Youth: It Makes Ferentz's Heart Jump

Sept. 19, 2009

Editor’s Note The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Official Sports Report, an e-newsletter delivered daily to friends of the UI and fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes. To subscribe to this free service, click HERE.

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Youth. Football coaches have typically run from it because youth usually meant inexperience and inexperience isn’t something that routinely helps you win college football games.

However, if today’s ever-changing world has taught us anything, it’s taught us that change is, in fact, happening everywhere around us — including the college football gridiron. Simply put, more and more student-athletes short on college game experience but long on talent are seeing the playing field and making an impact when they do.

The two-deep released Monday by the University of Iowa media relations office in advance of Saturday’s “Blackout” game against Arizona at historic Kinnick Stadium — a game that will start shortly after 2:30 p.m. Iowa time and will be televised live to the nation by the combination of ABC and ESPN2 — provided evidence of this reality. No fewer than 20 sophomores, red-shirt freshmen and true freshmen were listed. In fact, the two guys who are likely to do the heavy lifting this week in the running back position are a red-shirt freshman – Adam Robinson – and a rookie – Brandon Wegher.

Kirk Ferentz admitted last Saturday that he’s been slow to pull the trigger on less experienced guys, particularly those who carry the pigskin.

“I don’t mind telling you I’m a little nervous putting a first-year guy out there at running back,” Ferentz said, after Wegher became the first Hawkeye in 2009 to do what Shonn Greene did every game last year: Run for 100 yards.

“Sometimes I need to get over things,” Iowa’s head coach added.

And, let the record show, he has. Ferentz and the UI coaching staff lifted red shirts off seven true freshmen a year ago and did the same in 2003 and 2000.

Wegher’s performance in Iowa’s second straight victory over an intrastate rival would bring a smile to just about any college football head coach. The Sioux City native gained 101 yards on 15 carries, scored once and made a spectacular one-handed catch for a 12-yard gain. Wegher’s 100-yard day marked the second year in a row that a true freshman surpassed the century mark for the Hawkeyes. Jewel Hampton had 114 yards in the Hawkeyes’ victory last season at Indiana.

Robinson was also productive. The Des Moines native gained 69 yards on 12 carries in his first start in an Iowa uniform.

“We plan on the same rotation to start,” Ferentz said Tuesday of the Robinson-Wegher tandem and playing time Saturday at Kinnick.

“I don’t mind telling you I’m a little nervous putting a first-year guy out there at running back. Sometimes I need to get over things.
Kirk Ferentz

“Neither one have much game experience, obviously. I think they both have handled what we’ve asked them to do in a pretty good fashion. But that being said, they both have a long way to go certainly because they’re first year guys.

“But they’ve performed well so far. We’re hoping to see them improve,” Ferentz continued. “That’s a good thing about young players, too. They tend to improve a little bit more dramatically than older guys maybe. They also tend to have a miscue or two along the way. We’ll have to be prepared for that.”

Not to be outdone, rookie wide receiver Keenan Davis caught a pair of passes for 21 yards and scored a touchdown, Iowa’s fifth and final score in the 35-3 rout of the Cyclones.

And, for the record, that group of young guys includes Tyler Sash, the Big Ten’s reigning defensive player of the week. Sash, a sophomore, has seen action in all of Iowa’s last 15 games.<>