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Posts Tagged ‘Jewel Hampton’

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.

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.

 

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 Hawkmania.com and qctimes.com from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will have updates throughout the week from both the Big Ten and Hawkeyes media days.

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?

Erb, Campbell had great years, too

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The players get most of the credit when a football team has the kind of season Iowa has had.

And the head coach takes his share of bows.

The offensive and defensive coordinators also get a small piece of the credit.

But as offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe pointed out last week, a couple of other assistant coaches also deserve a large share of credit for the fact that the Hawkeyes went 10-2 in the regular season.

O’Keefe made note of how much work receivers coach Erik Campbell has invested in making Marvin McNutt into a topflight Big Ten receiver. And he said what Lester Erb has done as the team’s running backs coach is nothing short of amazing.

Entering fall camp, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher were pretty much No. 4 and 5 on the depth chart, but they end up playing extremely well. Robinson set Iowa’s freshman rushing record and Wegher had the highest yardage total ever by a true freshman. Between them, they rushed for 1,303 yards and 12 touchdowns and did an exceptional job of picking up blitzes on pass plays.

“I have to say Lester Erb has done an unbelievable job the last two years,’’ O’Keefe said. “He took Shonn Greene off the furniture truck and got him ready to play. And Jewel Hampton was only a true freshman. Then this year he took two guys who were great high school players but hadn’t ever played at this level and got them ready.’’

Paki is Kirk’s kind of guy

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Kirk Ferentz managed to put a happy face on a pretty unhappy situation Tuesday when he revealed that Jewel Hampton will undergo knee surgery and will be sidelined for the entire season.

You never know when coaches are being completely upfront with you, especially when this particular coach implied on a teleconference at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday that Hampton might be back in a week or two, then less than an hour later announced he was gone for the year.

But the hunch is that Ferentz was being genuine in saying the Hawkeyes will be OK with Paki O’Meara as the starting running back, possibly as part of a committee of backs.

As I’ve written in the past, Iowa is going to need to throw the ball much more this season no matter who lines up at running back. O’Meara, although not the most explosive runner of the group, may be the best receiver and the best blocker. So he may, in fact, be the best fit.

Redshirt freshman Adam Robinson could provide a change of pace with his quickness. Jeff Brinson, when he gets healthy, may provide more of a power element. And true freshman Brandon Wegher, if his high school numbers are any indication, should be a big factor once he gets some experience. It might be a good blend.

None of them figures to be a big star. Obviously, none of them is going to be Shonn Greene. But between them, they should be able to get the job done.

And the future at this position is extremely bright. O’Meara will still be around next season as a senior and all those other guys – Hampton, Brinson, Robinson, Wegher – will be sophomores. And all of them may have trouble holding off Marcus Coker, a 222-pound stud from Hyattsville, Md., who has made a verbal commitment to sigh with the Hawkeyes in February. The problem next season may be finding enough playing time to satisfy everyone.

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.