Quick hits from the University of Iowa football coordinator news conference Sept. 18 in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center:
Brian Ferentz, Offensive Coordinator (TRANSCRIPT)
Unselfish Running Backs Room
After three games, four University of Iowa running backs have combined for 453 rushing yards on 89 carries with two touchdowns. Junior Mekhi Sargent leads the way with 208 yards, followed by junior Toren Young (120), freshman Tyler Goodson (105) and junior Ivory Kelly-Martin (20).
“We’re comfortable with all those guys doing various things,” Ferentz said. “They all have things that they do particularly well. We trust all four of them.
“We have a very unselfish room, and we have four guys that are more interested in the team winning and the team doing well, than any kind of a personal accomplishment.”
Getting the Best Players Involved
Last season, two of Iowa’s top three receives were tight ends. T.J. Hockenson (now with the Detroit Lions) had 49 receptions and Noah Fant (now with the Denver Broncos) had 39. So far in 2019, the top seven Hawkeye pass-catchers are either wide receivers or running backs.
“You look at the best offensive football teams, they find a way to get their best players involved. That’s ultimately the goal,” Ferentz said.
“We have good skill guys at the receiver position and in the running back room. We are trying to get those guys more involved and try to play in personnel groups where we have as many of those guys on the field as possible and do things to get the ball in their hands.”
You Can Only Control What’s in Front of You
Iowa games have kicked off this season at 6:30 p.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. The Hawkeyes have won twice at home and once on the road. Iowa’s 18-17 win at Iowa State on Sept. 14 was delayed 2 hours and 55 minutes because of thunderstorms.
“We are going to play in a lot of big games,” Ferentz said. “We talk to our football team that you can only handle whatever is in front of you. They schedule these games and you play them one at a time. The best you can do every week is win.
“Where we play, when we play, that’s out of our control. We have had three different kickoff times. We have had home games, away games. We have had delays.”
LeVar Woods, Special Teams Coordinator (TRANSCRIPT)
Don’t Call it a Comeback
Woods reiterated Wednesday what head coach Kirk Ferentz has been saying all season: the Hawkeyes are blessed with two good kicking options in juniors Keith Duncan and Caleb Shudak. Duncan, who was named Big Ten Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday after going 4-for-4 on field goals at Iowa State, made 9-of-11 field goals and 38-of-39 PATs as a true freshman in 2016.
“I wouldn’t call it a re-emergence,” Woods said. “Maybe re-emergence to the public, but I think he has been working hard behind the scenes, not only Keith, but also Caleb, as well.
“We’re blessed with two good kickers and two guys that are competitive every day at both kickoffs and field goals. They push each other and make each other better. As far as a re-emergence, it’s more that last year, it was Miguel (Recinos) had the job and those guys still came and competed and worked hard, and put themselves in good position for this season.”
The Epitome of a Hawkeye Special Teams Player
Senior Devonte Young, who has played offense and defense for the Hawkeyes, made the biggest play of his career to date on special teams. With 1:29 remaining in a one-point game at Iowa State, Young recovered a muffed punt at the Iowa State 22, securing Iowa’s fifth consecutive win in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series.
“(Devonte) epitomizes what Iowa special teams is about: Finding a role on this team, may not be a starter on offense or defense, but as a role on special teams. Not only is he a player and contributor, but also as leader on special teams.
“He was productive for us last year in a bunch of areas…and this year he has taken a step forward as a leader. It has been a good story so far.”
Phil Parker, Defensive Coordinator (TRANSCRIPT)
Johnson Grows Up in Ames
During the first series at Iowa State, first-time starter D.J. Johnson’s eye discipline got the best of him, when the Cyclones turned a double pass into a 51-yard touchdown reception, giving Iowa State an early 7-3 lead.
Johnson responded by making eight tackles and two pass break-ups en route to being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Sept. 16.
“Sometimes you can sit there and tell players to make sure you have eye discipline,” said Parker. “With (D.J.) on that play, his eyes were in the wrong spot. Young kids do that. I had a guy, Amari Spievey at Penn State, he gave up a 70-yarder on the first play of the game and came back to the bench, I had to talk to him a little bit, the way I talk to the guys, and he got back. He came back, and fought.
“It was the same thing with D.J. He had a great response. He goes, “Coach, I know, I’ve got to get better.” I think there are some plays he made out there. There’s one play he knocked it down; it could have been a pick six. One time on the deep ball in the post, he defended that pretty well. He grew up. Does he have a lot more to go? Yeah, he has a long ways to go, and he knows that, and he worked hard today (in practice).”
More Pressure, More Sacks?
Junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa had 10.5 sacks during the 2018 season. During Iowa’s 3-0 start, the Hawkeyes have three sacks as a team, but the defense does have 13 quarterback hurries.
“When you have a four-man rush, teams are going to start sliding and protecting and blocking,” said Parker. “Iowa State did a good job of moving the pocket. They weren’t sitting in the pocket as much as they wanted to.
“I think we did get pressure on (Purdy), but we lost contain at times. You have to keep working and when things come, they come. I just don’t think you can say, hey, go out there and it’s always going to be this. They know where the guys are and protecting, and if I need more heat, then I have to bring more guys because they are protecting with more guys.”
Delay, What Delay?
Parker ran with the punches when the Sept. 14 Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series matchup was twice delayed for nearly three hours because of thunderstorms. How long was the delay?
“It was a long one,” said Parker. “I don’t know how long it was, but it was good. It was a late drive home, but that was OK for me. I wasn’t going to do anything else on Saturday.”
Iowa returns to action Sept. 28, hosting Middle Tennessee State at 11 a.m. (CT) at Kinnick Stadium. Tickets are available at hawkeyesports.com/tickets.
Iowa football hosts Minnesota in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale on Saturday, Nov. 16. Fans are encouraged to wear black for the Blackout game, and it is the annual military appreciation celebration. Active duty military and veterans are eligible for a military ticket discount. Click HERE for tickets and pre-paid parking and additional game information.