Special Teams a 'Happy Topic' Heading into Opener

Aug. 30, 2011

Coach Ferentz Press Conference Transcript | Press Conference Photo Gallery

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team’s special teams’ play is in a “good place” for head coach Kirk Ferentz heading into Saturday’s season-opener against Tennessee Tech.

“That’s a happy topic right now,” said Ferentz at his weekly press conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “It’s been good… I don’t want to jinx us. All three placekickers are really doing a good job over the last couple weeks, pretty much all camp.

Eric Guthrie has done a good job, and Casey Kreiter has done well. If we can stay healthy, I think we’ll have sufficient core guys to play on special teams.”

Ferentz alluded to a group of six to nine true freshmen that could see action against the Golden Eagles. Among that group is a trio of running backs in Mika’il McCall, Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock.

“I think the most obvious would be the running back position, it’s probably where we’re the thinnest right now,” said Ferentz. “I think all three are capable of going out there.”

“I’m pretty sure he’s going to have some ups and downs like every player on our roster. At the end of the day, if experience tells you anything, I think he’ll perform just fine.”
Head coach Kirk Ferentz on quarterback James Vandenberg

Ferentz is eager to see how the team performs with a sold out crowd of 70,585 fans in attendance inside Kinnick Stadium. The players got a taste of the atmosphere on Kid’s Day, but it will be a completely different environment come Saturday.

“We had a little bit of a crowd here two-and-a-half weeks ago, but certainly it will be different Saturday for our guys,” said Ferentz. “We have a lot of guys that haven’t been out there. That’s going to be our next step, and hopefully, everybody takes a positive step forward.”

One of those new faces — James Vandenberg — officially takes over the reigns as Iowa’s starting quarterback. He will be the first native Iowan to start the season under center since Kyle McCann in 2001.

After watching and observing Vandenberg the past three seasons, Ferentz has complete confidence in the junior.

“Watching everything he does, whether it be practice, the way he comes in the building, the way he trains, just everything he does,” said Ferentz. “He has a way about him that really exudes confidence, and I think that’s why all of his teammates feel good about him.

“You’re never going to be 100 percent sure what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to have some ups and downs like every player on our roster. At the end of the day, if experience tells you anything, I think he’ll perform just fine.”

The Hawkeyes will face an experienced Tennessee Tech squad. The Golden Eagles, who are led by Watson Brown, the brother of Texas head coach Mack Brown, return 21 starters from a team that went 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference a season ago.

“They’re a veteran football team,” said Ferentz. “I don’t know if we’ve played a team that’s more veteran. They’re a team that’s really made strides. All the things you read out of their camp right now, they feel really good about their football team, and I think rightfully so.”

Ferentz announced defensive tackle Mike Daniels, wide receiver Marvin McNutt, Jr., linebacker Tyler Nielsen and quarterback James Vandenberg as the Iowa captains for the game. He ruled out defensive tackle Carl Davis, defensive back B.J. Lowery, offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan and linebacker Dakota Getz due to injury.

Saturday’s game will be televised to a national audience on BTN (HD) beginning at 11:01 a.m. Tom Werme, former Hawkeye Danan Hughes and Stacy Paetz will call the action.