RUNNING ON EMPTY
There wasn't a ton to take away from Tuesday's press conferences with running backs coach Derrick Foster and offensive line coach Tim Polasek. Iowa's de facto running game guys know that the running game hasn't been good enough for a decade, and they want better.
Foster put the goal at 4.5 yards per carry; that would be more than half a yard better per carry than last season (3.95). Iowa has only ran for 4.5 yards per carry twice since 2008. Those happened to be the two seasons acted as run game coordinator and added some variety to Iowa's usual outside zone-heavy philosophy. While Iowa has not fully reverted to the old stretch-all-the-time strategy under the younger Ferentz as offensive coordinator, much of that innovation is gone. Turns out it's difficult to run the ball effectively when everyone knows which play you're running.
“It’s getting to be a better question for Mark,” Polasek responded. “We’re creating plenty of opportunity.”
Polasek sounded like a coach who sees overflowing potential ... but underwhelming results.
“That’s one of those deals where me and Mark have had a lot of conversations. It’s going to be a case of … 'Are you ready when your opportunity strikes?'” Polasek said. “Some days, he’s pushing it through, other days, we take a couple steps back. I’m hopeful for Mark. I’m wishing the best for him.”
Iowa is going to be Iowa, which means Polasek is preparing to slot his best five blockers into the line in some form. That means it's Alaric Jackson on the bookends, probably Kallenberger at a guard, and two spots up for grabs. Chad Leistikow says that redshirt freshman Tyler Linderbaum, who played in two games as a true freshman before taking his redshirt, is headed toward the starting center spot. If Kallenberger is getting another spot, there are three upperclassmen -- Cole Banwart and the Paulsen twins -- in play for one interior guard position.
That, of course, depends on Kallenberger.
Recruiting site 247Sports published its first Top 247 football recruiting list for the Class of 2021 and SURPRISE there are two Iowans on it:
Colby, a massive offensive tackle out of Cedar Rapids Kennedy, looks like an inevitable Hawkeye on size and geography. He already holds an offer from Iowa, as well as Iowa State and Nebraska. Notre Dame looks to be in play, as well.
As for Bollers, a defensive end playing at Clear Creek Amana, it looks as if the regional players could have some national competition. Michigan State and Virginia Tech are already in the pool, along with Iowa and the usual suspects, and all the big guns -- Ohio State, LSU, Penn State, USC -- are on the radar. He does tell Matthew Bain that he grew up a Hawkeye fan, at least.
If those rankings hold, it will be the first year that the state of Iowa has two Top 247 recruits since 2014 (Allen Lazard, Ross Pierschbacher).
TWO STEPS FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
In the wake of Jordan Bohannon's rug gambit, the NCAA might actually be inching toward allowing players control over their own names and faces. Of course, it only comes because some states critical to the NCAA are possibly going to force them into it:
The legal pressure on that issue is a bill introduced by a North Carolina representative that would allow athletes to profit off what is lawfully theirs.
A similar bill is being introduced in California.
"Signing on with a university, if you're a student-athlete, should not be [a] moratorium on your rights as an individual," North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker said last month....
"We've talked to the congressman and tried to understand his position," Emmert said in his annual state of the union address at the Final Four. "There is very likely to be in the coming months even more discussion about the whole notion of name, image and likeness [and] how it fits into the current legal framework.
"Similarly, there needs to be a lot of conversation about how, if it was possible, how it would be practical. Is there a way to make that work? Nobody has been able up with a resolution of that yet."
This could be stalling. It's certainly in the NCAA playbook to head-fake at change, then strangle it in red tape and shove it down slippery slopes until whatever reform is adopted is an ineffective shell of the original intent. It's also sort of hilarious that players could spend a decade raising this issue, a federal court could find against the NCAA on this issue, and yet it's only when a North Carolina state senator gets involved that Emmert finds it necessary to consider reform.
But it could also be the first step in actual reform. It's telling that the current pay-for-play scandal -- a scandal in which assistant basketball coaches are facing the prospect of jail time -- and the subsequent Nike/Michael Avenatti thing have gotten so little traction with the public at large. There simply doesn't seem to be much appetite for defending a system and punishing the violators of a system that seems so inherently corrupt and unfair. And so perhaps the NCAA sees a need to fix this.
Of course, it's the NCAA, so there is something else more restrictive of players that needs to be fixed first.
In two weeks, the N.C.A.A.’s primary legislative body, the Division I Council, will vote on a measure that could severely restrict graduate transfers. The proposed rule change would require that colleges accepting graduate transfers be docked a scholarship the next year if the transfer does not earn his secondary degree within a year.
There is little doubt that the graduate transfer rule has been overused by many, and certainly abused by some. It has become less a chance to continue one's education and more a mechanism for unheralded recruits at small schools to move up to power conference play, as well as a second chance for high-major recruits that face roster problems or didn't pan out.
But, as Brian Cook at mGoBlog correctly points out, there's a huge problem with requiring a graduate transfer to complete his or her graduate degree in one year: Nearly every master's degree requires two years of study. So either a player graduate early enough that he or she has a year of graduate study done before transferring (which creates its own set of problems with transfer credits) or anyone taking a graduate transfer is taxed an additional scholarship in the second, non-eligible season. It would kill the graduate transfer in basketball, where losing a scholarship from a limited pool would be unacceptable. It would serve to further limit the ability of players to find the ideal educational and professional situation at the end of their careers. So of course it's going to be adopted.
FEELING A DRAFT
It's NBA Draft declaration season. Carsen Edwards is gone from Purdue, and doesn't appear to be giving himself a route back to West Lafayette (mostly because there are no routes to West Lafayette).
Elsewhere, Minnesota might be losing Amir Coffey, Penn State forward Lamar Stevens might be gone, and Michigan had three starters -- Jordan Poole, Charles Matthews, and Ignas Brazdeikis -- all declare together, though everyone can theoretically declare for the Draft and come back after going through the process, as Tyler Cook and Isaiah Moss did last year.
Speaking of which, we still don't have final word from Iowa's potential draft entrants.
ODDS & ENDS
T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant will be attending the NFL Draft, where they both figure to be first-round picks and hugging Roger Goodell.
Mike Hlas profiles the immortal Big E, now in his second run as right-hand man for a WWE Champion following Kofi Kingston's win at Wrestlemania. "As you draftniks get all hot for those picks to get made in a few weeks and look forward to seeing who snaps up Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, remember this: As successful as they may be, they’re no Big E."
Richard Pitino parlayed that flight from Fayetteville into a contract extension at Minnesota. Fran probably did, too, but we won't know until someone sends a proper Freedom of Information Act request to Gary Barta.
trademark infringement lawsuit vodka is now available in Iowa. That description of Duck Duck Goose is going to be hilarious at trial.
The EDSBS Charity Bowl is back again -- proceeds to New American Pathways, a worthy cause as always -- and it's spawned this wonderful bit of hate:
Wazzu coach (and former Iowa Wesleyan assistant) Mike Leach is teaching an offseason course on Leadership Lessons in Insurgent Warfare & Football Strategy. It's exactly the kind of insanity you'd expect.