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Posts Tagged ‘Iowa Hawkeyes’

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.

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.

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.

Depth for fall may be better than ever

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Iowa may or may not have one of its best football teams ever next fall.

One thing that does seem certain: It will be one of the deepest teams it has had.

The Hawkeyes will be pretty well insulated against injuries at almost every position except pos-sibly the offensive line and safety. Everywhere else, there are pretty good players waiting in the wings in case the starter goes down.

A look at the Hawkeyes by position following spring drills:

Quarterback: Ricky Stanzi is going into his third season as the starter and should be less turn-over-prone. That was a major point of emphasis in the spring. James Vandenberg showed last sea-son that he can be a capable backup and you get the feeling southpaw John Wienke gained ground on Vandenberg in the spring. The coaches said he made a major step up and you could see it in the spring scrimmage. Wienke looked crisper and more accurate than Vandenberg that day.

Running back: If Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher all are healthy, this is going to be very interesting. Robinson may have a slight edge in some of the little things like pick-ing up the blitz, but the other two probably are more elusive and have a bigger upside. It’s almost guaranteed that one of them will get hurt anyway. If more than one gets hurt, I still think there is a chance freshman Marcus Coker could be a factor right away.

Fullback: Senior Brett Morse is solid and there’s not a ton of drop-off to junior Wade Leppert. This isn’t an every-down position anyway.

Wide receiver: Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos have a chance to be the Hawk-eyes’ best receiver tandem since … well, maybe ever. Colin Sandeman and Paul Chaney are pretty good, too. If Keenan Davis improves as much as the coaches hope and Jordan Cotton continues to progress and 6-foot-6 Don Nordmann is as good as he looked in the spring scrimmage, they’re loaded.

Tight end: Don’t be surprised if Allen Reisner duplicates the statistical numbers Tony Moeaki provided last year although he’s probably not going to be as good a blocker. Brad Herman and Jonathan Gimm apparently made strides as the backups this spring but they still might have trou-ble holding off high school All-American C.J. Fiedorowicz, who should be game-ready when he arrives.

Offensive line: There is good depth at center, where James Ferentz and Josh Koeppel are bat-tling for the starting job, but this is one place the depth is a bit thin. There are a lot of big bodies behind Riley Reiff, Julian Vandervelde, Markus Zusevics and Adam Gettis but apparently no one who is ready to play with any sort of consistency. Coach Kirk Ferentz said converted defensive lineman Cody Hundertmark is the closest to being ready. If no one steps forward in the fall, there may be an opportunity for Ohio high school star Andrew Donnal to see playing time as a true freshman.

Defensive line: The Hawkeyes may be deeper than ever here. All four starters – Adrian Clay-born, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns – return intact with Clayborn and appar-ently Klug primed for starring roles. And some of us have felt for some time that Ballard ranks among the most underrated players on this team. Backup tackle Mike Daniels is good enough to start for half the teams in the Big Ten and young ends LeBron Daniel and Dominic Alvis have emerged as potential stars of the future. Pencil in Daniels and Daniel as certain starters for 2011.

Linebacker
: This is another area where the competition has been fierce. Jeremiha Hunter is a third-year starter and Jeff Tarpinian and Tyler Nielsen have emerged as the starters at the other two spots, but Bruce Davis and Troy Johnson are still pushing. Even long-time walk-on Ross Peter-sen looked good in the spring scrimmage. You’ll still see some true freshman play here in the fall, though, as the Hawkeyes brace for the future. Hunter, Tarpinian, Johnson and Petersen are seniors and Davis and Nielsen are juniors.

Cornerback: Shaun Prater is solidly entrenched on one side and sophomore Micah Hyde may be a future star on the other side. Jordan Bernstine, projected to start ahead of Prater last fall before breaking his ankle, may have a hard time finding playing time but he, Greg Castillo and William Lowe provide quality depth.

Safety: Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood – known to some of us as Sashwood – are one of the best tandems in the country but it’s hard to even guess at who the backups are at this point. Walk-ons Kyle Steinbrecher and Tom Donatell ran with the No. 1 unit in the spring scrimmage, apparently moving ahead of two scholarship players, Jack Swanson and Nick Nielsen, in the final week of drills. All those players have good size and Nielsen had two interceptions last Saturday. The depth isn’t necessarily bad, just unproven.

Kicker: Daniel Murray is the returning starter, but Ferentz has made it clear he wasn’t com-pletely satisfied with the job he did. Trent Mossbrucker, who redshirted last season after being the kicker for much of 2008, has at least an shot at winning the job.

Punter: Another place where the depth isn’t great behind four-year regular Ryan Donahue. But how often does your punter get hurt anyway?

Linebacker battle is intriguing

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Most of the talk regarding the Iowa football team this spring is going to be about rebuilding the offensive line. With only two starters back, there are a lot of unknowns there.

But there similar mysteries – if not similar concerns — regarding the three linebacker positions. The Hawkeyes essentially have five guys contending for three spots.

All five candidates are juniors or seniors. All weigh between 232 and 238 pounds. All have played quite a bit, at least on special teams. All have their best football in front of them.

Jeremiha Hunter is the one guy with really extensive playing experience. He has been the starting weakside linebacker for the past two seasons and although he usually was overshadowed by the departed Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, he’s been a very solid player. You might remember him as the guy who blocked the second field goal attempt against Northern Iowa to preserve a 17-16 victory in last year’s season opener.

Hunter has been backed up for two years by Jeff Tarpinian, a highly regarded player who has been patiently waiting for his chance to play.

When it was determined just before kickoff of the Minnesota game last season that neither Hunter or Tarpinian could play, the Hawkeyes tossed Troy Johnson into the weakside breach. All he did was earn Big Ten Defensive Player of Week honors with his performance.

Bruce Davis looked like an animal on special teams and in the few snaps he got in relief of An-gerer last season.

And Tyler Nielsen is one those guys we’ve been hearing about for a few years but seldom have seen because he was stuck behind Edds at the other outside linebacker position.

Now all these guys finally have a chance to start. The competition should be pretty intense.

Going into spring drills, Hunter, Johnson and Nielsen are listed as the starters but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Davis and Tarpinian in the lineup next fall. Whoever ends up on the field, Ferentz is confident they’ll do a great job. They might not be Angerer and Edds, but they’ll be solid.

“Quite frankly I’m almost more worried about a year from now at our linebacker spots,’’ Ferentz admitted. “Sounds kind of funny, with two pretty good seniors graduating, but we are top heavy age wise.’’

He said we’ll undoubtedly see one or two freshmen play a lot of special teams next fall – probably James Morris and possibly Austin Gray? – if only to give them some experience for the following season when Hunter, Johnson and Tarpinian will be gone.

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.

Ferentz-Irish rumors are pure blarney

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Normally this just happens after the season is over and with NFL teams. Now Kirk Ferentz is being linked to a college head coaching job while the season is still in progress.

It’s almost certainly hogwash. I would be amazed if there’s any concrete foundation beneath the rumor that Ferentz is a candidate to become the next head coach at Notre Dame.

More than likely this is some media guy peeling names off the top of his head without any real basis in fact.

It’s possible there’s interest on Notre Dame’s part. But Ferentz has a pretty good thing going at Iowa. He’s one of the 10 highest paid coaches in the country. He’s probably in the top five in the country in terms of job security. So, why uproot your family from a place they’re happy and comfortable to go somewhere they’ve never lived, where you’re not likely to make more money and where you’ll be fired in four years if you’re not at least 10 games over .500?

It makes no sense. Ferentz didn’t come right out and slam the door shut on the rumor Tuesday – he never does; it’s bad business – but he kind of laughed it off and said he’s very happy right where’s at. It’s the closest he gets to a complete denial.

There also are reports that Oklahoma coach Bobby Stoops has expressed interest in Notre Dame and the names of Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly and Florida coach Urban Meyer have popped up. This shows the arrogance of the Notre Dame mentality. Meyer leaving Florida to go to South Bend would be like Ferentz leaving Iowa to go to Drake. It isn’t going to happen.