Just in case you didn’t get the memo, football is back, baby! Well, maybe not back back, but definitely close enough since the smell of
grass field turf and sound of pads cracking are filling Iowa City. After last summer’s Iowa Edge series, Iowa football’s tour de video force, Chris Ruth, came out with a fire video focusing on Iowa’s running backs. Open the roster in another window and let’s break it down.
0:00 - 0:30, various downfield catches
It’s probably unfair to say this is the most I’ve seen the deep ball in a while, but it’s the most I’ve seen the deep ball in a while. It would appear as if Noah Fant (87) was the target of one, while Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6) was the target of two more, including a one-handed snag. Also featured: Henry Marchese (13) going through a defender for a pass down the sideline, Max Cooper (19) with a one-handed grab and Akrum Wadley (25) on a short out pattern. Despite the downfield throws, I still expect a lot of the latter this season.
0:41 - 1:00, Kirk gives a speech
- After watching the premiere of PJ Fleck’s propaganda, I’m immediately thrown off by the even keel and low energy of Kirk Ferentz. After readjusting, I remember this is exactly what I want in a football coach.
- IS THAT AN EMAIL?!?!? Kirk is notorious for not adapting to technology like most everyone else, so seeing him read from an email printed out by someone else (I’m assuming) is probably the closest he comes to Microsoft Outlook. I’m also incredibly curious about the presentation going behind him. Who creates it? Like, does he stand over some poor intern’s shoulder to help craft the message? Or does he caveman type: “b) Championship level effort” among other things?
PS: That email looks like it was sent to A LOT of people.
1:20 - 1:40, running backs toss the pigskin around
James Butler (20) VISOR ALERT
At 2:00, Wadley, Butler, and Toks Akinribade (22) wax poetic about the idea of all three of them in the backfield together. While Kirk would never go for it - and Brian even conceded having a QB is a requirement - a Wildcat package is not an insane idea. The setup as I envision it would have Butler as the nominal QB and Wadley as the sweeper. A man can dream.
2:40 - 3:00, running plays
It is INSANE to watch Wadley hit these holes. He’s able to go from a stutter step 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage to the second level of the defense in the blink of an eye on what appears to by Iowa’s bread and butter—outside zone. Brian Ferentz said when he was first promoted, his first play call might be outside zone to the boundary since “it’s making space where there is none.” Akrum Wadley is arguably the perfect running back for that mindset, since he needs very little space.
3:05, Parker Hesse (40) interception
This is a classic case where the defense is ahead of the offense but it highlights what Fant needs to improve on. He doesn’t initiate contact coming out of the formation and allows Hesse to reroute him while Hesse can keep his head up and watch the QB (Nathan Stanley - 4). This looked like a play straight out of the Greg Davis playbook, as the target appeared to be 82, Devonte Young, on a 2 yard out route.
3:40 - 5:20, Brian Ferentz talks about the backs
The main takeaway from me is how Ferentz insinuates they may have missed out by not having Butler the last three years and says Butler is making up for lost time. He also talked about Akrum without any veiled shots about his weight but does mention his Iowa career arc as starting in the outhouse.
5:30 - 7:45, Akrum Wadley
He talks about his role, what he needs to focus on, and James Butler’s addition.
7:45 - 11:20, James Butler
He refers to being at Iowa like “a kid in a candy store” and feels like he’s got his “golden ticket.” A+ reference, nailed it. He’s living with James Daniels and Boone Myers, speaks highly of the offensive line, and is happy to have a fullback again.
This guy has immediately endeared himself to me. He’s always wanted to be a Hawkeye and he’ll do anything, even break a wedge on a kickoff, to help the team.
11:20 - 11:55, Toks gets picked on
Max touched on it in his initial writeup: “one of the coaches swings by to tell the other two running backs to go catch punts, he’s told ‘I know you can’t.’” Who said that?
Looks like Brian Ferentz! Makes sense since he’s the running back coach too.
12:00 - 12:20, Wadley and Butler pick favorite RBs
Butler, the Chicago suburb native, goes with Walter Payton while Wadley opts for Barry Sanders. When they get to the area for punt returners, they’re joined by Max Cooper (in black) and ... Miles Taylor (19 in white) for punt returns. Miles Taylor?!?
12:55 - 13:15, more running drills!
Iowa’s offensive line looks in preseason form while Akrum adds the first of hopefully many 2017 highlights:
13:15 - 14:40, the return of the long ball
- Nathan Stanley to Nick Easley aka Easy Money (84), beating freshman Matt Hankins (8)
- Ryan Boyle (11) to Noah Fant, with a Manny Rugamba (5) tackle.
- Tyler Wiegers (8) to Devonte Young over Trey Creamer (3).
- Peyton Mansell (2) to Max Cooper on a seam route, splitting Rugamba and Wes Dvorak (1)
Then Manny Rugamba (5) picks of a 10-yard out route thrown behind Marchese from Mansell. The video ends on a screen pass from Mansell to Wadley and he slices through the defense.
With the first camp installment focusing on the running backs, we didn’t see much back and forth between the offense and defense, despite the couple picks featured. It’s clear the staff knows they’ll need all to manufacture firepower and Butler and Wadley are clearly a powder keg.
Will a spark emerge in camp?