5 Takeaways from Iowa Football Media Day

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Five takeaways from University of Iowa football media day Aug. 9:
Sweet Feet Group
Redshirt freshmen Tyrone Tracy, Jr., and Nico Ragaini are in exclusive company in the Iowa wide receivers room.
“We have a little group called Sweet Feet,” explained Tracy, Jr. “It’s when you do something in practice with your feet that has the crowd oohing and ahhing. Right now (the club) is just me and Nico, but we’ll see who can join us.”
The premise behind the Sweet Feet Group is yards after catch. Both Tracy, Jr., and Ragaini were prolific high school playmakers in Indiana and Connecticut to the tune of nearly 6,000 career receiving yards.
“Tyrone and I think we have the sweetest feet on the team,” said Ragaini. “We try to make moves, that’s our thing in our sweet feet group.”
The duo remains on the lookout for additional members.
“Say Brandon Smith does something nice with his feet in practice, we’re like ‘Those are sweet feet right there,'” said Tracy, Jr. “Even the young players know we’re trying to do something after the catch, so we’re not catching the ball and going down or going out of bounds. We’re trying to get yards after the catch.
“I feel that is our biggest strength. We have me, Ihmir (Smith-Marsette), Nico, B-Smith (Brandon Smith), and Max Cooper. We all that that little thing about us that got us here, which is yards after the catch.”
As of now, two of them have been blessed with sweet feet.
Will Western Literature Influence the Big Ten West Division?
It’s not often when there is a Don Quixote reference at a media day news conference, but University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, a former high school English teacher, came through with just that Friday.
As the fictional story goes, Quixote, a delusional dreamer, attacks windmills that he thinks are giants while carrying a lance on horseback.  
Ferentz referred to Quixote when asked if he built an offseason case to address rules about cut-blocking.
“I’ll never surrender, but I’ve lost interest in terms of pursuing it,” Ferentz said. “Was it Don Quixote who kept running into the windmills? I don’t want to be accused of being that guy; I’m Hungarian and I think (Quixote) was from Spain.”
A New Wrinkle to The Wave
In mid-July, a video of Iowa defensive lineman Dalles Jacobus went viral in a good way. Jacobus, a Hawkeye junior who participated in chamber and show choirs at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kennedy High School, put words to a song titled “We Wave.” The song recognizes and honors children who watch Hawkeye home games from the 12th floor of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
“I didn’t plan on writing the song about the Wave,” Jacobus said. “I was on a fishing trip on a boat in Northern Minnesota with my buddy and the chorus popped into my head. I thought that could be something.”
Jacobus was unaware he was being recorded when he sang the song at a gathering. From there, the video’s popularity took off.
“I was getting a bunch of messages from parents and family members of people who have been in the hospital, as well as people who were touched by the song,” Jacobus said.
Jacobus joked that he still can’t read music and his singing career will have to wait a few years.
“Right now I am chasing my dream of playing football, but when this dream is over, I would more than happily do music,” he said.
No News on Wide Receiver Oliver Martin
Iowa City native Oliver Martin transferred to the University of Iowa in the offseason, but there is no word on the status of the wide receiver for the 2019 season.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Martin caught 11 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown last season for Michigan. His most productive game came at Rutgers where he caught three passes for 38 yards and a touchdown and carried the ball once for 11 yards.
We’ll wait patiently and see where it goes,” Ferentz said. “Oliver doesn’t have any information, I have no information, so right now we’ll wait and see how it all goes.”
Building Trust & Depth on the Defensive Line
There are A.J. Epenesa, Chauncey Gholston, Cedrick Lattimore, and Brady Reiff on Iowa’s defensive line, but behind them, defensive line coach Kelvin Bell is looking to build depth.
“You know about A.J. and Chauncey, but (behind them at defensive end) it’s a scramble with names like Zach VanValkenburg, Joe Evans, Amani Jones, and John Waggoner. Those are guys that are in the mix, but you have to earn the reps.”
VanValkenburg is a transfer from Hillsdale College, where he was the Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.  Evans is a walk-on from Ames, Iowa, Jones is a converted linebacker, and Waggoner is a redshirt freshman.
“They are getting better daily,” said Bell. “That’s what we talk about, reps are earned. We have been 8-9 deep because we have had 8-9 guys that we trust to put on the field. I am not going to put you out there just because you’re here and dressed.”
There is intrigue on the defensive line with sophomore Daviyon Nixon, but Bell cautions that the Iowa Western transfer hasn’t played a meaningful down since Dec. 2017 in the Reivers’ bowl game.
“He’s shaking off rust, but he’s a good one if he does what he’s supposed to do,” said Bell. “The kid loves football, he’s heavy-handed, has long arms, and can run. He can be as disruptive as disruptive can be, and the future is bright.  He needs to take it day-by-day and improve daily.”