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Good time for a bye week

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has been on record for some time as saying he doesn’t like bye weeks. He hates the idea of taking a Saturday off in the middle of the season.

But this time he’ll take it.

“This week couldn’t be better,’’ Ferentz said after his team had moved to 4-1 with a 24-3 victory over Penn State. “It’s right in the middle of our season. We’ve been at this thing eight weeks, now we’ve got eight more from today, so I couldn’t find a better time for it.’’

There are a lot of reasons to like the bye week at this point in the season:

– The Hawkeyes have a lot of players banged up and nursing minor injuries, especially at the middle linebacker position. Bruce Davis is out for the year and seniors Jeff Tarpinian and Troy Johnson were unable to play in the second half Saturday. Freshman James Morris did OK as a replacement, but the Hawkeyes certainly are a better team with Tarpinian, who should be fine after a week off.

– The place-kicking situation remains a bit unsettled. Veteran Daniel Murray was in uniform for the first time this season Saturday and should be ready to go by a week from Saturday. Going into Michigan’s “Big House’’ a week from Saturday, it might be better to use a seasoned senior rather than freshman Michael Meyer.

– Adam Robinson held up well while carrying the ball 28 times Saturday, but the Hawkeyes eventually are going to need a backup running back. The extra week gives them a chance to get freshmen Marcus Coker and Brad Rogers ready. Rogers lined up at tailback just once Saturday, but the Hawkeyes were called for illegal procedure on that play.

– The bye week gives the Iowa coaches some extra time to prepare for one of most the most dynamic offensive forces in the country: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who rolled up another 495 yards and five touchdowns Saturday against Indiana.

What we learned Saturday

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Things we learned in Iowa’s 45-0 victory over Ball State:

– The Hawkeyes’ running back depth isn’t nearly as tenuous as we might have thought. Redshirt freshman Brad Rogers and true freshman Marcus Coker combined for 126 yards rushing in the last quarter-and-a-half. While they aren’t as polished or as experienced as starter Adam Robinson, they both offer a power running style that could be effective as a change of pace to A-Rob.
– The kicking job may be less secure now than it was when the season began. Sophomore Trent Mossbrucker was replaced on field goals and extra points by true freshman Michael Meyer, who hit a 25-yard field goal (Iowa’s first of the season) but also missed a 37-yarder. There still is no word about the status of Daniel Murray, who was the kicker all of last season.
– The offensive line isn’t nearly as bad as it looked last week in a 34-27 loss to Arizona. Then again, it probably isn’t quite as good it looked at times Saturday. The line definitely has potential, but it remains a work in progress.
– Mike Daniels may be the surprise player of the entire season for the Hawkeyes so far. The junior defensive tackle was unstoppable Saturday, recording four tackles for losses and Iowa’s only sack of the day. While Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug have had fairly quiet starts to the season, Mike Diesel has become someone future opponents will need to deal with.
– Ricky Stanzi clearly is a better player than he was a year ago. Last season he ran hot and cold, even against lesser opponents. He’s been almost continuously hot in the first 16 quarters of this season.
– Ball State probably isn’t going to win many games in the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals use a lot of different running backs, receivers and quarterbacks but none of them looked very good. This team is going to struggle to score many points even in its own league.

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.

Hampton injury a concern

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Close to a dozen players sat out Iowa’s public scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, mostly for precautionary reasons.

My guess is the one that Hawkeye fans need to be most concerned about is sophomore Jewel Hampton, who is being counted on to step into the starting running back job.

Bryan Bulaga, who might be the best offensive tackle in the Big Ten, didn’t suit up after “tweaking’’ his knee the day before but he ran a few sprints and seemed OK. Receiver Colin Sandeman said his hamstring injury isn’t a big deal. Tackle Kyle Calloway, who is suspended for the first game anyway, took part in a few drills. Chances are, the other guys who sat out won’t make the two-deeps anyway.

But the absence of Hampton, because of his importance to the Hawkeyes’ fortunes and because this is the second time in about a month that he has injured his right knee, has to be cause for concern.

With Hampton out, former walk-on Paki O’Meara ran with the No. 1 unit and actually looked pretty good. People keep dismissing O’Meara as a legitimate contender for the starting job, assuming that redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson is a better prospect, but O’Meara remains ahead of Brinson on the depth chart and he looked better Saturday.

O’Meara ripped off about a 30-yard run at one point while Brinson’s most impressive moment was a play in which he stayed on his feet following a head-on collision with Adrian Clayborn, then was swallowed up by other defenders for about a 5-yard loss. Bear in mind that O’Meara was running against the No. 2 defense while Brinson was carrying the ball against the No. 1s.

Adam Robinson, a redshirt freshman from Des Moines with decent quickness but not much size, is the only other guy who might be ready for any sort of playing time at this time. I could see him being effective against Northern Iowa and Iowa State, but probably not Penn State or Ohio State.

Incoming freshman Brandon Wegher, who rushed for more than 3,000 yards as a senior in high school last fall, was not in uniform for the scrimmage and another true freshman, Brad Rogers, didn’t look that great in very limited opportunities.