April 16, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kirk Ferentz met the media for the final time Wednesday prior to the Coca-Cola Iowa Football Spring Game which will be held Saturday, April 19, at 1 p.m. inside Kinnick Stadium. The University of Iowa head football coach discussed his expectations of the `controlled scrimmage’ amd also provided names of several individuals who have impressed coaches during spring drills.
“I’m hoping for good efforts and good, clean execution (on Saturday),” Ferentz said. “All that being said, it gets a little bit Spy vs. Spy at times. The guys get used to seeing some things. We’re hoping for a good, spirited workout and hopefully we’ll come out injury free and feeling a little bit better about the progress we’re making.”
Although admission is free to the scrimmage, Hawkeye fans are encouraged to bring a canned food item that will benefit the local food bank. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
“We’re looking forward to Saturday,” Ferentz said. “We hope to have a nice crowd and if people would bring canned goods, we’d really appreciate that. It’s a good chance for people to come out and see the team and spend a couple hours in a good environment.”
There will be plenty of opportunities for Hawkeye fans to secure souvenirs before the scrimmage. The football equipment room will have a sale from 8-9:30 a.m. on the east side of the lower Recreation Building (cash only). The Hawk Shop will also hold its annual clearance sale beginning at 8 a.m. at the southeast corner of Kinnick Stadium (Gate M). 2008 football posters will be given away free while supplies last and 2008 Iowa football spring guides are available for purchase for $5.
The names Kyle Haganman and Paki O’Meara haven’t rolled off the tongues of Hawkeye fans in the past. But it might be wise to brush up on their pronunciations. Haganman and O’Meara are two of the many players Ferentz pointed out as being impressive during the spring. Haganman is a sophomore from Osage, Iowa and O’Meara is a sophomore from Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Washington.
“One of the surprises has been Kyle Haganman,” Ferentz said. “He’s been doing a really nice job all spring long. He’s been a pleasant surprise and down the road we can see him working into things.”
O’Meara is listed No. 1 on the depth chart at running back for the spring game. Ferentz was asked if the Hawkeyes could begin the season with O’Meara as the top running threat.
“Things are going well. There are a lot of what-ifs because of guys who aren’t practicing, but it’s been a good period so far. It’s real important that we close out this week and do a good job. It’s not a week off. The workouts will be a little bit shorter, but we want the tempo to be a little bit better.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
“If we have to, we could,” Ferentz said. “That would be fine. Paki has done a real nice job out there. He’s practiced hard and improved. He’s a real good football player who did a nice job on special teams last year.”
Probably a more accurate description of the Iowa offensive backfield next fall will be — in the words of Ferentz — “a committee effort.” Other candidates at running back are junior college transfer Nate Guillory, Jayme Murphy (who will sit out the remainder of spring drills because of back problems), Shonn Greene or incoming freshmen Jeff Brinson and Jewel Hampton. Ferentz is not hesitant about using a rookie at running back.
“It’s one of the positions where true freshmen can do it,” Ferentz said. “There are a lot of examples if you look through college football. That’s one of the good things. Part of it is running the ball, the other part is pass protection.”
Injuries that have limited practice time for Seth Olsen, Rafael Eubanks, Brandon Myers, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Jordan Bernstine, Bryan Bulaga, Dace Richardson and Tony Moeaki is a situation Ferentz termed the “biggest damper” on the spring. But the positives have out-weighed any drawbacks.
“Things are going well,” Ferentz said. “There are a lot of what-ifs because of guys who aren’t practicing, but it’s been a good period so far. It’s real important that we close out this week and do a good job. It’s not a week off. The workouts will be a little bit shorter, but we want the tempo to be a little bit better.”
Injuries have been most noticeable on the offensive line — an area that could be one of Iowa’s most improved positions in 2008. Starting the scrimmage on Saturday will be Andy Kuempel, Julian Vandervelde, Rob Bruggeman, Dan Doering and Kyle Calloway.
“We’re watching them progress,” Ferentz said. “It’s been tough because 60 percent of the starting lineup has been out. There’s not a guy out there who hasn’t improved. It’s tough to say who’s going to be where…I don’t think we’ll know that until August.”
Ferentz said the attitude of the team has been good and the players have practiced well. The Iowa staff uses the 15 spring practices to evaluate individuals and groups and Ferentz said he is seeing growth and progress. Some of the younger players performing well are cornerback Bradley Fletcher, free safety Brett Greenwood and tight end Allen Reisner. Ferentz said two older players making an impact are defensive tackle Anton Narinskiy and tight end Michael Sabers. Andy Brodell, Trey Stross and Bruggeman are “officially back” from injuries and doing well.
Ferentz said that quarterbacks Jake Christensen, Marvin McNutt and Ricky Stanzi are “all making progress” and that the staff will keep an open mind about anointing a starter through August. Christensen is listed as Saturday’s starter.
“Right now he’s our starter,” Ferentz said. “Clearly he has an experience advantage. I think he’s practicing better. We’re making progress (at quarterback).”
The only position change this spring has been with sophomore Nick Kuchel, who is moving from free safety to receiver.
The leadership and work ethic of senior defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul was hailed once again. The defensive front is an area of Hawkeye optimism — something that could soon be said of the offensive front.
“We’re hopeful that by September both of our lines can play at a pretty high level,” Ferentz said. “I think we have the potential to do it on both sides.”
Last season Iowa was 6-6 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten Conference and became bowl eligible for a seventh consecutive season. The Hawkeyes won four of their final five conference games and enter 2008 with a three-game league winning streak (Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota). The season-opener is Saturday, Aug. 30, at home against Maine.
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