TUESDAYS WITH BOREY: Injuries, Rutgers, and the Running Game

By Patrick Vint on September 4, 2019 at 10:34 am
Kirk, you're not wearing the headphones right.
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday is here, Rutgers is on the way, and Kirk is at the podium.  Here's what we learned (transcript and video available at Hawkeye Nation):

The Not-So-Walking Wounded

Last week, Kirk was pleased with how healthy his team was after fall camp.  It took seven days for that to shift.  

The good news: The injury that took left tackle Alaric Jackson out of Saturday night's game was just a sprain.  The bad news: It's looking like three weeks at the earliest before he's back, meaning he'll miss at least Rutgers and Iowa State.  I wouldn't be surprised if Iowa sits him for Middle Tennessee State after the first bye week to be safe, as well.  Guard Cole Banwart, who didn't play Saturday, could potentially play against Rutgers.

Not to be outdone by offensive line injuries, the secondary just lost most of its depth. Julius Brents remains doubtful, and on roughly the same timetable as Jackson.  Riley Moss was taken out of Saturday's game with a leg injury that will have him out 4-6 weeks.

Schott Through the Heart

The great revelation from Satuday night's game was walk-on offensive lineman Kyler Schott, who stepped into the lineup after Jackson's injury and started shoving guys all over the field.  He even got props from a Golic.

Ferentz praised his preparatory work in the last two years:

He’s practiced and prepared well. He’s done it kind of quietly. He did a lot of good things last year, but really has improved physically. He’s a little bit more mature now, been around the program a little bit longer, and he’s one of those guys that I don’t want to call him nondescript, but he’s not flashy, but if you watch him closely, he just does a lot of things really well and consistently, and he’s certainly done that this August. He really had a good month of practice and was very consistent. He’s also a versatile guy that can move around and doesn’t seem to affect him at all.

Ferentz also said that Schott stood out for his ability to block Cedric Lattimore: "Lattimore is a tough guy to block, and he probably blocked him as well as anybody we have during the course of camp."  And, of course, he was a Reese Morgan Guy.

Better of Wirfs

This was a cakewalk press conference: Iowa won comfortably last week, and is a 20-point favorite this week, so the reporters are working on human interest stories and deep dives.  That usually leads to questions about where they found guys and how those guys have developed in the program.

Obviously, that story has already been written on Tristan Wirfs.  But Kirk slipped an interesting statement into an answer on Wirfs, who shifted from right tackle to left tackle following Jackson's injury:

I thought he clearly played his best game since he’s been here.... You get a guy who’s played for a year or two, hopefully they’re accelerating their level of play and just looking a little bit more comfortable out there and a little bit more natural in their play. And he certainly did, he played his best game since he’s been here, and that’s really encouraging for us.

If Wirfs is "clearly" playing his best football now, after playing so well last season, we're entering the rarefied air of 2003 Robert Gallery.

Out of Cash

It was noted that, after an offseason of saying how the 4-2-5 was part of the program's DNA following its implementation last year, the base 4-3 personnel played essentially the last three quarters of the game.  Ferentz was quick to point out that it's still situational, and that we shouldn't expect much of it this week, either:

[Rutgers] play a lot of personnel groups we’re going to have our normal personnel out there too I’d imagine. You try to figure out what’s the best way to defend it. Part of that’s what they’re doing, part of that’s where we’re at. You always want to get your best guys out there to have a chance to defend what they’re doing.

The "where we're at" part is a bit disconcerting, as is the "best guys" reference.  Amani Hooker was a Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, and his play as a quasi-linebacker was crucial to making the 4-2-5 work last year.  Those guys don't just fall in your lap every year, and Iowa was relatively open about its search for a replacement through spring and fall camps.  D.J. Johnson was supposed to be that guy, but he's (a) a redshirt freshman, and (b) Not Amani Hooker.  And Iowa's defense looked significantly improved when it went to base personnel Saturday, which underscores that D.J. Johnson might not yet be part of that group of "best guys".

Ferentz has a tendency to look at anything beyond his usual bedrocks -- the zone running game and 4-3 defense -- as something slightly beyond gimmickry.  If the 4-2-5 isn't working with the personnel that Iowa currently has, it can be jettisoned with ease, no matter how much they talked about it as the New Foundation this spring.  This is something to watch in the next few weeks.

Other Nuggets

  • Toren Young played a few snaps Saturday as a fullback in the I formation, with Sargent in the the halfback spot.  That is not a precursor to Young moving to fullback full-time.  "He’d probably go on strike if that happened or threaten to quit," Ferentz joked.
  • Tyler Goodson, who was the third halfback in Saturday, is not in the plans for a redshirt.
  • A nice little anecdote on Ojemudia: "I’ve told the pro guys the most impressive thing about his whole career, his dad is an engineer, and he was determined and is determined to be an engineer, graduated as an engineer from Iowa, and he had a rough go initially. I mean, he got beat up pretty good in that classroom. It’s tough to do both. It’s not for everybody certainly. What he was going through, I wasn’t sure he was going to stick with that quite frankly, but he did. He was determined, and he’s going to be just fine."
  • This wasn't in the presser, but the Jackson injury means Iowa's rolling with an all-Iowa offensive line, where all five finished no worse than third in the Iowa high school state wrestling tournament.
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