Bowling & Growing

Jan. 1, 2015

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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.


FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — They trek to football practice each day of each week like thespians in a supporting role, knowing they will imitate an opponent rather than compete for their own Saturday snaps. It’s a rite of passage for young scout team players, and bowl season is their time to sparkle.

The growth former Hawkeyes like Adrian Clayborn, Mike Daniels and Brandon Myers made during bowl preparation is well known. They used that time to go from deep down the depth chart to elevating themselves in the eyes of coaches. All three are currently prospering in the National Football League.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for us to look at the younger players,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said of postseason practices. “It’s a chance for them to get coached in our system through the technique and fundamental periods. It’s an opportunity for guys to move forward.”

Hawkeye Team Leader Award winners this season are true freshmen defensive back Brandon Snyder and quarterback Tyler Wiegers. Snyder earned the honor — aka scout team player of the year — for defense and special teams, Wiegers for offense. But don’t look for the names Snyder and Wiegers on the TaxSlayer Bowl depth chart; their days are coming.

“You have to know your role. This year I’m redshirting so I’m doing all I can to get the guys ready for game day, that’s my job,” Snyder said. “Everybody has a role on the team and that’s mine this year.”

Snyder (6-foot-1, 190-pounds) is from Larchwood, Iowa, and West Lyon High High School. It is the same program that produced UI linebackers coach LeVar Woods. Wiegers (6-4, 215) is from Lake Orion, Michigan, and Detroit Country Day School.

This week in practice, Wiegers donned a No. 11 jersey and morphed into Joshua Dobbs, a dual-threat quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers. Snyder became No. 33 LaDarrell McNeil, a defensive back with 69 tackles and an interception.

“There have to be guys come in and take their place. That is such a big part of why Iowa is successful year after year, because we stress that developmental so much.”
Brandon Snyder
UI freshman DB

But before the Hawkeye understudies converted into scout team players in Florida, they had weeks of practice with their position coaches, while continuing to learn the Iowa offensive and defensive systems.

“You get a lot of work with your own coaches and your own offense instead of the scout team,” Wiegers said. “It’s a good time to work on your skills and hone them so you can get ready to move forward to spring ball.”

A year ago, eight players received Team Leader Awards, including linebackers Bo Bower and Josey Jewell, who are listed as starters for Friday’s TaxSlayer Bowl. One of the offensive award winners was running back Akrum Wadley, who rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown during a 48-7 win against Northwestern on Nov. 1. That effort earned him Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week.

(To read a feature on the development of Bower and Jewell in one year, click HERE.)

Snyder cites strength and conditioning as his greatest area of growth during his first season of college.

“Coach (Chris) Doyle and his staff have pushed us freshmen a long way,” Snyder said. “My numbers have shot up. I had a good program in high school, but it doesn’t compare to this — it is a whole new environment. You come into the weight room and you have to be ready to go because they are going to push you. Physically, I have gotten a lot stronger and faster.”

Wiegers appreciates the instruction he has received.

“I have benefited from taking coaching from (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Greg) Davis,” Wiegers said. “I have been able to improve my rhythm and timing, and discipline with my eyes.

“You have to give your all every time out, trying to improve. Even if you’re on the scout team you can still get used to the speed of the game and improve your technique. There is always something you can improve and keep building toward.”

Iowa (7-5 overall) faces Tennessee (6-6) in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Friday with kickoff at 2:20 p.m. (CT). It is the final game for 16 outstanding Hawkeye seniors…but their substitutes are inching closer to accepting lead roles.

“There have to be guys come in and take their place,” Snyder said. “That is such a big part of why Iowa is successful year after year, because we stress that developmental so much.”

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