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Posts Tagged ‘Kirk Ferentz’

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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?

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.

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 getting their kicks, too

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

ou won’t see any punters and kickers on the list of scholarship recruits that Iowa will sign next week, but with Ryan Donahue and Daniel Murray both being seniors next year, Kirk Ferentz and his staff are looking to the future.

Punter Jonny Mullings will come on board as a “grayshirt,’’ which means he won’t enroll in school until next January. And the Hawkeyes enticed place-kicker Mike Meyer to join them as a walk-on.

Both are pretty intriguing prospects.

Mullings is a 21-year-old former rugby player who grew up in England and now lives in Austra-lia. In between, he spent a year as a foreign exchange student in Ottumwa, where he wasn’t even eligible to play in varsity games but once launched an 85-yard punt in a JV game. He’s a big guy – 6-foot-4, 215 pounds – whose rugby style punts could really be effective in some of the windswept stadiums of the Big Ten.

Meyer, a senior at Dubuque Wahlert, also brings a tremendously strong leg. He kicked off 30 times last season and 28 of them went for touchbacks. He also was eight for nine on field goals with six of those coming from beyond 40 yards and one of them coming from 56 yards. He could actually have an immediate impact because neither Murray nor sophomore Trent Mossbrucker, who figures to eventually replace him as the Hawkeyes’ place-kicker, has an extremely strong leg. (Murray had just five touchbacks on 66 kickoffs last season and averaged 60.8 yards per kickoff.) It’s possible that Meyer could be used on kickoffs and long field goals next fall with Murray handling extra points and short-range field goals.