The Iowa Hawkeyes opened August camp with their annual Media Day on Saturday. Here's what we learned.
The ol' ball coach took to the podium for his nineteenth Media Day at Iowa, and started by thanking the media for writing about his team. He didn't mention us by name, but from his first comment on the quarterback situation, I know he's reading the GIA: "Whether you look at Brad Banks, Nathan Chandler, Drew Tate, Ricky Stanzi, C.J. Beathard, I think history has proven you can be successful and have a successful team with a new quarterback taking snaps."
Don't worry about Wadley issues this season:
First of all, Akrum is one of our best football players. We’ve seen him, we’ve witnessed him, and he is, you know — boy, he’s right on task right now. His weight’s good, his attitude has been tremendous. He’s practicing really well. Again, only six workouts, but he’s looking like a senior player and a good senior player, and that’s — referencing the quarterback, we know whoever it is, we’re getting a new quarterback. So our best guys better be out there doing it. He’s on the right track.
As expected, defensive tackle is Nathan Bazata and a rotating cast of characters at the moment. "My guess is Nate’s going to play as much as he can play, but we’ll rotate through. I think that was really effective for us last year to rotate....So it might be the four guys playing inside with [Bazata], we know what he can do, and kind of measuring the rest of it out as we go."
Kicker and punter are open competitions. "I’d say it’s a coin toss at both spots," Ferentz said before specifically focusing on the race at punter between Colten Rastetter and Ryan Gersonde.
On three graduate transfers in the last two seasons: "We’re not recruiting guys, but if there is that opportunity, we feel like they can help our football team, not only as football players, but also buy into our culture and what we think is important, then we’re open to it." And then Ferentz Ferentzed it up by semi-endorsing a proposal to make graduate transfers sit out a year, then calling the basketball transfer system a "waiver wire" because players wait to the end of the season and switch schools. You know, like coaches.
Rule One of Kirk Ferentz Press Conference Analysis: Pay attention to the asides. Ferentz might have given us a brief look at their recruiting philosophy when, in a question about Ken O'Keefe (of all things) he mentioned that James Butler is "from the Midwest, and wanted to be in the Midwest." So much of Iowa's attrition in recent years has come from players outside the proverbial 500-mile radius, that with the Texas connection out of the picture, Iowa could be refocusing locally.
Ferentz wouldn't say how many true freshmen might play. "There are a couple right now" who look ready, with another group who could contribute. Presumably, based on everything that has been said since February, A.J. Epenesa is in that first group.
Presumed starting cornerback Josh Jackson received some of Ferentz's highest praise: That he owns the strength and conditioning program.
"That’s what I’ve seen from Josh too. I was teasing him at the end of the summer. Got to watch him his last couple workouts and told Chris Doyle, Josh is laughing at you. This program is like elementary school for him. He really had a good summer. So he couldn’t have done that two years ago. To see his growth and his confidence is really encouraging for all of us."
WE HAVE A SECOND SNIDE COMMENT IN THREE WEEKS ABOUT GARY BARTA SCHEDULING WYOMING SOMEONE'S NOT HAPPY:
Q. Big game on the schedule is Ohio State.
COACH FERENTZ: I’m thinking Wyoming. Actually the big thing right now is tomorrow’s practice. We’ve got a lot of work. But Wyoming, I don’t know how we scheduled that one, but great timing.
Also, Ferentz referring to FERPA as "the Buckley Amendment" as the law was initially known when it passed in 1984 proves that the coach's affinity for all things 1977-1986 includes not just the Jackie Sherrill-era Pitt Panthers and Gordy Bohannon, but also federal student privacy laws.
This is the story of the summer: What is Iowa's offense going to look like under Brian Ferentz? As expected, we didn't get much Saturday. We did, however, get Norm Parker stories (from Chad Leistikow's write-up at the DMR).
Though most know Brian Ferentz was a three-year starter on Iowa’s offensive line, it’s become an asterisk that in 2004 a serious staph infection nearly forced the amputation of his right leg.
After surgery, Ferentz’s return to football wasn’t certain. Parker, the late former defensive coordinator at Iowa, pulled Ferentz aside and reminded him of something.
“I won’t share the language he used,” Ferentz cracked Saturday. “But he basically said, ‘Did you think life was going to be a bowlful of cherries?’”
Ferentz remembered Parker telling him, “Life’s hard. Things are hard. If you’re going to be successful at anything … you need to be willing to push through the ups and downs.”
There was also this, reinforcing his understanding of the gravity of what is about to happen:
He started getting resumes from across the country, from coaches who wanted to be on his staff. The offense had three openings.
“It struck me how many former offensive coordinators exist,” he said. “And I’d never thought about it that way before.”
We did get yet another indication that Iowa's going to use players in multiple positions within a particular formation, specifically tight ends and running backs split wide. "Just because you’re a running back doesn’t mean you have to line up in a traditional running-back spot. I think we need to be open to having guys play different spots, and move them around a little bit.” That, of course, led to IOWA'S GOING FLEXBONE from some national media, which actually doesn't sound that bad.
10-2, book it https://t.co/YQWnfMwLFZ
— THICC KEN (@edsbs) August 6, 2017
The younger Ferentz doesn't yet know if he's going to call plays on the field or from the press box:
“I think there are real benefits to being on the field,” Brian said. “When you’re on the field, things are certainly more visceral. There’s a lot more action, and you’re a lot more connected to it. Which I think can be really good as a play-caller. But there’s also a good reason to go upstairs. A lot more surgical, a lot more sterile up there. You’re not attached to the emotion of the game."
Count me solidly in the camp of "don't care, as long as we never see a one-yard out to a covered second-string tight end because he's the only legit route in the pattern again ever."
Quarterback remains open, though that limited discussion of Peyton Mansell showing up and passing everyone seems to have abated (same goes for any discussion of Ryan Boyle, who moved back to quarterback from receiver). It's been four days, and this thing could well go to the end of August.
James Butler and Akrum Wadley seem fine with the proposed rotation. Wadley's finally getting his long-overdue shot as a full-time starter, and Butler knew that when he signed up. Having those expectations in place will certainly help keep the peace. It's one of the underreported benefits of a graduate transfer: Full depth chart consciousness. Which is nice.
Matt Quarells' transfer from New Mexico is on, pending admissions stuff.
“We do have a player who’s in the process of going through procedural things that have to take place to get admitted to the school,” Ferentz said. “If something comes a long that would be attractive, we’ll definitely have an interest in that.”
A.J. Epenesa is going to play, and while he has gotten a look at defensive tackle, I think defensive end is the ticket for his freshman season. Iowa doesn't usually overload freshmen with things like positional diversity.
Also, he's going to be good. Apparently so will Cedric Lattimore, if Nathan Bazata's opinion means anything.
“It’s cool when you see someone that is that far ahead,” Bazata, a senior, said. “I wasn’t that far ahead when I came in. I had a lot of work to do.”
Bazata’s comments are just what a fan base that spent the last year ogling over the potential of a 5-star All-American wants to hear. Epenesa is showing the physical traits that earned him national recognition well before setting foot on campus.
“His pass rush is really good, just explosive, kind of like [defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore],” Bazata said. “He is coming in pretty advanced.”
Phil Parker said at least two true freshmen will play in secondary sub-packages, and cited Noah Clayberg (who is already in the depth chart at safety) and Matt Hankins as the most likely to play.
Aaron Mends and Amani Jones are Squat Kings of the Midwest: "For the Iowa football team, two names were thrown out most often as the guys who could raise eyebrows in the weight room — most specifically in the squat: linebackers Aaron Mends and Amani Jones. Both players have cleared 600 pounds in the squat, which is like lifting the vending machine in your office or the piano in the lobby of a hotel."
Brandon Snyder left the door open a crack to playing this year, but it doesn't look too likely:
“It’s a goal but it’s not something that I worry about. I just take it day by day. You can play games like that all you want and try to figure out, maybe it will be this game, but in the end you have no idea. But you can control what you do today. You can control what you do tomorrow and that’s kind of the focus right now.”
A big reason why Snyder probably doesn't come back in November: Even if he were to get back to good health and form this fall, his health isn't the only concern.
“Obviously I’m going to try to [play], but you just take it day by day,” Snyder said. “You could project all you want, but that doesn’t do us any good. It’s a long ways off yet. Right now, I’m just taking it day by day, control what I can control, try to get stronger, work on running and eventually just work on tomorrow and keep moving forward. It’s a long process and you just don’t really know.”
The now-annual Kids' Day scrimmage has been set for next Saturday, August 12 at noon. Gates at Kinnick Stadium open at 11:00, with autographs available at 11:30. Bellyaching over the offense will commence at about 12:04.