Big Ten Media Days are notably mostly for being yet another signpost that Hey, Football Is Almost Here and less for being any sort of site of interesting news or piercing insight. Media Days returned to their familiar home in Chicago this year and the main news from an Iowa standpoint was probably roster-related.
On recent attrition from Kirk Ferentz:
--Careers over (medical): RB Toks Akinribade, LB Kyle Taylor, OL Spencer Williams.
--Leaving the program: CB Cedric Boswell, RB Cam Harrell, DE Romeo McKnight, CB Manny Rugamba, LB Nate Wieland
Ferentz called Rugamba departure "mutual."
— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) July 23, 2018
Several of the departures we knew about already. Rugamba announced that he would be leaving a few weeks ago. We found out about Boswell's departure last month and McKnight's plans to leave back in May. The Harrell and Wieland departures are (to my knowledge) new.
Harrell arrived at Iowa as a defensive back prospect, but switched to running back during the spring. His odds for playing time never looked all that great there (he was behind Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin, as well as JUCO transfer Mekhi Sargent, and guys like Kyshaun Bryan, Henry Geil, and Samson Evans were likely to push him for touches as well). Iowa looks much thinner at cornerback, especially with the departures of Boswell and Rugamba, but if Harrell had already moved away from the secondary, perhaps the Iowa coaches didn't see much of a future for him there, either. Best of luck to him in his next move.
Wieland was a late addition to Iowa's 2017 recruiting class as a lightly-recruited 2* prospect and while Iowa sometimes hits home runs with guys like that (Josey Jewell, Brandon Myers), sometimes they don't quite pan out, either. Wieland, projected to be a linebacker at Iowa, redshirted last season and didn't crack the two-deeps at linebacker this spring or summer, despite Iowa graduating three starters at linebacker. It's certainly not damning of Wieland that he wasn't able to make the two-deeps as a redshirt freshman, but it did paint an uncertain future for him at Iowa, at least in the short term. He's indicated that he plans to transfer to a JUCO for now. Best of luck to Wieland as he moves forward.
The other roster-related news is, sadly, injury-related and concerns three players who won't be suiting up for Iowa again. Toks Akinribade has been dealing with an undisclosed medical issue since the end of last season; now we know that it's ended his Iowa career before it could even really begin. Kyle Taylor is the younger brother of former Iowa safety Miles Taylor and his career too has been cut short by an undisclosed injury before it could really get going; he redshirted in 2016 and did not play in 2017. Williams is probably the most acute loss, as he was good enough to crack the depth chart a few times and played in a handful of games last year. He appeared to be in the mix as an interior lineman option for Iowa; unfortunately, his football career has been curtailed due to medical issues as well.
Here is what Spencer Williams shared on Instagram on having to walk away from football due to medical issues pic.twitter.com/92krfsRnmv
— Blair Sanderson (@BlairRIVALS) July 23, 2018
All three are expected to remain at Iowa on non-football scholarships and continue working toward their degrees. Best of luck to them as they move on to a non-football chapter in their lives, even as they're doing so much earlier than they ever anticipated.
Other notes from Day One of Media Day:
* Geography will continue to trump "competitive balance" when it comes to Big Ten divisions.
Jim Delany thinks geographical division in B1G is better received than competitive balance. Thinks West will rise up and be competitive w/ East. Cites how SEC East used to dominate that league. Doesn't anticipate any change in division alignment.
— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) July 23, 2018
And that's fine. I don't know about the West "rising up" and becoming more competitive with the East, but you never know. Iowa plays all of their border rivals now on an annual basis, though, and that's a good thing.
* Brady Reiff is suspended for the season opener against Northern Illinois, but we already talked about that.
* Noah Fant was named one of the Big Ten's 10 best players by a media panel. It's the fifth straight year Iowa has had a player on the preseason honors list after Josey Jewell (2017), C.J. Beathard (2016), Desmond King (2016), Drew Ott (2015), and Brandon Scherff (2014).
* Ferentz is very supportive of the new redshirt rule going into effect this season. The rule allows players to see action in up to four games and still be able to use a redshirt season, maintaining four years of eligibility for subsequent seasons. Ferentz saw the benefits as twofold:
First of all, I think it’s a really good thing. The most obvious benefit is at quarterback and you have the ability to do some things with a freshman quarterback if you are in that position, which we have been a couple of times.
It also gives you an opportunity early in the season to maybe test drive somebody and see how they come along. If it doesn’t work or materialize, then you can pull back and protect that year. Then there are guys who might be ascending during the season. Not necessarily due to injury or attrition or it might be that the guy is coming on and he can really help us late in the season.
This should give the coaches more freedom to test players out in the early season against some of less-daunting opponents on the schedule. It will also give them a chance to reward freshmen who have practiced well during the season with a chance to get live game action late in the season (or in a bowl game). This is a rare NCAA rule change that seems like a winner all around.
* Finally, capacity at Kinnick Stadium has decreased with the ongoing North end zone renovations; in 2018 the official capacity will go down from 70,585 to 69,250. That's still a pretty... nice... capacity total.
A full transcript of Ferentz's comments is available here.