Sept. 1, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — New and improved describes the University of Iowa football team as it heads into the season opener Saturday against Illinois State.
“We’re going to have new players playing in a lot of positions,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at a news conference in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. “Certainly the tackle positions are a focal point, but they are guys that have been here a while. They’re guys that we’ve watched grow and develop. They’ll have ups and downs, but I’m confident over time they’ll be quality players for us.”
The Hawkeyes also have experience returning in the form of 38 letterwinners and 14 starters.
“Our veteran players have done a good job,” Ferentz said. “They’ve improved out there and developed good leadership.”
Iowa is undefeated in 12 games against FCS competition and has won 13-of-16 season-openers under Ferentz. The Hawkeyes will be tested against an Illinois State team that went 13-2 a year ago, losing by two points to North Dakota State in the FCS championship game. The Redbirds return quarterback Tre Roberson (3,221 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, 1,029 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns) and running back Marshaun Coprich (2,274 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns).
Roberson, a transfer from Indiana, has played in Kinnick Stadium before. In 2011 he completed 16-of-24 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball 16 times for 84 yards.
“They’re going to be a big challenge for us,” Ferentz said.
What little tar that landed on the Redbird feathers last season usually happened away from home. They lost by 14 at Northern Iowa and won by just two at Indiana State, three at Western Illinois, and three at New Hampshire.
“Things have been pretty good as far as people being on task, focusing on what they need to focus on, putting the right energy in. We’ve got a couple workouts this camp that were OK, but typically you have a couple that are like `Oh my gosh, that was just terrible’. We haven’t had those, we haven’t stubbed our toe.”
UI football coach
But this is a new year. Every college football program is eager to get a fresh season kicked off, but that is especially true in Iowa City.
“Nobody was happy with the way things finished (in 2014),” Ferentz said. “Our last two ballgames were hardly representative of the way we want to play football.”
On Nov. 28, the Hawkeyes led Nebraska, 24-7, in the third quarter, but lost by three in overtime. On Jan. 2 in the TaxSlayer Bowl, Tennessee raced to a 42-7 lead and won, 45-28.
Soon after the bowl loss, the UI coaches huddled. And huddled. And huddled. Results of those meetings included the implementation of morning practices and “picking up the pace” on the recruiting trail.
“You’re always looking to get better and always looking for better ways to do things,” Ferentz said.
“Those are the only two we’ve made a decision on,” Ferentz said. “We’ve got a handful of other guys, but we’ll wait to see what happens in terms of their development and how things materialize.”
Since the end of 2014 until now, the Hawkeyes have taken a step-by-step approach according to Ferentz. So far, so good.
“Things have been pretty good as far as people being on task, focusing on what they need to focus on, putting the right energy in,” he said. “We’ve got a couple workouts this camp that were OK, but typically you have a couple that are like ‘Oh my gosh, that was just terrible’. We haven’t had those, we haven’t stubbed our toe.”
Iowa and Illinois State battle Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT) inside Kinnick Stadium.