Tuesdays with Borey (how did I not come up with that last year?) Kirk Ferentz met with the press Tuesday, as always. The big points:
- No players definitively out due to injury at this time, though Drew Ott, Boone Myers and LeShun Daniels remain somewhere between questionable and probable. Ferentz agrees that Daniels still isn't showing the same "pop" as he did before the injury, but says that he's "climbing the ladder" back toward that place.
- Ferentz repeatedly praised Wisconsin's defense, and seems much more concerned with Dave Aranda than he is with Paul Chryst's side of the ball. That's probably for good reason.
- The trip to Ames has them ready to deal with the Madison crowd. Frankly, Ferentz has always done well at Camp Randall, and a bunch of fat guys jumping around shouldn't change that too much. It's far more a question of what's happening on the field than in the stands.
- Ferentz called it "one of those no-fear-dodging games," a phrase that makes no literal sense but was the basis of Hawkeye Sports' headline anyway. But it's going to be exactly what we think: About as cro-magnon a football game as you'll see all year. That is, until Iowa breaks out the Pitt gameplan and fires it all over the field to neutralize Wisconsin's blitzing.
Putting the #special in special teams. If you wanted the most obvious example of Iowa's 2015 revolution, you have to look no further than special teams. As we have discussed in the past, Iowa became exceedingly conservative in the last five years, particularly in punt and punt return strategy, culminating in Kirk Ferentz famously vowing to never return a punt again.
The other issue, not talked about nearly as much as the first, was the personnel on special teams. Arguably the biggest special teams play of the last decade came when Adrian Clayborn bum-rushed a Penn State punter in 2009, blocking the punt and taking it for a touchdown. But after 2009, Iowa began using special teams as a proving ground for young players; underclassmen overwhelmingly populated the special teams units. It got them experience, but it also led to mistakes.
Enter Micah Hyde, who was technically a punt returner for Iowa in 2012 but spent most of the year fair catching everything kicked to him. Now a standout return man in the NFL, Hyde was asked by Mike Hlas what happened at Iowa:
On last Wednesday's WIXX show, Hyde was asked if he returned punts at Iowa.
"My junior and senior years I did it," he said, "but we had a bunch of freshmen out there. So it was fair-catch, fair-catch, fair-catch. I never really returned the ball."
In talking about his fair-catches this year, Hyde said "That was a big thing in college. Coach Ferentz, oh my gosh. When you dropped the ball in practice, replays in my head right now. Catch ... the ball!
That response -- catch the ball at all costs, and don't worry about the rest -- coincides with Amari Spievey's comments a few years ago after dropping a kick against Indiana. All of those things are gone now, with return units running modern tactics (particularly in punting) and full of experienced players, and it's shown.
Fran McCaffery went to Congress Tuesday to lobby for increased funding for cancer research. Of course, McCaffery's son, Patrick, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, and Fran has been active in Coaches Versus Cancer. No word on whether he threw a chair at Chuck Grassley.
Football or basketball season ticket holders are getting first crack at tickets to the Iowa-Oklahoma State wrestling-palooza starting today. Tickets are $10 for the record-setting extravaganza, to be held in Kinnick Stadium before Iowa's football game against Minnesota On Thursday, tickets go on sale to the general public.
Iowa's focus on red zone efficiency is showing -- just one play for negative yardage and 14/16 touchdowns -- and a long time coming.
For those going to Madison, the local I-Club is hosting a Friday Happy Hour at Whiskey Jacks Madtown at 552 State Street, with $1 off Tap Beers (62 to choose from), $2 Rail Mixers, $3 Call Mixers and $5 pizzas. There's also a game watch at the Rigby Pub & Grill if you went without tickets for some reason.
Student Union profiles George Kittle and Henry Krieger-Coble, who are cousins and tight ends and tight end-playing cousins.