While it’s been the offseason for a little bit now, today we truly enter the doldrums of summer. Not just the offseason, but summer. Last week was finals week at the fine educational institution we all root for, and provided you passed Danny Payne’s Thursday Final, graduation was this past weekend. While Memorial Day may be most working people’s official start to summer, for students and people living in college towns, it is today. With summer comes boredom and with boredom comes some wild thoughts. There isn’t much to talk about so things may start to get a little bit crazier (I’m not going to say batshit insanity, because those are big shoes to fill, but crazier is a step in that direction) around these parts. Free-For-All Friday provides a glimpse into the stupid things floating around in my head, so I apologize now for some of the content that may begin starting your week as we walk into the desert together.
Now, as I’m sure all of you are aware (none of you would EVER forget something important like this), yesterday was Mother’s Day. So, today I want to take a moment to thank all the moms out there. It’s totally corny (see what I did there?) or cheesy, or whatever, but we all have a mom to thank for us being here today. And as Hawkeye fans, we don’t just have our own moms to be thankful for.
Last year, it was Desmond King’s mom. By now, you’ve all heard the story of his mom really pushing him to come back for his senior year to be the first in his family to earn a college degree. King did just that, and while it may have cost him some money in the draft this year, it sure as hell made 2016 more enjoyable for Hawkeye fans and in the long run, I’m sure King is going to have a long and prosperous NFL career and his degree will help him in his life after football. Thank you to Desmond’s mom, Yvette Powell.
As we look ahead to 2017, we’ve heard a similar tale about Akrum Wadley’s decision to come back for his senior season. Feedback from the evaluation process and the prospects of further proving themselves with an additional year no doubt played a role in both King and Wadley’s decision, but having a mom there to push kids one way or another certainly has helped the Iowa Hawkeyes the last few years.
Beyond 2017, Iowa fans may be thanking a few more Hawkeye moms. Scott Dochterman and Bobby La Gesse over at Land of 10 have been putting out some really good stuff on each of Iowa’s class of 2017 commits. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to go take a look. There are a ton of good stories in this year’s class.
One of those examples is Geno Stone. You’ll recall Stone was a late-season addition to the class of 2017 after previously being committed to Kent State. The typical Hawkeye fan eye rolls ensued when he flipped his commitment. But if you watched any of his film, you surely saw what his coach says in the Landof10 piece:
If this isn’t a Power 5 football player, I don’t know anything about football. He’s flat out one of the best players in the state of Pennsylvania, if not the best. He’s that good.
But even after getting that P5 offer from Iowa, Stone was unsure about making the move to be so far from his family. He made the trek with his mom for a visit and fell in love, but still wasn’t sure. Until his mom convinced him he HAD to come to Iowa to pursue his dream. It’s still too early to know how much of an impact Geno will have for the Hawkeyes, but Iowa fans have another mom to thank.
So happy Mother’s Day to all the Hawkeye moms out there. Hope you enjoyed yourselves. Thanks for all you do.
You may have heard, Brian Ferentz made some comments a little over a week ago. This week, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell fired back. Sort of.
“I don’t take much into what he said, because I don’t really worry about those things,” Campbell said on KXNO. “I really don’t know so much about what they do or how they do things. I think from the time we’ve got here, we’ve worried about Iowa State and how do we get this program to where we want to be.
“… I do think that’s the one thing we’ve been able to do in our last two years is really change the roster that what our 105-man roster going into fall camp looks like and feels like. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. I really don’t worry about what other people have to say. That’s their prerogative, but obviously my concern is Iowa State and Iowa State football and making sure we get the right guys here to go win Big 12 championships.”
Anybody else find it kind of ironic that the first mate on the USS Boring is taking shots at rivals and in return, the Captain Rah Rah turns into a turtle when he finally gets a chance to talk some smack in a public forum? I dunno. Maybe the offer numbers are as inflated as the Cyclones recruiting material? Anyway, give me the guy who never looked like a New Kid on the Block.
you vs the guy she tells you not to worry about pic.twitter.com/CP41NpVSL2— shane. (@realshanecozz) May 10, 2017
And speaking of Brian Ferentz saying some stuff, I wonder what else that guy has rattling around in his brain?
Elsewhere on the crootin’ trail, things are getting a little interesting up in Madison. We tend to think of the Badgers as basically being the Hawkeyes if Iowa had more natural resources (population, dairy cows, Spotted Cow, etc.), but this week was a reminder the guard has changed at Wisconsin.
I mean, I’ve been pretty critical of Iowa, Kirk and anyone else I could find to blame for the Texodus thing last year, but the Eno saga involved a lot more smoke than what we see with this young man. Not a good look for the Badgers. Not that there really is a good look for them, but you know what I’m trying to say.
And since we are talking recruiting, new tactics and ways some of our rivals might be varying philosophically from our beloved Hawkeyes, this seems appropriate to share.
I hate the bugeaters as much as the next guy (OK, probably not as much as the guy in Council Bluffs or somebody behind enemy territory, but whatever), but I have to hand it to them. They seem to be doing something right. Sure they have a rich tradition to sell (get your jokes in here about there not being anything recent to sell), but I really think they seem to grasp that the important thing is was those talented, fickle teenagers are into, not what the coaches or fans are into. The stuff might seem stupid to most of us, but the kids that are going to be winning football games for years to come think it’s cool when the head coach is taking pics with Chance the Rapper (the lyrics are more creative than the name). Since it’s overreaction Monday I’ll go ahead and say it outright, I wish Kirk showed a little more sizzle to go with that steak.
On the ex-Hawkeye front, the week was a bit of a mixed bag. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers figured out what we all knew already: Greg Mabin isn’t an NFL corner.
On the other side of the football world, Desmond King made his debut at the LA Chargers’ rookie camp.
Desmond out here on day ✌️ of rookie mini camp. pic.twitter.com/dSM94xNZMn— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) May 13, 2017
Good to see King making himself right at home.
Hawk Central had a podcast last week with Phil Parker as the guest. Coach Parker talked a little about Desmond King’s decision to come back for his senior year and why dropped in the draft. More importantly, he thinks he has a shot to contribute immediately. He could see King fitting into a Cover 2 scheme as a corner, playing safety full time or as a situational guy in select packages. Obviously his special team talents will also be useful.
Looking ahead to next season, Parker talked about filling void of Snyder. He’s calling on Miles Taylor to be a leader and deapite the performance of Jake Gervase in the spring game, thinks Amani Hooker can push himself and be part of the plan too. The Hawkeyes will be counting on the Outlaw Josey Jewell to push the culture on everyone.
I’ll let you listen to the full podcast for his words on the defensive line. Suffice it to say there is time to be had at tackle and the ability of AJ Epenesa to play right away may open up the possibility of some moves along the line.
At corner, replacing two starters will be tough, espeically when one is an All-American and Thorpe Award winner, but the Hawkeyes have 3 solid options with Josh Jackson, Manny Rugamba and Michael Ojemudia. all three play ST as well.
I was surprised to hear Jackson played almost 200 snaps last year. Rugamba is the guy who stands out with the performance in the Michigan game and Parker liked what Rugamba did last year, mentioning he could be the star out of that group, but he needs to get stronger, faster and understand the game a little more. Sounds like a Kirk Ferentz disciple if I’ve ever heard one. I assume he has some things to clean up as well.
It sounds like Jackson is understanding the defense better and the importance of looking at film. Parker went on to say it’s a growing process, the more you play, the more you understand and the more things slow down. Seriously, it’s possible Kirk just stepped in and did half the interview. But my takeaway was that Jackson has one corner locked down. As an outsider, I thought maybe it was more open, but it is sounding like Jackson and Rugamba will be starting with Ojemudia pushing Rugamba and playing in certain packages.
My overreaction hot take? Iowa’s CBs will actually be better in 2 years than they were last year. I know it sounds insane when you think of how good King was, and I don’t think we seen anyone that good as an individual for a long time, but in a couple years Iowa will have a pair of guys who, together, are better than King + Mabin given Mabin’s downfalls. Ojemudia and Rugamba could be damn good in my opinion. Jackson is talented too, but those two have the potential to be a lethal combination.
I don’t think either quite has the ball skills of King and nobody will replace him, but not allowing offenses to just avoid King’s side of the field will provide more opportunities for INTs and create more success for the defense as a whole. I really like the possibility of those two on the corners, especially with a guy like Epenesa coming off the edge. The defense isn’t the area of concern for this roster.
Obviously, the offense is the area of biggest concern. The Hawkeyes will be breaking in a new QB and the WR group was thing going into the week. Then, in typical Iowa fashion, we got a 4pm Friday afternoon news dump. Junior-WR-to-be Jerminic Smith is leaving the Hawkeyes after his “academic issues” which kept him out of the spring game. Criticize Smith all you want, but he was a big, fast receiver on a roster full of not big, not fast receivers. Iowa needs guys to catch the ball this year and while Smith had his issues in that department at times, this is yet another blow to a really depleting group
Time to pivot to a little hoopy-ball, where former Hawkeye Peter Jok participated in the NBA Draft Combine last week. Heading into the event, there wasn’t much question as to what Jok needed to do:
Just caught up with @Sam_Vecenie re: Peter Jok's NBA prospects. Said Jok will need to have good answer for teams about his lack of defense— MarkEmmert (@MarkEmmert) May 11, 2017
That was a common criticism from Iowa fans throughout his career. I still maintain nobody has to be great at defense to make it in the league, but Joks complete lack of interest in even slowing his guy down at times is certainly not going to cut it at the next level.
On the positive side of things, the same Sam Vecine had this to say of Jok:
He shoots the hell out of the ball. He shoots it off the catch, off the move. He has a lightning-quick release. He’s gotten a lot better at navigating ball screens and creating his own jumpshot off of it. He never really gets to the rim doing it, which is a little bit of a concern, but if he can navigate ball screens on the wing and get himself a free, open look with that quick release, that’s a legitimate NBA skill. And if he can take two dribbles confidently and attack a closeout on a spot-up opportunity, that’s a legitimate NBA skill.
Everything that he has done over the course of the last two years in terms of shooting the basketball, it’s an immediate translation, especially in today’s NBA, where we’re starved for wing players. We need guys that are 6-foot-7 that can shoot the ball and Peter Jok fits that to a ‘T.’
We’ll have a full rundown of Jok’s performance at the combine, but after watching a bit of his first game, I’ll say this: our friend Sam above is right, but if you didn’t watch his tape you wouldn’t know it. It wasn’t a pretty showing from what I saw.
While a pick up game isn’t the best place to attempt showing your defensive prowess, Jok was especially unsuccessful in his first game. In a few short minutes, he was blown by on defense for an easy bucket, then stepped under screen only to watch his guy pull up and drill a 3. I’m no basketball coach, but I think the defensive issues may have gotten to his head. 0 for 6 from the field isn’t something we saw much from Jok at Iowa. Even worse, he had a couple opportunities for open looks from 3, including one on a break, where the short NBA corner snuck up on him and he stepped out of bounds before drilling the shot. Zero points awarded for dead ball scores.
Per Jok’s interview with the Gazette’s Jeremiah Davis:
I can come in and be a knockdown shooter, be a 3-point shooter. If I show teams I can defend, I can be at the next level. … That’s the one thing that’s come out of every team I’ve met so far. My main focus here is to show that I can defend.
I need to keep getting better at that so I can be a two-way player and stick.
Despite the kinks in the scrimmages, Jok still has some hope. Per Fran McCaffery, he had a number of team interviews and is working out with the Boston Celtics tomorrow. Good luck to Mr. Jok, hope to see you in the NBA next season.
Here’s a quick interview following game 1:
Peter Jok on what NBA teams want to see from him, and why he'd love to stay in Midwest. Video thanks to our sister station WGN. pic.twitter.com/tcPJlnuea6— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) May 12, 2017
Speaking of former Hawkeye hoopers, Mike Gessell won himself a title last week in Denmark.
On the season, Gessell averaged 10.4 ppg, 4.4 apg and 2.4 rpg in the Danish Basketligaen league. The Bakken Bears will now be promoted to Basketball Champions League (think UEFA Champions League in soccer). Anybody else really like the idea of promotion and relegation for college athletics? What about the NFL?
Elsewhere, Matt Gatens will now be a GA at Auburn under former Hawkeye coach and Illini favorite Bruce Pearl.
I’m going to stay away from all the fun the Iowa athletic department had last week and just say things are not going well for Gary Barta. I don’t know how this ends, but it doesn’t look good. Things were pretty quiet nationally during the Meyer trial, but with the problems piling up, there may be a little more media attention when the Griesbaum case kicks off in a few short weeks.
Turning to happier Hawkeye thoughts, how bout Heller’s guys?
Amazing day for Rick Heller's boys: A stirring comeback, a 4th straight B1G Tournament berth & a shot at the regular season crown. https://t.co/PbQT3ZzoTG— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) May 15, 2017
Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Hawkeyes are now sitting at 31-18 overall, 13-8 in Big Ten play and are 1.5 games out of first place in the conference. Oh, and this is how they got there yesterday:
Sunday's home runs from the huge rally!!! Complete highlights later and remember, the Hawks home finale is Tuesday! https://t.co/RfwFshqp13— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 14, 2017
That is a much better outcome for a baseball than what Chris Iannetta got over the weekend:
Chris Iannetta has fractured teeth and a broken nose after getting hit in the face by a 93 mph fastball on Friday. https://t.co/9NjYmbeZSq— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 14, 2017
It’s only Monday people, let’s have a good week. Whatever you do, don’t be this guy:
Happy Monday. Go Cardinals. Go Hawks.