Holding Back the Years
It's not very often my Twitter trolling pays off, but earlier this week Sports on Earth's Matt Brown was republishing his college football preview from 2002 (when he was still in high school; I feel older every day) and, while it successfully picked Louisville over Florida State, it was lacking in material on the eventual No. 3 team in the country:
Not seeing much Brad Banks in here, youngster. https://t.co/rLUh8crvgj
— Vladimir Pattin' (@PV_GIA) June 25, 2017
A few days later, Matt dives deep into the Kirk Ferentz regime in today's SOE, and I'm going to go ahead and take undeserved credit:
The frequent low-scoring games, the enthusiasm for punting, the forgettable seven- and eight-win seasons … they all make it easy to poke fun at the never-ending Ferentz era at Iowa, which is often the poster child for stereotypes of old-school Big Ten football. His longevity is almost unheard of in modern college football -- TCU's Gary Patterson is the only other FBS coach who started his current tenure before 2005 -- and yet, because of the long-term contracts that have gone beyond what is necessary, Ferentz's extended stay and high salary have become a punch line.
But it has also obscured the fact that Ferentz's high points are underappreciated, lost in the jokes about another punt inside the opponent's 40 and a career that seems to exist outside of modern hot-seat norms.
There's plenty of angst, sure, but the Hawkeyes have never seemed to have the outsized, unreasonable expectations that plague so many other Power Five schools. Iowa is comfortable in its own skin, recognizing that competing for championships on an annual basis is not going to happen, given the isolated recruiting territory the university occupies. There is a ceiling that is not going to be broken everyseason, and Iowa does its best to maintain a decently high floor through an identity that revolves around developing offensive lines -- a good strategy for a Midwestern team -- trying to win the line of scrimmage and uncovering and developing overlooked recruits. Fourteen decent bowls in the past 16 seasons is an impressive accomplishment. Iowa never falls to the bottom of the bowl pecking order, typically occupying the Outback/Alamo Bowl tier with occasional leaps to major games, and such stability isn't easy for a team that has significant recruiting hurdles to overcome.
The best hope is for the Hawkeyes to consistently make the postseason and have every recruiting class make a memorable run at some point during their college career. That's mostly what has happened under Ferentz.
The prevailing pecking order of Iowa coaches among the program's longtime fans goes something like Hayden Fry and Forest Evashevski in the top two spots, with Ferentz a close third, but as Matt points out, Iowa has routinely reached highs -- at least nationally -- under Ferentz that it never did under Fry. Five Ferentz teams have finished higher in the AP poll than any Fry team did. During his tenure, Iowa has been more successful by nearly any measure than historically-great programs like Nebraska and Tennessee.
There are few who have published more angst about Kirk Ferentz than me, but as we enter season 19, it's worth remembering that this could have gone much, much worse.
Bring It Back
Let's look at that old Phil Steele standby: Returning "experience" as measured in seniors and returning yards. As Football Scoop details, it's an effective measure of improvement and decline, if not necessarily overall success. And it's pretty much all good news for Iowa:
Iowa is ninth nationally, and first in the Big Ten, in returning offensive line starts. That's not a surprise, given that the entire line returns, many of them for a third year as a starter. It's also annually cited as one of Steele's favorite predictors.
Seventy-five percent of Iowa's total tackles from 2016 are returning, good for 22nd nationally and first in the Big Ten West. Again, three returning linebackers make this fairly obvious.
Iowa is 48th in overall experience in the two-deep, not great but certainly better than Michigan (DFL).
And among the six least experienced teams this year? Iowa opponents Michigan State, Nebraska and Illinois.
There are some causes for concern, of course: Iowa is 121st, second-worst in the Big Ten, in returning yards, measured by the total rushing, passing and receiving yards per team. Again, this is not a surprise, as Akrum Wadley (and four games of Matt VandeBerg) is pretty much all that returns. However, the measure is also a bit flawed, in that it double-counts passing yards by including both the quarterback and receiver. Phil has his methods, but I'm not as concerned by this statistic.
We'll dive into the football season over the next couple of months, but as a preview: Kirk Ferentz teams beat expectations when they have (1) experienced offensive line play, (2) experience in the defensive front seven, particularly at middle linebacker and defensive end, and (3) a good kicker. Iowa has two of those things, and the kicker hasn't been poor, and all of that is before you get to Akrum Wadley and some serious talent in the defensive backfield.
Iowa RB Akrum Wadley leads all returning Power 5 RBs with his 2.48 yards per route run last season.
Could he even improve that in 2017? pic.twitter.com/9qOgfj1ugu
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) June 27, 2017
I know that, on paper, this is supposed to be a rebuilding year behind a new quarterback with no receivers, but expectations around six wins seem far too diminished at the moment.
And These Children That You Spit On As They Try to Change Their Worlds
We all know the story of Jarrod Uthoff's transfer from Wisconsin, in which Grandpa Munster tried to block an unhappy player from going to basically every program in the country. Uthoff isn't the only one, of course: Just this offseason, Bill Snyder blocked transferring receiver Cory Sutton from all 35 schools he listed as potential destinations, sparking mild outcry.
Those days could be coming to an end, if a proposed NCAA rule change goes forward:
The Division I Council Transfer Working Group met in Indianapolis Sunday and Monday and came away seeking input from the rest of Division I membership on recommendations that could significantly revamp the transfer process.
Headlining the list of suggestions would be to no longer require athletes to seek permission from their current schools to contact with prospective new schools in order to keep their scholarships intact. Presently, schools can prevent transferring players from receiving financial aid at new destinations if the school does not approve of that new destination.
The idea that a program can prevent a player from freely transferring to any school he wishes so long as he follows the NCAA transfer rules has long since run its course. It's an effective non-compete clause written into what is supposed to be a non-employment agreement, and it runs contrary to every stated NCAA purpose in favor of the "student-athlete."
But that's not all! Graduate transfers are getting scrutinized, as well:
To curb the free agency-level culture of graduate transfers, the Working Group also suggested counting graduate transfers toward the 85-man limit for two years instead of one, and/or tinkering with the APR formula to incentivize graduate transfers to make progress toward an actual graduate degree while on scholarship at their new school.
Again, a change in the graduate transfer rule -- which was supposed to serve athletes by allowing them to pursue a graduate degree at another school when their original university didn't offer the program in question -- is long overdue. Frequently, players attend classes for as long as is needed to get through their eligibility; the rate of graduation is low, and yet there is little effect on the institution. And while the rule change is being offered for football, there is one particular place with really good tap water that could see a significant shift in its basketball strategy if this comes to pass.
Which gets us to the ultimate point: These are simply proposed, and like all proposed changes, they will be resisted by those who stand to lose from them. Given that these particular proposals reduce the university's control over its players and make it more difficult to exploit a strategy for athletic gains, that resistance is bound to be significant. Stay tuned.
Odds & Ends
No matter who is coaching the team, Minnesota is going to copy Iowa recruiting until the end of time:
Minnesota hadn't said anything to me until after I got the Iowa offer, Moore said. Now they're talking to me. https://t.co/3WYRJcQPse
— Hawks101 (@Hawks101101) June 27, 2017
Incoming Hawkeye offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs was the Des Moines Register Athlete of the Year. Connor McCaffery, his only real competition and a future Hawkeye baseball and basketball player, was the DMR's boys' basketball player of the year.
Also good at basketball and baseball: Jarrod Uthoff, apparently.
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) June 23, 2017
Amanda Hancock at the QC Times catches up with Pat Angerer and Brett Greenwood two years after they last walked out of the Kinnick Stadium tunnel. Brett's still getting better. Pat's still there. And it reminded me of the Gregg Doyel piece from that day in Kinnick, which you should probably bookmark for days when you're not feeling motivated..
Every article from every source on 49ers camp indicates that George Kittle is awesome. "I think George gives us something we don’t have in a playmaker down near the red zone, where you’ve got a one-on-one matchup."
It was a slow year in Kinnick Stadium arrests, according to Eleven Warriors' annual study of Big Ten stadium...activities. Vodka Samm graduated. Expect better with more experience this season.