Oct. 7, 2004
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After last week’s homecoming win against Michigan State, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the bye week comes at the perfect time for his Hawkeyes. He reiterated that statement Wednesday in his bye-week press conference.
“I think the break comes at a good time,” the coach said. “We’ve been fortunate the last three years now. Last year, I don’t think we could have played a ballgame after the Michigan game because of our status at that point. It’s not quite as dramatic this year as far as the week-to-week stuff, but certainly with the amount of injuries right now, it gives us a chance to reshape the team a little bit.”
The top priority for Ferentz is solving the problem of several injuries at running back. Iowa’s lost three running backs in five games to anterior cruciate ligament injuries, and Marques Simmons, who wasn’t listed on the depth chart following the spring practice, is now the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 tailback.
Simmons had breakout games against Arizona State (7 carries for 51 yards) and Michigan State (13-48).
“I think he did a great job at Arizona State, and he did a nice job Saturday,” Ferentz said. “It’s not the way he wanted to get (to the No. 1 spot), it’s not the way any of us wanted him to get there, but the bottom line is that he’s doing a good job with his opportunity, and we’re going to really have to do it by committee.”
Ferentz is first to acknowledge the “committee” isn’t very big.
Besides Simmons, Ferentz has Sam Brownlee and true freshman Damian Sims. Sims, a 5-foot-9, 185-pounder from Boca Raton, FL, will have to take off his red shirt this year, according to Ferentz.
“We started that process a week ago,” Ferentz said. “We were kind of ahead of the game a little bit with that.”
Simmons, a 5-8, 202-pound Davenport, IA native, has 98 yards and two touchdowns this season. Brownlee – at 5-10, the tallest of the bunch – has 35 yards on 13 carries this year.
Ferentz said that Simmons “gained a lot of trust” with his team-leading performance against Arizona State, and that the junior transfer from Nebraska is on “the right track.”
“He’s an extremely energetic guy, an enthusiastic guy, and he works extremely hard and plays the same way,” the coach said. “He’s played at a really good tempo, and I’ve been really impressed with that.
“Probably the biggest thing he has to work on right now is just the overall awareness and overall comfort with our system. He hasn’t been around us that long,” Ferentz added.
Ferentz also said that Aaron Mickens and Champ Davis might see some time in the backfield.
“They’re not prototype tailbacks, but they can play running back,” he said. “We’ll play whoever we have available.”
Considering the injury drain at running back and the huge 340-yard passing game by Drew Tate against Michigan State, one might think there may be a change in philosophy for the long-running Hawkeye coaching staff. But Ferentz was quick to put down any thought of a strategic overhaul.
“Our goal is still to be balanced,” he said. “That being said, I don’t think we’re going to be accused of being hardheaded, at least in terms of the way we call or do things systematically. Our goal is to do what we do best, and that’s our job as coaches to try to determine that week to week and game to game.”
“Our goal is still to be balanced. That being said, I don’t think we’re going to be accused of being hardheaded, at least in terms of the way we call or do things systematically. Our goal is to do what we do best, and that’s our job as coaches to try to determine that week to week and game to game.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
Indeed, Ferentz finds it difficult to admit Iowa may not be running as much as it has in the past. But when prodded, the coach jokes: “We’re a passing and a running team, how about that? And sometimes we’re a kicking or a punting team.”
There’s no doubt where Ferentz would like to be.
“In a perfect world, I’d probably like to run a little more than we throw it, but we’re hardly in a perfect world right now, so we’re going to do what we can do and do what we do best hopefully,” he said. “We’re not going to vary from our philosophy, but we’re just going to do whatever we think we can do in a given week.”
On the heels of the announcement that No. 1 running back Jermelle Lewis will be out for the season, injuries continued to mount Wednesday as Ferentz announced two more players are done for the year: second-team defensive back Jonathan Zanders fractured his collar bone in a recent practice, and tight end Mike Follett, who’s been out with back pain, will need surgery and is also done for the season.
On defense, linebacker Mike Humpal and safety Sean Considine look ready to come back next week against Ohio State. Considine came out of his cast last weekend and has started rehabilitation.
“We won’t know more about them until next week,” Ferentz said, “but there’s a chance we can get both of those guys back, which would be very, very helpful.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com