Aug. 7, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the nationally ranked University of Iowa football team, the song remains relatively the same. Only now, with media day officially kicking off the 2009 season Friday afternoon, there is more sense of reality — a reality that the season-opener is 29 days away.
“Certainly we’re eager to get started,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said during a press conference inside the Paul W. Brechler press box at Kinnick Stadium. “It was good to get out on the field this morning. We got one under our belts.”
The consistent themes were re-spoken Friday by Ferentz, who begins his 11th season as the head Hawkeye. The first game will be against intrastate rival Northern Iowa on Sept. 5.
“I think the key for our football team is improvement,” Ferentz said. “This is an opportunity for us to grow a little bit. As I mentioned in Chicago a week ago (at the Big Ten media days), we need to have great stories. If you look at us traditionally, that’s been the deal.”
Last season’s success stories are now sweating in NFL camps — running back Shonn Greene, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, center Rob Bruggeman. Ferentz alluded to two other success stories that are still with the Hawkeyes — linebacker Pat Angerer and quarterback Ricky Stanzi. At this time last season, both Angerer and Stanzi were listed No. 2 on the depth chart. Angerer went on to lead the team with 107 tackles and Stanzi completed 59.1 percent of his passes for 1,956 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 9-4 season culminated by a 31-10 victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. It was the fifth January bowl game for Iowa since the 2002 season.
Ferentz referred to Iowa’s difficult road schedule that includes games at Iowa State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. He was also cautious when talking about Iowa’s first four games.
“If you just look at the September portion of our schedule, enough said right there. We’ve got four teams that are going to be certainly ready to play us. We’re going to have to be ready to go right from the start. That’s the work that’s ahead right now.”
UI head football coach
“If you just look at the September portion of our schedule, enough said right there,” Ferentz said about games against Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Arizona and Penn State. “We’ve got four teams that are going to be certainly ready to play us. We’re going to have to be ready to go right from the start. That’s the work that’s ahead right now.”
Earlier in the day, the Hawkeyes discovered they were ranked No. 21 in the nation by USA Today. Ferentz, never one to focus on preseason prognostications, is not concerned about being ranked in August.
“Unless you’re talking about eight or 10 teams in the country that will probably still be (ranked) 10 years from now, I don’t think it really matters too much,” he said. “If we let it affect us, it will affect us. But really it doesn’t matter until we get to January. When you get into November, rankings are significant. You have something tangible to base them on instead of projections. I’ll start paying attention in November. I just hope we are there then. I’d rather be there in January.”
Being a top-tier, rated team and winning on the road go hand-in-hand. That combination makes Iowa’s 2009 slate even more intriguing.
“If you’re going to be a good team, you’re going to have to handle the road,” Ferentz said. “We know every one of those environments will be tough. You factor in two night games on top of it, makes the difficulty a little bit more — the incline is a little higher. We’re just going to have to be ready for it. It gets down to details and really having a great focus.”
Ferentz addressed three Hawkeye `equations’ that will be watched closely in preseason camp: running back, offensive line and defensive tackles.
“Just curious to see how it unravels,” Ferentz said. “We feel good about all those positions, but seeing is believing, so we’ve got to be able to see it out there.”
Iowa will have its second practice of the preseason — in shorts and helmets — Saturday afternoon.