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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.

This week’s pick: Iowa 45-7

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Ball State coach Stan Parrish didn’t want to play Iowa to begin with. And he certainly didn’t want to play the Hawkeyes the week after they suffered their first loss, on the road, in semi-excruciating fashion.

All of that adds up to a tough day for the Cardinals on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. Every week people ask for a predicted score. This week, we’ll say 45-7. It probably will be something like 31-0 at halftime and 45-0 in the fourth quarter before Ball State scores one of those meaningless consolation touchdowns.

I don’t think Ball State is the worst team in the Mid-American Conference – a home loss to Liberty University notwithstanding – but the Cardinals aren’t an upper-echelon MAC team either. Chances are, with the Hawkeyes looking to vent some frustrations, no MAC team would have much chance.

Things I think we’ll see:

– About 300 yard passing for Ricky Stanzi. With Adam Robinson now the only healthy, experienced running back, I don’t think we’ll see him carry the ball 25 times. The Hawkeyes will throw.

– Around 8 to 10 carries for freshman running back Marcus Coker, who doesn’t really know the playbook yet but who will get a chance to show what he can do in mop-up time.

– At least three Ball State turnovers, maybe more. Freshman quarterback Keith Wenning started at Purdue last week, but he’ll face an even more intimidating atmosphere this week.

– A little more extensive playing time for such players as C.J. Fiedorowicz, James Morris and Keenan Davis. We might even get to see them throw a pass in Fiedorowicz’s direction.

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.

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.

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.

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 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).