Zusevics, a former high school volleyball star, never has started. Neither have either of the two players battling for the starting center job. Koeppel has been in the program longer but don’t be surprised if the coach’s son beats him out for the job.

Hundertmark, who moved from defense to offense at the end of last season, was described by Kirk Ferentz last spring as the only other offensive lineman who looked ready to play at that point although he saw very limited action in the Kids Day scrimmage last week. Orne started seven games as a freshman at South Dakota State in 2008, but still seems to be adjusting to a higher level of competition. Everyone else except Haganman is just beginning to figure out what they’re doing.

A player to watch might be Nolan MacMillan, a Canadian who is nearly 20 years old but still has four years of eligibility remaining.

Year off might be what Wegher needs

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

The Brandon Wegher saga gets a little stranger all the time. Word has it now that the mixed-up sophomore running back returned to practice for a few days early last week, then left the Hawkeyes again because — in the words of coach Kirk Ferentz — “his heart wasn’t into it.’’

It’s apparent at this point that the best thing for everyone probably would be for Wegher to take the entire season off. He has a redshirt year to use. He wouldn’t be losing any eligibility. He’s not doing anyone any good with this on-again, off-again, I’m-not-sure-I-want-to-play dance.

It’s understandable that Wegher is having some doubts about what he wants to do. It’s surprising we don’t see more young college football players go through this sort of turmoil. Wegher was pushed to be great by well-meaning parents at a very early age – earlier than most kids – and now he is in a mid-life crisis in which he apparently is trying to figure if he’s chasing his own dream or someone else’s.

The kid clearly needs some time to get his head together and decide what he wants. It’s tough to sort out your emotions and your true desires in a few days or a week or even a month, especially when Hawkeye Nation is hanging on your ever move.

So, take a year off. Let Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton carry the load this season and decide what you want to do in a less-pressurized situation.

A look at the specialists

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Projected starters – Punter Ryan Donahue (6-3, 190, sr.); kickers Daniel Murray (5-10,185, sr.) or Trent Mossbrucker (6-0, 204, so.); deep snapper Andrew Schulze (6-5, 255, sr.)

Top reserves – Eric Guthrie (6-6, 245, jr.), Charlie Knipper (6-4, 230, fr.)

Futures – Jonathan Mullings (6-3, 210, fr.); Mike Meyer (6-2, 175, fr.)

Donahue is another of those unsung heroes, a guy who doesn’t get much publicity or attention but who is highly valued by the coaching staff for his work ethic and consistency. His punting average fell slightly to 40.9 yards last season, but he dropped 27 punts inside the 20-yard line and had a career-low five touchbacks. He also did not have a punt blocked all season.

Murray is the incumbent place-kicker, but he may have a hard time holding off Mossbrucker, who redshirted last season after some very impressive moments as a freshman in 2008. Mossbrucker was 13 for 15 on field goals and set Iowa’s single-season freshman scoring record before being inexplicably replaced by Murray late in the season. Murray was OK last season – 19 for 26 with a long kick of 48 yards – but head coach Kirk Ferentz never seemed fully satisfied. This may be the most competitive position battle of the fall.

Schulze enters his fourth season as the regular long snapper and one of the most intriguing stories on the Hawkeye roster is Mullings, a 22-year-old Australian rugby player who launched an 85-yard punt for Ottumwa High School last fall. And there’s also another capable kicker waiting in the wings if both Murray and Mossbrucker flop. Meyer, a former Dubuque Wahlert star, looked pretty good in last week’s Kids Day scrimmage.

A look at the linebackers

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Projected starters – MLB Jeff Tarpinian (6-3, 238, sr.), WLB Jeremiha Hunter (6-2, 235, sr.), OLB Tyler Nielsen (6-4, 235, jr.)

Top reserves – Troy Johnson (6-2, 235, sr.), Bruce Davis (6-0, 232, jr.), Ross Petersen (6-3, 236, sr.), Lance Tillison (6-2, 215, jr.)

Futures – James Morris (6-2, 215, fr.), Shane DiBona (6-2, 230, fr.), Austin Gray (6-2, 210, fr.), Terrance Pryor (6-1, 215, so.), Jim Poggi (6-2, 212, fr.), Christian Kirksey (6-2, 195, fr.)

There is no question that the graduation of Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds represented a huge loss, perhaps more in terms of leadership than talent. But the Hawkeye coaches don’t seem all that con-cerned, probably because they have experienced players ready to step into the breach.

Tarpinian has been on the verge of seeing significant playing time for a couple of years but keeps getting set back by injuries. He seems primed now to fill Angerer’s spot in the middle of the defense and by all accounts, is thriving in that role. Nielsen, who has much less on-field experience, seems equally ready to fill Edds’ shoes. Hunter has quietly made 169 tackles over the past two years and made one of the biggest plays of Iowa’s 2009 season when he swatted down Northern Iowa’s second field goal attempt in the final seconds of the opener. He’s ready to emerge from the shadow cast by Angerer and Edds.

Johnson and Davis also are very experienced and could still break into the starting lineup if Tar-pinian and Nielsen don’t produce. When Hunter and Tarpinian were unexpectedly determined to be unfit to play in last fall’s regular-season finale, Johnson was thrust into the starting lineup and ended up being the Big Ten’s defensive player of the week. Davis was a special teams standout last season. Another player to watch is Morris, an athletic true freshman who figures to at least see action on special teams this season.

Robinson is our favorite to start

Friday, August 6th, 2010

The big topic of conversation as Iowa opened camp Friday was who is going to the starting running back when the season begins Sept. 4 against Eastern Illinois.

Our guess is that it will be Adam Robinson. He may not be as flashy as Brandon Wegher and Jewel Hampton. He doesn’t have Wegher’s high school reputation. To borrow one of Kirk Ferentz’s words, Robinson isn’t the “sexy’’ choice.

But he’s the safe choice. He’s the guy who will make the fewest mistakes and that makes him Ferentz’s kind of player.

Of course, the Hawkeyes almost certainly will employ a committee of backs anyway, using whoever is most healthy or whoever has the hot hand and is playing well.

Hampton, who has had Iowa fans salivating ever since his occasionally spectacular freshman season, really hurt his chances when he was suspended for that first game because of an off-season incident. If Robinson and Wegher have big games, as you would expect they might against an FCS opponent, Hampton will be buried in the No. 3 on the depth chart.

Chances are, there won’t be that many times when all three players are healthy at the same time anyway.


Young Hawkeyes eager to get to camp

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The college football season is officially upon us. Iowa’s new recruits have been in camp since Wednesday and the full team goes through its first workout Friday morning.

You could tell the players – especially the incoming freshmen – were getting anxious as they posted status updates on their Facebook pages earlier this week. Such as:

Carl Davis Jr.: “On my way to Iowa. Bye Michigan.’’

James Morris: “Can’t wait.’’

Brandon Scherff: “Last day in Denison.’’

D’Andre Johnson: “Miami was nice but Iowa is where I belong.’’

Jordan Cotton: “Last night in Mount P, then it’s back to work. Game day keeps gettin closer and closer.’’

Julian Vandervelde: “T minus 20 hrs till lockdown.’’

Shane DiBona: “Life is over in 15 hours.’’

Davis, a 300-pound defensive tackle from Detroit, apparently didn’t enjoy his first night of camp with the other new guys. Late Wednesday night, he wrote: “Meetings all day. Superboring. Ughh. ‘Bout to go to bed.’’

Probably ‘bout to get an earful from the coaches and maybe some veteran teammates, too.

Ferentz shoots down rumors

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Bearing in mind that you are reading this on the Internet, I feel compelled to say this: Don’t read everything you read on the Internet.

At least not on the various college football message boards and chatrooms that are out there on the cyber-landscape. If you had read Iowa Hawkeyes message boards in the past few days, you would have seen that:

– Defensive coordinator Norm Parker was retiring.

– Freshman A.J. Derby was being moved from quarterback to linebacker.

– Running back Brandon Wegher was academically ineligible.

There may be slivers of truth in there somewhere, but Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz pretty much swatted down all three of those ideas at Monday’s Big Ten football media day.

He said he doesn’t know that Parker ever has contemplated retirement although old Norm will be coaching from the pressbox because of his well-documented health issues this season. Ferentz said Derby is still a quarterback although he is athletically gifted enough that he could help the Hawkeyes on special teams right now and may someday end up at another spot. And Ferentz said to his knowledge, everyone on his roster is in the clear academically.

Maybe Ferentz was just lying through his teeth? Not likely. More likely, someone out there without journalistic credibility or ethics heard a small bit of rumor and blew it up into something big. You can do that on message boards because almost everything is flung out there anonymously.

Gearing up again

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

It’s been a long, relatively quiet summer – for everyone except maybe Broderick Binns, Jewel Hampton and Jordan Bernstine – but things are about to start gearing up again. The Big Ten will hold its football media day this week, the Iowa resumes practice later in the week and the Hawkeyes will hold their own media day on Friday.

The Big Ten media day always brings little bits of information, mixed with lots of posturing and happy talk from the coaches. Each coach will have 15 minutes in a massive group interview with the media on Monday, then reporters have a chance to speak to the coaches and three players from each team in a one-on-one setting on Tuesday morning. Iowa’s three players in attendance will be Ricky Stanzi, Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug.

The big topic of discussion Monday figures to be the expansion of the Big Ten – commissioner Jim Delany also will get 15 minutes at the podium – and I would think Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will have some information on what sort of punishments will be levied against Binns, Hampton and Bernstine, all of whom had brushes with the law during the summer.

We will have coverage of Monday’s activities in a live blog at and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will have updates throughout the week from both the Big Ten and Hawkeyes media days.