Camp Central: BTN says Iowa will be a 'promising surprise'

Aug. 7, 2008

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Practice photos from Thursday, Aug. 7

IOWA CITY, Iowa — With a new season comes new hope.

Those words, spoken by Big Ten Network analyst Dave Revsine, opened Thursday’s 90-minute special featuring the University of Iowa football team in a segment titled: Big Ten Tonight: Football Practice.

The Hawkeyes finished 6-6 overall last season, 4-4 in the Big Ten Conference. Like most programs in the preseason, there is plenty of optimism around Iowa City.

“The majority of this team is returning and there’s plenty to talk about,” Revsine said.

“This team has to get back to Iowa football,” BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo said. “There is much more depth at wide receiver and at the offensive line positions. I predict Iowa will be one of the promising surprising teams this fall.”

Howard Griffith, a third BTN analyst, said the Hawkeyes need to start to come together in preseason camp and work on continuity.

“There were so many holes, so many injuries and so many questions (a year ago),” Griffith said. “Now the kids are hungry and they want to get back to Iowa football.”

The inside scoop, compliments of the BTN, came on the fourth day of fall practice for Iowa. The team was not in full pads, but rather helmet and shoulder pads. There was no tackling.

“It looks like an NFL practice,” said DiNardo, who also called UI defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski “truly one of the rising stars in the business.”

So what were some of the observations from the BTN? DiNardo said the Hawkeyes have good team speed and fresh legs, but the most important position for the Hawkeyes is at running back. He mentioned newcomers Shonn Greene and Jeff Brinson and raved about Jewel Hampton.

Griffith likes what he sees from former walk-on Paki O’Meara.

“I like his footwork and his quickness in the hole,” Griffith said. “This guy is producing. It’s going to be very difficult to get him out of the lineup.”

Griffith was also impressed with the UI defensive line play.

Mitch King and Matt Kroul really dominate inside,” Griffith said. “I love these two guys. These guys are playing hard and they play quick.”

Defensive coordinator Norm Parker and offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe had their moments with a microphone on the set.

“We’re better now than we were in the spring,” Parker said. “We need to identify the guys who are going to play. When freshmen go home and they come back as sophomores, they’re better. They’ve got a different confidence and they’re smarter.”

Parker said the key to the success of the defense will be getting the opposing offense off the field on third down.

“There’s nothing like experience,” said O’Keefe, referring to the Hawkeye offensive line. “There has been a lot of good teaching going on. We’re paying attention to the details we need to be paying attention to right now.”

When asked about incumbent quarterback Jake Christensen, O’Keefe glowed about Christensen’s impressive off-season.

“He’s done a great job being a leader in the weight room and in drills in the off-season,” O’Keefe said. “He’s pushing as hard as he can to push himself and make us a better football team.”

“We’re a little bit more mature. We had three good practices and we’re getting more confident and more mature. That experience we have coming back goes a long way. We have a good nucleus and the younger guys are getting on their hips.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz

“There are a lot of things for me to work on,” Christensen said. “Accuracy, reads.”

DiNardo said he thinks the Hawkeyes will be `really good’ on the perimeter, especially since the receiving corps is healthy — something that was not the case a year ago.

Kroul, a senior four-year starter at defensive tackle, called the 2006 season a `low point’ for the Hawkeyes, but things are looking brighter in Iowa City these days.

“We’re working and improving every day,” Kroul said. “We’re still a young team, but we have more experience as a whole.”

King said he is more relaxed this preseason because he knows how to approach all aspects of the game.

“I want to lead by example and play every game,” King said. “I want to focus and keep everything clean.”

The Big Ten Network also described an off-season that saw the Hawkeye players and coaches assist with tornado and flood relief around the state. The worst brought out the best in the citizens of Iowa, Revsine said.

“It was a great learning experience for all of us,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Iowans are strong.”

Gary Barta, UI athletics director, was asked for his prediction on the upcoming football season.

“I’ve been at places where 6-6 is an aspiration,” Barta said. “I feel really good. The defense looks sharp. I’m optimistic. I’m confident this is going to be a great year on the field and off.”

The No. 1 goal for Ferentz is trying to keep the team healthy. He also said preseason camp has a way of revealing `a lot of things’ and the Hawkeyes have to continue to develop.

“We have an opportunity to improve rapidly,” Ferentz said. “We have to make these next three weeks count. Now it’s a matter of how things develop over the next couple weeks.”

According the Ferentz, the Hawkeyes have continued to grow during the months between spring practices and the fall preseason.

“We’re a little bit more mature,” he said. “We had three good practices and we’re getting more confident and more mature. That experience we have coming back goes a long way. We have a good nucleus and the younger guys are getting on their hips.”

Iowa completed its fourth day of practice this afternoon.

To view 22 photos available on, click HERE .