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Free-For-All Friday Opens up the Iowa Football Mailbag!

Football is almost here and we’re answering all those burning questions you have about the Hawkeyes!

Giant Yellow Rubber Duck Exhibited In Seoul
Which would you rather face, an AJ Epenesa-sized duck or 100 duck-sized AJ Epenesas?
Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

JPinIC: You hear that, Jer? Probably not. You’re all the way down in Florida so I assume you’re hearing different sounds. But if I sit still and listen, I hear the sounds of pads popping. I hear weights clanging. And I hear Iowa football coaches teaching (and screaming some words my 2-year old has picked up on lately). Football is almost here baby! I assume down in Florida you just hear the sound of the waves coming in and really fast guys running by like the Flash.

Hello Jerry: I’m in Orlando, JP. I don’t hear anything but fireworks and “It’s a Small World”. Over and over and over. It doesn’t stop. I have to sing it to myself at night just to go to sleep.

Oh what I would do to permanently remove that song from the ether in favor of the sweet, sweet musings of Brian Ferentz and the intensive yelling of Tim Polasek. Do you think your 2-year old would switch lives with me? I think we’d both be happier.

JPinIC: Given you literally just returned from the world of Maui, my 2-year old would do anything to switch lives with you. The only thing that could possibly make him want to do that more is if Disney World went all in and got themselves a Cars section of the theme park. Of course, he might die of over-excitement at the sight of it and never get to fully experience it, but the same could be said of me and Iowa football 2017.

I am so excited I think it’s really the only thing I can think about at the moment. I assume the same can be said for most Hawkeyes fans, but you’re not here (on FFF) for the football talk (I don’t think?). Or are you, dear reader? What do you say we open this thing up to questions this week Jer? Rather than boring people with the stuff we want to talk about (that’s what the rest of the week is for!), let’s give them a chance to steer this Friday afternoon conversation, shall we?

Hello Jerry: Damn, and here I thought I was here for the all Cars FFF.

But, since I can’t dive into why Owen Wilson was the WORST choice to voice Lightning McQueen (and why KACHOW! Is also the worst), I guess we can just jump into our first ever FFF BHGP MAIL/TWITTER BAG!

For the first question, let’s give The Pants site manager, @GospelofMax some love on a topic that is fresh in our hearts (and one I know you have thoughts on):

JPinIC: Max, I’m so glad you asked? That’s an incredibly insightful and thought-provoking question that only a really intelligent, handsome person would ask!

Hello Jerry: There is ZERO percent chance he likes being called any of those things, ya brown nose.

JPinIC: Luckily, I wasn’t talking about him…

Like I said, really smart, handsome, probably worthy of massive pay raises, that type of person would ask this question:

Now, I’ve been conducting the Brandon Smith hype train basically since he committed to the Hawkeyes a year ago. The guy is basically everything you want in a bell-weather receiver. He’s got damn good size at 6’3” and 205 lbs. He can run. He can jump. He has hands the size of your head. I’m telling you, he is going to be good at Iowa.

Buuuuuuuut, I LOVED what I saw out of ISM in not only the most recent video, but the previous one and all the fall camp photo galleries. He is one of the fastest guys on the roster and he is blowing by guys like Josh Jackson, Manny Rugamba and Matt Hankins, all of which are going to be on the field in our defensive secondary this year. Maybe that’s an indictment of the defense, but I think it just shows this young guy was a great steal late in the recruiting cycle (and don’t forget, he jumped ship from Rutgers and then told PJ Fleck to go row a boat before choosing Iowa).

I’m really trying not to get my hopes up too much for this season, but everything I see tells me this WR group in general is going to be much better than we thought and much better than we had last year. I think Nathan Stanley has the tools to be a good QB for Iowa and if he can put it together early, I really think both these guys could break onto the scene.

Sticking with the theme of freshmen, @AbeFromanEsq wants us to talk a little AJ Epenesa, the demigod himself.

Hello Jerry: I’m pretty sure we got this question BEFORE I saw the “Mic’d Up” video that prominently featured AJE. Before the “Mic’d Up” video I was trying really, really, really hard to stay grounded when it came to young AJ. I knew he was one of (if not THE) most heralded recruits in KF’s tenured history. I knew that he was already college football ready when it came to his size, speed and football IQ. I even knew that he would be ready to handle anything and everything thrown at him when it came to “Iowa Football” because of the bloodlines he came from..


I’m officially ready for take off with this kid (along with his classmate Tristan Wirfs,, the other physical monster that was highlighted this week). I’m ready for the Eppy-demic that is going to completely obliterate Big Ten offensive tackles. I’m ready to watch the most dominant defensive end that I’ve seen in an Iowa uniform since Adrian Clayborn (and his wonderful, wonderful mother) left for the NFL.

How ready am I? I am going to be disappointed if he ends up with anything south of 10 sacks this year. Yeah, when I fall in love, I fall in love hard. But he’s shown his capabilities against a pretty damn good line during camp, which should only help him in the long run.

In terms of the statue, I may be wrong Jonah, but if I remember our stroll into the North Endzone together last year correctly (you know, after we chugged your Natty Daddies that you brought in a grocery bag), there isn’t any sort of large, bronze idol sitting on that side of Kinnick Stadium… seems like the perfect spot to erect the Eppy statue in 2035.

JPinIC: Yeah, this guy is going to be a force. I don’t think he starts day one like I’ve heard some people clammoring for, but he will play in every game he is healthy. I think we saw he is already slotted in as the first team DE in passing situations, which makes sense given his physicaly skills. That also means he’s going to have a shot at more sacks than perhaps his snap count might lead you to believe.

He had 5 of them on Kids Day and I don’t think it’s crazy to think he’ll have well north of that on the season. In that great 2009 season, Adrian Clayborn had 11.5 sacks. I don’t think AJE/Maui touches that as a freshman. That would be nuts. But last year the Hawkeyes were led in sacks by Jaleel Johnson at 7.5. I think Eppy could get there. Having someone like Anthony Nelson on the other side (who had 6 sacks of his own last season) will limit the number of chips and bumps he’ll take at the line and can allow him to really pin his ears back and get after it knowing he’s out there to do one thing and one thing only.

If he gets to 8 this year and builds on that every year, I’ll help build the damn statue myself.

Speaking of AJ Epenesa, we got perhaps the most thought-provoking question of them all from another member of the editorial staff at the Pants in @mattcabel:

Now, before you answer Jer, I want to give you a little context on this. We need to really visualize what this question is asking. So, here is a picture of real life AJ Epenesa coming around the edge to kill Ryan Boyle.

Screenshot via

Scary stuff. Now, what if he were a giant rubber duck?

Whoa. Also kind of scary stuff. I guess. But is it more scary than 100 little duck-sized AJ Epenesa’s running around?

You tell me, Jer.

Hello Jerry: I am highly doubting there are 100-Espenesa sized ducks in that picture, JP. BUT! The 30-or so duck sized Espenesa’s that are trying to kill Nathan Stanley is absolutely frightening. Therefore, I think I’m fighting one Espenesa sized duck. First of all, it’s a duck. The only ducks I would ever be scared to come into contact with as an opponent would be Fulton Reed and Dean Portman. Secondly, I can try and distract one Espenesa sized duck with food… I’m thinking some crusts from my sandwich or maybe even a few QUACKerbacks.

HA! GET IT? I’ll be here all day.

But 100 duck sized Espenesa’s? Shooooooot.

I look at it this way. You have an infant and a toddler. I’ve been around an infant and a toddler. It’s hard to corral a running toddler when you also have to worry about an infant in your arms too. It’s a double whammy.

Now, with that said, can you imagine 100 Espenesa sized ducks running/flying around? You might have a few in your hands, but the rest are just swarming around you; on the ground and in the air. On top of that, you can’t distract one of them with an iPad and a Disney cartoon. You can’t capture them in one fell swoop and throw them into a play pen. You can’t put them down for naps at the same time (that’s too easy). And in both scenarioes, you’re somehow getting pooped on.

This is a no-contest.

JPinIC: Listen, I would rather face either one AJ-sized duck OR 100 duck-sized AJs over a toddler and a newborn. I face those every day and I’m yet to win that battle.

But seriously, I think you kind of nailed this out of the gates. Certain things are just not scary, unless they are genuinely massive. Take, for example, a human-size penguin:

Not scary. Funny, but not scary. Now, the flip side is certain things are pretty scary, despite being really small if they come in large numbers. Bees come to mind. Swarms of tiny little people who are angry and want to hurt you seem to fall into this category for me as well.

Image via

The exception to the above is if something, regardless of how adorable a normal size version is, is genuinely huge. I can think of a few scientists from NYC who found that out the hard way…

Image via

If the duck was that size, I’d rather face the small AJs, otherwise, give me that big adorable mallard.

OK Jer, one final AJ question for you. This one comes from @chmersch and is a little more serious:

Longer career in the NFL. AJ or Wirfs?

Hello Jerry: This is a good question to ponder. Both play positions that are of the utmost importance. Both seem to possess ceilings that will go as high as only they can dream. With that said, my guy says Wirfs. Yes, I have some issues with his bend from the small sample of video that I’ve seen on him (Does Chris Doyle also run a Pilates training period? Yoga? If not, can we start a GoFundMe to send him to Hot House Yoga a few times a week?) but he’s only a freshman who is sending waves throughout the coaching staff. Do you think Polasek and Ferentz are spending so much time on him if he WASN’T going to be great?

I don’t think so, Jack. Wirfs is in the perfect place to hone his craft. He’s got the best coaching staff around him that will surely coach him up so well that he’ll be able to get drafted and start from day one.

JPinIC: Man, I was kind of hoping we could disagree here for the sake of argument, but I’m with you on Wirfs. My reasoning, however, is a little different. I think both have the potential to have incredibly successful college and pro careers. In terms of level of elite-ness at their positions right now, I’m taking Epenesa. I think he is the more sure bet to end up in the NFL. But once they’re there, it’s a different story.

And the question was who stays longer, not who has more success. So I’m going purely based on the odds, man.

Image via

On average, offensive linemen have longer careers than defensive ends. So I’m going with the lineman. If one of them was a punter, gimme that guy. That being said, Epenesa has a skillset at a position that creates the possibility he becomes the face of a franchise. I’m hoping to see them both in a dozen Pro Bowls.

Now, as much as I would love to keep diving in to the ol’ mailbag here, I think we’re about out of words here Jer. So, I suppose we’ll save this gem for a later post, but suffice to say, challenge accepted.

Have questions you want us to answer? Hit us up in the comments or on the Twitters @JPinIC_BHGP and @JerryScherwin. We’ll be mixing in mailbags from time to time and the good ones may spark a FFF post of their own!