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Kirk Speaks: Spring Practice Edition

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Coach Ferentz seemed optimistic talking spring ball

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

I’m always blown away at how fast football finds a way back into our lives. Kirk Ferentz took to the mic to talk about what he expects to gain from this segment of the IOWA WAY FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT LIFECYCLE. It’ll be five weeks at three practices a week and if I didn’t know any better, I might say he seemed optimistic about who he’s bringing back, despite the youth on the roster.

Speaking of... here’s the link to the transcript and below are the depth charts as we enter spring practice:

Iowa Hawkeyes 2018 Spring Depth Chart - Offense

Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
SE 12 Brandon Smith 6-3 219 So.
92 Kyle Groeneweg 5-10 186 Sr.
TE 87 Noah Fant 6-5 241 Jr.
42 Shaun Beyer 6-5 240 So.
LT 74 Tristan Wirfs 6-5 320 So.
71 Mark Kallenberger 6-6 282 RS Fr.
LG 59 Ross Reynolds 6-4 295 Sr.
72 Coy Kirkpatrick 6-4 290 RS Fr.
C 69 Keegan Render 6-4 307 Sr.
61 Cole Banwart 6-4 296 So.
RG 66 Levi Paulsen 6-5 305 Jr.
68 Landan Paulsen 6-5 305 Jr.
RT 77 Alaric Jackson 6-7 320 So.
76 Dalton Ferguson 6-4 308 Sr.
TE 38 TJ Hockenson 6-5 250 So.
39 Nate Wieting 6-4 250 Jr.
WR 84 Nick Easley 5-11 205 Sr.
6 Ihmir Smith-Marsette 6-1 175 So.
QB 4 Nate Stanley 6-4 242 Jr.
2 Peyton Mansell 6-2 210 RS Fr.
RB 28 Toren Young 5-11 221 So.
21 Ivory Kelly-Martin 5-10 200 So.
FB 36 Brady Ross 6-0 245 Jr.
46 Austin Kelly 5-11 245 Sr.
PK 91 Miguel Recinos 6-1 193 Sr.
94 Caleb Shudak 5-8 179 So.

*note: the table has been updated to include the previously omitted RT position

Iowa Hawkeyes 2018 Spring Depth Chart - Defense

Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
LE 98 Anthony Nelson 6-7 271 Jr.
90 Sam Brincks 6-5 275 Sr.
LT 95 Cedrick Lattimore 6-3 295 Jr.
66 Dalles Jacobus 6-0 280 So.
RT 91 Brady Reiff 6-3 272 Jr.
53 Garret Jansen 6-2 280 Jr.
RE 40 Parker Hesse 6-3 261 Jr.
94 AJ Epenesa 6-5 277 So.
OLB 49 Nick Niemann 6-4 232 So.
35 Barrington Wade 6-1 233 So.
MLB 34 Kristian Welch 6-3 238 Jr.
48 Jack Hockaday 6-1 235 Sr.
WLB 31 Aaron Mends 6-0 228 Sr.
52 Amani Jones 6-0 238 Jr.
LC 8 Matt Hankins 6-1 185 So.
3 Trey Creamer 6-0 190 RS Fr.
SS 27 Amani Hooker 6-0 210 Jr.
18 John Milani 6-0 201 Jr.
FS 30 Jake Gervase 6-1 212 Sr.
9 Geno Stone 5-11 209 So.
RC 11 Michael Ojemudia 6-1 199 Jr.
5 Manny Rugamba 5-11 193 Jr.
P 2 Ryan Gersonde 6-4 198 So.
7 Colten Rastetter 6-1 213 Jr.

There were some brief roster mentions from Ferentz:

  • Brandon Snyder, Romeo McKnight, Austin Kelly, Kyle Taylor, Matt Nelson, and Toks Akinrabe are out this spring due to “medical conditions.”
  • Daviyon Nixon is an academic redshirt and won’t be playing in the fall. Kirk added that it wasn’t “a huge surprise to anybody” and is pleased with his attitude and work ethic. It’s unfortunate he won’t be able to play but exciting to hear he’s doing well.
  • Levi Duwa, Jake Newborg, and Cam Harrell have all flipped from defense to offense. Perhaps the most curious thing with Harrell is Ivory Kelly-Martin, Toren Young, and Kyshaun Bryan are the only three running backs on the roster as of now.

Nate Stanley

I’ve never been more excited for an Iowa quarterback in the spring than I was when Kirk Ferentz brought up Stanley as an answer to “developing stars:”

I think we’ve got some guys that are ascending that are capable of giving us some big plays. I mentioned Nate, hopefully he’ll be sharper this year. He should be. He’s a year older and seen a lot of things now in 13 games. So you count on him making that next step.

Later he talked about how underappreciated Stanley was from a statistical perspective and OH MY GOD KIRK WANTS MORE PASSING TOUCHDOWNS???

Q. He had great stats last year, 26-6. Could he be better this year?

KIRK FERENTZ: It was quietly. Nobody really talked about it.

Q. Could he be better this year with not the same stats?

KIRK FERENTZ: I hope not. I hope both of them improve. He did a pretty good job with ball security, but it could have been better. More so in the pocket, just awareness in the pocket. But hopefully the touchdown number goes up. I hope. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

His 26 touchdowns last year were good for second all-time in a season at Iowa. 27 would put him into a tie for first. The 53 he’d accumulate would slide him into fourth in just two seasons of starting. That would be the best two-year run of all-time, besting Chuck Long’s 49 between 1984-85.

An interesting thing to note as he opined in the question before: “there is nothing magical about any position.” I’ll disagree there. A quarterback can be hella magical. Give me those Mickey Mouse ears.

Later in the presser, he talked at length about Iowa’s offense as a whole. It’s about as Inside the Actor’s Studio as you’ll ever get with Kirk Ferentz:

Stay five weeks in the office and I think the meetings were a lot more efficient. We were spending a lot more time looking at last year’s tape, first of all, because it was the offense that we are going to run. Then, secondly, we had time to do that as opposed to what are we going to call this? How are we going to do that?

Because when you’re putting the playbook together, not that it was a wholesale new playbook, but you want to give everybody a chance to have a voice. That’s just a good way to do it. So I think we’re probably way ahead that way. Plus after you do something for a year, you can go back and say what can we cut out? How can we streamline this? How can we emphasize that more? We know our players and all of those things combined.

So I think it’s a better operation. But hopefully it will translate to production on the field.

[...]

I think you just kind of take every situation as it is. Every game’s a little bit different how they play you. So what do they present on third down? What is the best way to attack it? I think it’s probably fair to say Greg and Brian have some different thoughts. To me that’s the prerogative of whoever’s going to be the play caller. They can steer the thing a little different.

We’re probably a different team than a year ago too. So it made more sense to do some two tight end stuff last year on third down as opposed to two years ago. That probably wouldn’t have been as smart a deal.

So you lean towards what your players can do, and how the system evolves. But a lot of it is what the opponents present week by week.

This tells me a couple things:

  1. While last year was a little bit of a letdown in terms of getting the ball into playmakers’ hands, he understands Iowa needs to improve at that.
  2. He’s trusting Brian more and more. “Streamline” seems like code for “less outside zone to the boundary.”
  3. He knows he’s going to have to score to win some football games because, well, the defense loses a lot.

Or maybe the extra hour of sunlight at night is just giving me hope for a changed Ferentz.

DEFENSE

There wasn’t a whole lot of talk about the defense because there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. Ferentz did open up a little bit when talking about the process they’ll go through in identifying who ultimately ends up on the field:

We have guys that are experienced that probably shouldn’t be beat out, but they still have to go and do it on the field. That’s their job. Their job is not only to practice, but practice well and improve. Because if they’re not improving, we’re going to have a problem.

So that’s first things first. But the linebackers right now, we really don’t have a guy with significant game experience at the linebacker position. So it’s anybody’s ballgame right now. Some guys have a lot of position flexibility, the other guys maybe not as much. The key thing for us right now is to figure out who the best three are and then where can we put them most effectively.

He’s also looking for a leader to ascend on that side of the field, especially after losing Josey Jewell.

Mike position [middle linebacker] is a communicator position, so he’s got a lot on his shoulders, lot of things to process and think about. That’s part of the equation, for sure. To me he’s got to give you a spark in his own way. Personalities can be different, certainly, but he’s got to be the guy that gives you a little spark in there.

The best Ferentz-era Iowa defenses definitely had an extra something flowing from that position with Jewell, Pat Angerer, and Abdul Hodge. Whether someone can become that guy will determine a lot in the way of the defense’s performance.

The Derrell Johnson-Koulianos Memorial Doghouse Occupant Sponsored by Akrum Wadley is...

Ihmir Smith-Marsette!

Kirk’s shade was measured in that it was a part of a compliment sandwich but he pretty much hit two of the three items in terms of:

  • focus: “Whether it’s when he’s in the player lounge, maybe getting off the phone a little bit more and, you know, maybe walk across the hall and watch film, those types of things.”
  • weight: “He’s not the biggest guy in the world. So if he works hard in the weight room, all those types of things, that will make him a better player.”
  • academics: [null set]

Like I said, he praised him around these nuggets, calling him “fearless” with “good energy” as well as labeling him a “football junkie.”

If Iowa’s offense is going to reach its peak, Iowa needs ISM to play as well as possible. Does better focus and more weight training in the spring mean he’s less prone to dropping balls in the fall? Who the heck knows. But when Kirk Ferentz is in charge, it’s best not to give him a non-football reason to keep you off the field.

Other stuff...

  • Ferentz congratulated Hayden Fry’s Legends Award from the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. Fry is absolutely a legend and Ferentz went on to say how appreciative he was of Fry.
  • He’s pleased with the staff and excited to teach, teach, teach.
  • It’s the first time Iowa finished a season on a winning streak since 2011. Sad!
  • He’s excited about the custom helmets each player will wear come fall. They received rave reviews from those who wore them in 2017.
  • No one asked (why would they) so he didn’t mention the settlement between his neighbors and himself.

What did you take away from his presser?