April 11, 2007
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IOWA CITY — Lost in the shuffle…and liking every minute of it.
That was one of the many messages University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz shared with the media that assembled Wednesday for the final media briefing prior to Saturday’s open-to-the-public spring practice.
Ferentz said the Hawkeyes’ spring workouts have been lost in the excitement of the hiring of Todd Lickliter as the UI’s new head men’s basketball coach and the heroics of 2007 Masters champion, Iowa City native Zach Johnson.
“We’ve kind of fell under the radar and that’s absolutely fantastic,” he said flatly.
Iowa’s head football coach said he’s had a pair of opportunities to visit with Lickliter, who Ferentz said was a “great selection for our school and our (men’s basketball) program.”
Ferentz – a non-golfer – said he found himself “captivated” by Johnson’s run to the green jacket last Sunday afternoon.
“Everybody in our state is very proud of him,” Ferentz said of Johnson, a big fan of the Hawkeyes who spoke to the UI football team prior to its home game against Michigan in 2005.
“Zach and Nate (Kaeding, Iowa’s former all-American placekicker who now plays for the San Diego Chargers) could be brothers,” he added. “They both have that quiet confidence about them and, certainly, a great deal of mental toughness.”
When the talk finally turned to football, Ferentz was quintessential Ferentz: He said that it’s been a “pretty good couple three weeks” and that “progress is being made across the board” and that the staff has enjoyed the opportunity to get an “extended look at the younger players.”
“There’s still plenty of work to do. We have three practices left including Saturday and it’s important for us to finish strong so that we can move into the next phase with positive momentum,” he said.
Ferentz said the depth chart is best “written in pencil” at this time of the year and that there “lots of positions are filled with good competition.”
Injuries haven’t been too much of an issue, although Tom Busch and Karl Klug have missed the entire session because of surgeries that went well. Others – Alex Kanellis, for example – have missed a day or two.
“In the case of Alex, it’s difficult to see that because he’s moving to a different position and needs every opportunity he can get. He’s making a pretty smooth transition all things considered,” Ferentz said.
Quarterback? Jake Christensen is at the top of the chart and the staff also likes what they’ve seen of backups Arvell Nelson and Richard Stanzi.
“It’s intriguing. Both of the freshmen are doing an outstanding job,” Ferentz noted.
Ferentz said poor weather has forced the team inside “The Bubble” more than he’d prefer and that has affected the staff’s opportunity to make a real solid assessment of the Hawkeyes’ kicking game.
“It’s clear that we have guys that are capable,” Ferentz said of the Hawkeyes’ lining up to replace graduated placekicker Kyle Schlicher and graduated punter Andy Fenstermaker. “However, what’s not known is consistency.”
Ferentz said he’s delighted to once again have the opportunity to be inside historic Kinnick Stadium in the spring. Iowa has not had an open-to-the-public spring event for the past two years because of the $89 million renovation to the facility that was completed last August. But, fans of the Hawkeyes shouldn’t expect a spring game anytime soon.
“I’m much more inclined to have another teaching session. I know there’s an upside somewhere in playing a game, but I’m not 100 percent certain what it is,” he said.
Gates to Kinnick open at 11:30 a.m. Saturday with the team’s practice session beginning promptly at 1 p.m. Fans are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item with them for donation to the Johnson County Crisis Center.
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