Would you look at that. A guy goes on vacation for a week, comes back to find that football is back, baby! It’s been a long, somewhat eventful summer, but here we are at the start of another week and we can officially get back into football mode. Last week was quite a week for the Hawkeyes, as the football team officially kicked off fall camp, ending the week with media day on Saturday. And somehow, all the hype surrounding the return of football completely overshadowed the fact that amidst preparations for their Euro trip, the basketball team added another commitment. Seriously, what a week!
Now, I’d love to start off by diving into all the fun that was media day on Saturday, but we’re going to have you covered on that front with a full recap later today. Sure, I’ll touch on some of the high points, but I think Overreaction Monday is much better suited to dive into the real meat and potatoes of what happened last week. And we’re in luck. The start of fall camp comes with the annual release of new photo galleries of the football team’s first several practices. Has there ever been anything better to overreact to than a set of still shots from the first practices of the year? Didn’t think so.
Before we even get into some things you can spot (or not) in the individual photos, I think we should just kick things off right away with the conspiracy theory at QB. If you take a look at the first photo gallery the athletic department put out for fall camp, which actually starts with the 3rd practice, you’ll notice the very first picture of the whole thing is of a QB. So is the second one. Ready for the conspiracy? The first one is of #2, incoming freshman Peyton Mansell. The second one? The current starter on the depth chart in #4 Nathan Stanley. Quarterback controversy anyone?
Now, I’ve been the one around here telling everyone to pump the brakes a bit on the Mansell hype train. I think he has the talent to be a good QB at Iowa. He has a solid arm, makes decent enough reads (at the high school level that is) and he has some wheels to make things happen on his own if need be. But he’s still a true freshman coming into a Kirk Ferentz-led team, and I just don’t envision one of those getting legitimate playing time.
Then again, Nathan Stanley was a true freshman last year and he got actual game reps. He’s only a year older than Mansell and now both are learning a brand new playbook. And Mansell got the first pic of the season. Things that make you go hmmmmmm.
On to the pics.
Harrell in a black shirt. Catching a kick? https://t.co/KS2UIAopNK— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) August 6, 2017
This one is of another incoming freshman, Camron Harrell. According to the official roster, Harrell is a defensive back and will wear #10. Note that this pic is of him wearing a black shirt. Also note that everyone else playing defense for Iowa is wearing a white shirt. Further note that he appears to be sitting under a ball waiting to make a catch. Might he be making the move to offense and taking on some return duties?
Hey weird, more evidence Peyton Mansell is getting some reps. This is him handing off to a guy who rushed for more than 1300 yards last season and is presumed to be either the #2 or 1b RB come September 2nd.
And check out that glove! Is this dude Michael Jackson? Probably not. But he does appear to be executing what my completely untrained, non-coaching eye sees as a zone-read type handoff with the option to pull the ball back. Is Brian Ferentz installing a special package? Is this the new offense? Speculation time, baby!
Uh, hey guys, we are officially winning!
It appears we are currently winning.— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) August 7, 2017
Seriously though, Kirk mentioned the kicking game competition is wide open during his comments over the weekend and all joking aside, I don’t feel great about that. Punting may not, in fact, be winning, but we all know Iowa Football plays the field position game with the best of them. That’s tough to do if you don’t have a punter, and 9-6 victories are tough to come by when you don’t have a field goal kicker. I think we’re probably OK in that department (and hey, we can always just get a safety, right?), but with all the questions at WR and QB, it would be nice to have one less thing to worry about on September 2.
One place there aren’t many questions is along the offensive line. Similarly, there isn’t much to worry about at the defensive end spot other than how much playing time incoming demigod AJ Epenesa is going to get right out of the gates. There’s been early speculation that he could slide into the tackle spot given the lack of depth there, but for those worried about that, this pic should ease some concerns:
Anybody else looking forward to 4-5 years of these two facing off every day?— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) August 7, 2017
Epenesa’s edge rushing ability seriously has me giddy. And Wirfs looks like a man out there at 18. I’m honestly trying to recall a pair of incoming freshmen that looked as physically ready to go as these two. I would love to just sit and watch their 1-on-1s for an hour.
On to day four of practice. Not a ton of takeaways from me here, other than Wiegers appears to be working with the twos. I’m sure they are still rotating as the coaches have said, but if you’re not buying on the Mansell sell from above, I think this is our first bit of evidence maybe Stanley is getting some more run with the first team.
I think that pic tells us maybe we can trust the most recent depth chart. As you may recall, the new JUCO WR Nick Easley was listed as a starter on that depth chart. And perhaps we have some evidence here as to why.
That’d be him flying downfield, several yardss behind the defense. Is it because he’s incredibly fast and Iowa has a deep threat this year? Is it because that’s a freshman DB getting beat over the top? Dealer’s choice. Most noteworthy to me is they are even practicing throwing the deep ball. I don’t care if it’s just a drill, it’s a start.
Wait, that doesn't appear to be a 3-yard curl route...— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) August 7, 2017
I know it’s been discussed on here ad nauseum and likely will be until we get through the entire season and have some answers, but I am continuing to be cautiously optimistic this offense is going to look at least partially different than the last few seasons. I don’t expect a crazy shakeup, but I think there will be occasional shots downfield to open things up in the running game, tight ends streaking down the middle of the field to keep safeties home and (hopefully) a pair of really talented running backs used in ways that accentuate their abilities. Maybe.
Onto day 5, where the team went to full pads. A couple things jump right out at you (or me). First was this beauty from freshman WR Max Cooper, who I’m now referring to as Sunshine thanks to that glimmer of golden flowing locks escaping the back of his helmet.
If the kid can do that on a regular basis, he can find a role on this team. If he can also block.
The next one that jumped out at me was this shot, straight out of a horror film. I’m guessing Wirfs caught an earful from OL coach Polasek after this rep, but if it were live, I think Boyle (or whatever Big Ten QB was standing back there) might actually have a shot at playing the part of headless horseman this Halloween.
Ryan Boyle was back at QB, shortly before he was removed from this earth by AJE.— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) August 7, 2017
Seriously, the look on Epenesa’s face is scary as hell if you play on an opposing offense.
What was I saying about Max Cooper finding the field? Oh yeah, he’ll need to be able to get in front of DBs on a regular basis if he wants a chance to get behind them to make incredible one-handed grabs. Guess who appears to have that first part down.
Insert Iowa WR blocking joke here. Kid's going to make plays because he can do it.— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) August 7, 2017
I’ve been aboard the Brandon Smith hype train tooting that horn ever since Kelvin Bell drove up his driveway in Mississippi and got him on board. The kid is a physical specimen with size, speed and jumping ability. I think he is next in line to be a very talented receiver at Iowa and perhaps the next to be drafted. But first he needs to find the field, and all WR blocking jokes aside, he ain’t getting there unless KF and company feels comfortable with him blocking. This is a good sign.
Speaking of guys getting drafted, I think we all know we’ll be seeing the Outlaw on Sundays next season. He does all the little things right and trains like crazy. Apparently, that includes tackling this massive donut. I prefer to eat them.
Going out on a limb: this is the only donut Josey Jewell has taken down while at Iowa. Maybe ever. https://t.co/4K29QhbziL— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) August 7, 2017
Remember that first pic from the first gallery? Yeah, Camron Harrell is still listed on the official roster as a DB, but he’s on offense now. Confirmed.
And my final first week of camp in depth insight: Noah Fant is going to be damn good. We saw a glimpse last year in a limited role behind budding San Francisco 49er star George Kittle, but this will be his year to shine. He’s big and physical with really good speed for that size. And those hands.
Noah Fant is going to catch a ton of balls this year. Book it.— JP in IC (@JPinIC_BHGP) August 7, 2017
Again, I really hope BF gets the latitude to use his experiences with the Patriots to shape some creativity into this offense. He has some weapons in the backfield and at TE, Fant included, to hide some of the deficiencies at WR. I think the young guys out wide have potential and when paired with a healthy Matt VandeBerg and what looks like a really talented Nick Easley, I feel like they can be just fine if the QB can get them the ball. We shall see.
Here’s the media day shot of the entire team. Nothing too exciting here, but one little observation regarding who isn’t in the picture. We told you a couple weeks ago about a new graduate transfer headed to Iowa City named Matt Quarells. You’ll note he isn’t in the photo below.
On media day, Kirk Ferentz indicated they had a graduate transfer who was still waiting “on some red tape.” That would be Quarells. Rumor has it he is waiting on a single credit from New Mexico to clear and then he’ll be good to go. Nothing substantiated to report here, but further along the grapevine I’ve heard the professor responsible for that credit has been out of town and should be back next week to finalize things. Take it for what it’s worth. Hopefully we see him pop up in some pics next week.
One last note on the photos to-date: VandeBerg hasn’t shown up in any of the live pics but was available on media day. Kirk has said he’s fine. I sure hope so. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous until I see it.
And capping things off, we have the photo contest winner for the week:
I like to imagine Kirk just casually pacing back and forth in front of the sign waiting for a photographer to notice, as completely out of character as that would be.
All that to overreact to and it’s easy to miss that Iowa hoops landed a commitment over the weekend. Yeah, I know, it’s a lot to take in, but Fran McCaffery and staff added a class of 2018 SG in CJ Frederick Saturday.
You can read all about it in Ben Ross’s write up here. Frederick is another in the McCaffery mold of taller guards who can shoot as a 6’4” SG who can also flat-out stroke it from deep. He had offers from Xavier and Indiana, which tells me his 2-star rating has more to do with people not paying enough attention and his junior year injury than his playing ability.
The real question in all of this is where Fran finds a spot for him. As you’re all, I’m sure, aware, Iowa doesn’t have any openings in 2018. In fact, if anything were to become available the conventional wisdom is that the scholarship would go to Connor McCaffery, who is currently walking on. But Frederick has indicated he is coming to Iowa to play for Fran and in the system the Hawkeyes play and doing that is worth committing without an open spot. Going even further, he told HawkeyReport he’s open to walking on his first year until something becomes available.
Now, given the college basketball world we live in, it’s incredibly likely we see a transfer next season just based on the pure numbers. But the fact we find ourselves in a situation where a guy with scholarship offers from places like Xavier and Indiana is willing to WALK ON for a year at Iowa because we’re full (and already have another borderline top-100 kid walking on) is pretty astounding given where this program was when Fran took over. Seriously, the future is bright and I just want to take this moment to yet again profess my love for Fran McCaffery. Fran is the man.
It looks pretty unreal. Each locker reportedly cost them between $8,500 and $10,000 and comes fully equipped with a 53" TV where the name plate would and will show individual players’ highlights.
New Texas football locker room has 43-inch TV monitors in the place of nameplates pic.twitter.com/KDdg5wTqPr— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 3, 2017
My question is, what if there are no highlights? Texas hasnt exactly been setting the world on fire here lately. I guess if you’ve fallen from grace to become the third or fourth best program in your own state affer decades of dominance you gotta throw some money at the problem.
Elsewhere, North Carolina is still committed to being a basketball school and they want the world to know it.
And finally, if you’ve survived this novel I assume you’re running into Monday morning like:
I have so many questions here. But it’s Monday and they’ll all remain unanswered.
That’s it. That’s all I got. Happy Monday ya’ll. Football is back. We’ve made it. Only a few short weeks until we have actual games to overreact to. Go Hawks!