It's Tuesday of Game Week, which means it's KIRK FERENTZ PRESS CONFERENCE SEASON. With the opening game of his 21st campaign just four days away, Captain Kirk took the podium. Here's what we learned:
Congrats to everyone reading this on having a new favorite player: Redshirt freshman Spencer Petras is officially the backup quarterback. Petras played in two games last year, and has yet to complete a pass, but was able to supplant sophomore Peyton Mansell for the job behind the top job this fall. This is not exactly a surprise; most who had seen the team noted that Petras looked better, and Iowa's refusal to adopt the 2018 status quo over the last four weeks only confirmed that Petras was probably in the lead.
No decision from the NCAA yet on receiver Oliver Martin. If Martin is cleared to play later this week, Iowa will use him. He played through fall camp, and has the reps and playbook understanding that could be missing if he was, say, out due to injury. Ferentz went so far as to say he'd be on the travel team if eligible.
Kicker hasn't been decided. Ferentz will rotate Caleb Shudak and Keith Duncan, with Shudak handling kickoffs.
Iowa is just about as healthy as it's ever been coming out of fall camp. "Injury-wise we’ve come out of this thing really healthy right now at this point, and the only guy in the two-deep right now that I would say is doubtful would be Cole Banwart." Banwart, the presumptive starting right guard, was reportedly in a walking boot last week due to a lower leg injury. He is supposed to be in good enough shape to play in a rotation this week.
Backup tight end Shaun Beyer missed a bunch of spring and fall camps due to injury. He's back in practice, and will play Saturday. Similarly, backup defensive back Julius Brents has been battling injuries through camp, but is ready for the weekend.
Ferentz is already going crazy over the "Wedge Rule": The expansion of the prohibition on a "wedge" blocking formation on kickoffs to include two-man blocking formations. Basically, the NCAA has outlawed double-team blocks on kickoffs, and Kirk doesn't think that dog will hunt:
And then probably the most confounding one is what they’re calling a wedge, and to me it’s a double team. To me a wedge is what used to be on kickoffs, three guys or four guys joining, and that was a very dangerous play, really not — I don’t think it had a place in football. But we’ve taken a step further now where even if you line up like it’s going to be a double team, they’re going to call a penalty.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette described a postseason meeting with Ferentz when he was told it was "time to grow up." Ferentz praised his development since then: "I couldn’t be more complimentary of what he did during the summer. He was in tremendous condition, the best condition we’ve seen him in, and same thing during practice over the last three plus weeks, he’s really done a good job out there." Iowa is going to have to throw the ball to win this year, especially early. Having the team's second-best returning receiver ready and improved certainly doesn't hurt, especially when he's one of the best kick returners in Big Ten history and now ready to return punts, as well.
Ferentz was doubtful that any freshmen would play on defense, and didn't volunteer any who might play on offense. He did eventually concede that his two freshmen halfbacks, Tyler Goodson and Shadrick Byrd, could play.
And finally, we got a Jimmy Johnson Miami reference in a discussion of Leroy Smith's induction to the Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame:
It’s ironic, we had a visitor in camp here who tried to recruit him to Miami back in the ’80s. This coach happened to be on Jimmy Johnson’s staff there, and he told Leroy that he’d be a linebacker in their 4-3 defense down in Miami, which is a defensive football team. And Leroy came here because he wanted to be a running back. So ironically, he’s going in — I think he led the Big Ten in sacks, whatever it was, ’90 or ’91.
This is a reminder of the story from Norm Parker's recruitment of Matt Roth, where Norm promised Iowa would be blitzing all the time. And then Roth got to Iowa, and Parker might have blitzed seven times during his four years on campus. Kirk will probably tell that story from the podium as coach when Roth gets inducted.