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Posts Tagged ‘A.J. Derby’

Wrapping up the spring

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Random thoughts and observations from the Hawkeyes’ spring-ending workout Saturday at Kinnick Stadium:

– Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said freshman A.J. Derby and junior John Wienke are “neck and neck’’ for the backup quarterback job, but Derby looked much, much better in Saturday’s workout. He has a stronger arm and seemed to make better decisions. In fact, he probably looked better than starter James Vandenberg.

– Keenan Davis was the clear standout among the receivers but walk-on Steve Staggs looked like he could be a solid possession receiver comparable to Colin Sandeman.

– Three players were back fielding punts during the workout – Keenan Davis, Micah Hyde and freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley. Based on the way he looked on two interception returns for touchdowns last season, Hyde may be the favorite to win the job.

– Hyde was used at free safety this spring on sort of an experimental basis and looked good enough that it seems probable he will stay there in the fall. That sets up a major battle for his old cornerback job between veteran Greg Castillo and upstart B.J. Lowery. Those two had the only interceptions of Saturday’s controlled scrimmage.

– Neither of the two kickers – Mike Meyer or Trent Mossbrucker – looked very good in the work-out, but the cold and the wind weren’t exactly conducive to quality kicking.

– Several linemen – Thomas Nardo, Steve Bigach and Nolan McMillan – disappeared off the depth chart between the start and end of spring drills with very little explanation from the coaching staff. None of them suited up Saturday although all still are listed on the roster. They apparently are either injured or still recovering from winter workouts.

– Senior punter Eric Guthrie looked very erratic Saturday, alternating booming kicks with weak wobblers. Don’t be surprised if Australian-born freshman Jonny Mullings steals the job from him in the fall.

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.

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.

Recruiting reflections

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Random thoughts in the wake of Wednesday’s national signing day:

— Once upon a time, when a high school football player made a verbal commitment to sign with a school, you could take it to the bank. The recruiting was over. The kid was going to that school.

Not any more.

“Decommits” — players who change their mind after committing to a school — are now very common and seemingly increasing with each passing year.

Iowa only had one player decommit this year — Matt Hoch of Harlan, Iowa, changed his mind in December and decided to join his brother at Missouri — but the Hawkeyes picked up three players who once were pledged to other schools: C.J. Fiedorowicz (Illinois), Kevonte Martin-Manley (Bowling Green) and Tanner Miller (Northern Iowa).

— After signing Marcus Coker and D’Andre Johnson on Wednesday, Iowa now has eight running backs on scholarship and all but one of them will be either a freshman or a sophomore next season. And the one who will be a senior (Paki O’Meara) may be the least of the eight.

Even if Brad Rogers and Jeff Brinson end up at some other position (or some other school), it’s still hard to figure out how the Hawkeyes can find enough playing time for Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher and Jewell Hampton, especially if Coker is the second coming of Shonn Greene, as some believe.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t concerned.

“You know, I hope it becomes a problem,” he said. “I’m trying to think of the last time it was … I can’t remember us having too many good players at any one position. I certainly can’t remember us having too many running backs. My memory is a little bit recent right now. I was just happy this past year to have two in one game.”

— Obviously, big things are expected of Fiedorowicz, Coker, A.J. Derby and Andrew Donnal, the four-star players in Iowa’s recruiting class.

But some of us won’t be shocked if Solon linebacker James Morris ends up being the best player out of this class. And you have to believe there are some other great “sleeper” prospects in this bunch. Carl Davis is a 300-pound defensive tackle who regularly dunks in his high school basket-ball games in Detroit. I can’t wait to see what that guy looks like.

— From my experience, recruits who also have played sports such as basketball and tennis generally have very good footwork that translates well to the football field.

If that’s the case, this is a really good group. I counted 14 players among the 21 in Iowa’s class who play or have played for their high school basketball teams. Fiedorowicz already is his school’s career scoring leader. Brandon Scherff and Austin Vier are among the top rebounders in the state of Iowa right now. B.J. Lowery and Martin-Manley are going to be four-year lettermen at the var-sity level. Tanner Miller and Jim Poggi are in their third varsity season. Derby, who is sitting out this basketball season, helped Iowa City win a Class 4A state title as a sophomore.

Scherff, who is listed at 310 pounds, also lettered in tennis as a freshman in high school.

Hawks in holding pattern recruit-wise

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

This normally is a very busy time for college recruiters. They use the time between the end of the regular season and the bowl game (for those that are in bowl games) to host recruits on campus and to try to nail down firm commitments from players they have been courting for months.

It’s a rare year for the Hawkeyes. Kirk Ferentz and his staff don’t have much to do. They have a solid recruiting class of 19 committed players in place. All they want to do now is make sure they hold onto what they already have.

And Ferentz admitted that because of the kind of season the Hawks have had, they don’t expect to have much trouble doing that.

At least one of Iowa’s recruits – quarterback A.J. Derby of Iowa City – is planning to graduate from high school in mid-year and enroll at Iowa for the second semester so he can go through spring practice. It’s a blow for the City High basketball team, but it should help Derby find playing time earlier in his college career.

Scout.com rates the Hawkeyes’ recruiting class No. 33 in the country and No. 5 in the Big Ten, which is probably slightly higher than they usually are rated. Recruiting rankings aren’t something Ferentz cares much about anyway.

The rest of the Big Ten, according to Scout.com: Penn State is 4th, Michigan 16th, Ohio State 21st, Michigan State 26th, Wisconsin 39th, Purdue 42nd, Indiana 47th, Minnesota 50th, Northwestern 58th and Illinois 68th. The Illini normally would be up in the middle of the Big Ten somewhere, but they only have six commitments at the moment.

Recruiting class gets even better

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Iowa already was having a very good recruiting year, but things got a lot better this week when C.J. Fiedorowicz, regarded by some as the top tight end prospect in the country, announced that he would renege on an earlier commitment to Illinois and sign with the Hawkeyes.

Fiedorowicz, a 6-foot-7, 240-pounder from Johnsburg, Ill., had been rumored to be reconsidering for several weeks and he told the Chicago Sun-Times he feels much more at ease with the Hawkeyes than he ever was with the Illini.

“I wasn’t happy with what is going on at Illinois,’’ he told the Sun-Times. “I like all the coaches at Iowa. They will be staying around for a long time. I went to the Iowa-Minnesota game last weekend and the atmosphere was so much better than at Illinois. Now I feel good about my decision.’’

While Iowa often features the tight end in its offense, Fiedorowicz said it seemed as though the Illini threw to theirs “maybe 10 times all year.’’

Fiedorowicz, who also had football offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame and LSU and basketball offers from Indiana and Wisconsin, is considered to be a superb receiver who needs some work on his blocking skills.

“He has an NFL body,’’ recruiting expert Tom Lemming said. “If he listens to his college coaches, he’ll be a first-round draft choice.’’

Fiedorowicz is the 20th player to commit to the Hawkeyes, who weren’t expected to sign quite that many. Included are three four-star recruits and 16 three-star recruits, according to Rivals.com. Three of those players were named Iowa’s high school player of the year in their respective classes last week – A.J. Derby of Iowa City (4A), Matt Hoch of Harlan (3A) and James Morris of Solon (2A).