It's Kirk Ferentz Press Conference Day people! Shout it into the streets!
Here's what we learned Tuesday (as always, full transcript and video is over at Hawkeye Nation)
THE SORE REPORT
Good news on the injury front this week: Both wide receiver Brandon Smith and cornerback Michael Ojemudia are back in practice and should be available in some capacity Saturday against Illinois. "I don't want to say they're full speed but at least they're moving in the right direction," Ferentz said.
Tyler Goodson and Tyrone Tracy went out of Saturday's game with minor injuries, but are fine for this weekend.
GO BIG REDSHIRT
As expected, Ivory Kelly-Martin will redshirt. Kelly-Martin played as a true freshman in 2017 and started last season on the top line at running back, but was supplemented by Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young. This season, he was stuck behind Sargent, Young, and freshman Tyler Goodson, and only appeared in a few games.
Whether the redshirt will keep Kelly-Martin at Iowa or set him up for a transfer remains to be seen. It doesn't really fix the depth chart problem; he'll still be a redshirt junior with a true sophomore likely getting top billing, and both Young and Sargent will likely be back as seniors.
Justin Britt is also going to redshirt, if possible. He's played in four games; barring injury to someone on the offensive line that would force him into action, we won't be seeing him again until August.
Ferentz believes defensive back Julius Brents has already locked in a redshirt by playing in just one game. "I think we have saved Julius’s year, right, if my math is correct. So yeah, that’s good. We’re not thinking about that. That’s not why he wasn’t playing." Talk about your backhanded compliments there, Coach.
THE (REALLY) GOOD SON
We might as well handle the Goodson breakout here. Ferentz was asked why they made the move to Goodson Saturday:
We’re not unhappy with any of our running backs. I think it’s been one of our strengths on our football team. I think all three of those guys are very capable, and I’d throw Ivory in there, too. He decided he wanted to redshirt, which I think is a smart decision at this point. Those are the three guys in the mix. They’re all doing a really good job. We’re happy with all three of them in the game. Just felt like last week it was time to get Tyler a chance to start, and I think he responded really well.
We've largely moved past the days of AIRBHG, where all four Iowa halfbacks would have been smited by ACL tears and grade issues before October 5, and having four capable halfbacks certainly makes the depth chart more congested.
But, besides an easy way of capitalizing on his obvious talent, starting Goodson this early also might be a recognition of a past issue with recruiting. Iowa took two halfbacks in 2019 from outside the usual Iowa recruiting footprint, Goodson (from Suwanee, GA) and Shadrick Byrd (Alabaster, AL). Last year, Iowa signed Jayden McDonald from Suwanee, and he's already entered the transfer portal. Two years prior, Iowa recruited Kyshaun Bryan out of Fort Lauderdale; he left almost immediately. The same went for cornerback Trey Creamer from Cartersville, GA. However, Brandon Smith came to Iowa from Mississippi and saw the field early, and he's still on campus. Back in 2015, Iowa grabbed Eric Graham on signing day, and he was gone a couple of years later.
It's clear that Iowa is making inroads into Georgia and Florida, with Seth Wallace and Derrick Bell working Georgia hard in the last few recruiting cycles. In fact, Ferentz talked about it Tuesday:
We can’t survive solely on Iowa players. I wish we could. So we recruit out of state. We’re usually fourth, fifth in line, that type of thing, or further back typically. You’ve got to really be good in the evaluation process, I think, and then things have to fall right for you, and in this case they did. I give Derrick a lot of the credit there. Seth has some background there coaching at Valdosta, but Derrick has done a good job the last couple years working that area, and he had a good rapport with Tyler and it really worked out well.
Yeah, if we can cherry pick guys from anywhere where there’s talent — and one thing about Georgia unofficially, I don’t have statistics to bear this out, but the obvious big population states, California, Texas, Florida, a lot of prospects there, but I’ve always felt that Georgia high school football is probably as good as you’re going to find anywhere.
But it's also clear that Georgia is a long way from Iowa City, and there is a 1:1 correlation between players from that area getting a chance to play early and those same players staying on campus beyond the first couple of years. Those that play, stay; those that don't, don't. If a guy is good enough to play, there's ample evidence that getting him on the field is going to make it a lot easier to keep him in the future. And it's clearer than anything that Goodson is worth keeping.
BEG YOUR PARDON?
"It’s the second year for their offensive coordinator, and his impact I thought was very significant last year and continues to be."
This is your friendly reminder that Iowa beat Illinois 63-0 last season. Though Ferentz did include this caveat regarding any resemblance to last year's team:
"I think one of the first points we made to our football team was this is a totally new Illinois football team. Anything that we may remember from the past or seen on film from the past really you can kind of discard at this point because they’re playing at a really different level right now. A lot of the same faces, but they’re playing at a much higher level right now."
Illinois is certainly improved over last season, and they've won four straight entering Saturday. Obviously, on the heels of a big win and with the annual shitkicking of Nebraska just days away, there is concern about overlooking the opponent. But Kirk was really laying it on thick Tuesday afternoon; they sound less like the '19 Illini and more like the '86 Bears at the moment.
I'm just going to post this in its entirety without comment, because it's really nice:
It’s always a bittersweet day for everybody involved, but 19 seniors will be out there on Saturday before the game being recognized with their families. It’s always a special thing. And, as always, I have such respect for the guys that run the entire race, that stay here and fight through the adversity they go through, whether it’s academically, injury-wise, all the things that are challenging about being a student-athlete at this level. It’s a really impressive group of guys, and the best thing about it, I’m not going to have to worry about them after they graduate and after they leave and they’re all in good shape right now academically, all doing a good job leading our football team. They’re a big part of the reason we’re having success, and just a lot of really good stories.
You think about a guy like Ryan Schmidt, who hasn’t played, but the work that he’s put in and what he does for us, a guy like Devonte Young, who came here and actually played as a true freshman, as a receiver, and some other guys moved by him and then he unselfishly moved over to the defense but really has carved out his niche. He is doing a great job on special teams. He’s one of our core special teams guys, and also does a great job on the look team for our defense, running routes. He’s been doing a great job of that all season long. He experienced some disappointment on the football field. Found another route to be successful and be a guy who contributes greatly to our football team’s success. You have respect for each and every one of the 19 guys, and it’ll be good to recognize them.
Indeed it will. Thanks, seniors.
One more thing: This is one of the few Ferentz pressers worth reading in its entirety. Most of the reporters are working on profiles of departing seniors, and so Kirk gets a chance to tell stories about breakfast in Moville, former walk-on Will Lack, and his kids. He's often infuriating and stubborn, but Kirk is a fantastic sap when he wants to be.
USELESS SOUND MONTAGE
- "I am just pleased any time anybody is recognized for an accomplishment."
- "Lovie is a tremendous football coach, tremendous human being, and a very accomplished coach."
- "I think I’m correct in saying Julius is still at one. Is that right? I should be asking you guys these questions. And I think that is at two maybe. So do the math on that one. But yeah, we’re watching it."
- "Quite a breakfast, as you might imagine."
- "There’s something inherently sick about football in general."