Iowa isn’t going to host a traditional ‘spring game’ on Friday.
It’s an idea that many coaches around the country are adopting too, though the Hawkeyes’ decision is also because of the on-going construction. Iowa, in fact, will only be running plays into the south end zone when things get going at 7 p.m.
They will likely still run some plays, giving us at least a little bit of an idea of what the Hawkeyes are going to look like. It’s also an opportunity to see if anyone has made some moves on the two deeps since the start of spring ball, though everything has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Speaking of the depth chart, positional questions were shot to Phil Parker when he and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz were on the podium Tuesday afternoon.
LInebacker came up first, of course, and Parker said something interesting.
Q. At linebacker if you had a game Friday night instead of a scrimmage, who would be your two guys on the inside right now?
PHIL PARKER: I would say right now we’d start off with Amani Jones and Aaron Mends. I think they are two guys right now that we’d probably start off with. It varies every day. Sometimes one guy might be better than the other, but right now that’s who I’d start.
Aaron Mends just might be free. He’s played under all sorts of linebackers during his time at Iowa so far, often showcasing enough talent to make a person curious why he wasn’t playing more.
Regardless, it’s good to see him finally crack the starting spot. He’s been with the program a long, long time and it would be nice to see him end his career on a high note.
Amani Jones is a little bit of a surprise to see, especially since Kristian Welch and Jack Hockaday were listed as the top two on the opening spring depth-chart at middle. Jones was behind Mends at the weak-side LB spot.
Parker, of course, was asked several questions about Jones.
Q. What has Amani done? He’s built like a bowling ball or a tank, I guess, but what has he done to assure you that he can handle that responsibility?
PARKER: Commitment and the way he puts his effort and the time in, watching film, preparation, the energy and the excitement that he brings to the field, and then obviously when he finishes plays, I mean, he likes to go after guys, and he does a good job of tackling guys. We just like his enthusiasm.
Q. So it’s Jack and Amani in the middle, and Christian and Aaron at Will?
PARKER: Yeah, right now, yeah, that’s the way we have it right now, and then obviously Ben and Barrington Wade outside.
Q. With Amani in the middle, what do you like about him in the middle?
PARKER: I think his ability to read the box and diagnose the plays, and when he goes, he goes. I think his ability to go ahead and trigger when he sees something, and when he comes, he’s well-packed. He’s got a low center of gravity, and he runs through guys. I’m really excited to see what he can do.
Parker didn’t say much else of note, though there were a few tidbits. First, it seems as if Brandon Snyder’s recovery is back on track and it looks like he’ll be on track to compete for playing time in the fall.
Sam Brincks is also now apparently on the Parker Hesse career track and is getting some snaps at defensive tackle. Chauncey Golston will be doing the same things. It also sounds like Brady Reiff is in for even more playing time next year.
That was all Parker really said of interest, though he did have a somewhat odd comment about Josh Jackson.
Q. How good of a professional do you think Josh Jackson is going to be and why?
PARKER: You know, it’s kind of hard to say. I think he’ll be in the league a long time. Based on his commitment to preparation and things he has to do in the NFL, it’s a little bit different game than it is in college, but he does have a lot of ability, and I think he has a lot of room to grow. I think one more year here would have maybe helped him grow a little bit more, but we understand the process that he went through.
He went on to say he wasn’t sure if Jackson would ever be an All-Pro but said the corner would play in the NFL for 10 years. In all, a strange response made even stranger by the slightly salty, “one more year....” comment.
Jackson sat and watched as Desmond King lose millions of dollars by slipping to the fifth round and he wasn’t going to do the same thing. Sure, another year in a Hawkeye uniform might have helped him improve, but he can improve next season now and get paid for it.
Seems like a win.
Brian Ferentz really didn’t have a whole lot to say, though was immediately asked about the running back situation. Iowa’s got Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin coming back, who both saw time last season.
He was also asked about what he learned last season, his first as offensive coordinator, and gave a fairly blunt response.
Q. What did you learn about yourself as you look back over your first year as offensive coordinator, and what can you do better in particular?
BRIAN FERENTZ: I think I learned that I’m not really as good at it as I’d like to be. And I think if you do anything, that should be the way you’re looking at it. But tried to be realistic going into it. I’ve been around long enough now to understand that anything you do, you’re probably going to improve over time. But you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone a little bit and push forward.
There’s a lot of things that I can do better just from a personal standpoint, but I think the main thing is just trying to do a better job of putting our football team in a position to be successful and to have a chance to succeed.
I just thought that was somewhat interesting and quite honest.
Ferentz was also asked about Iowa’s passing last season, which at times could be downright hard to watch. Stanley had a solid year but threw a huge amount of incompletions.
“To me, what we’re trying to do is throw the ball efficiently, so we want to make sure our completion percentage hopefully is up there over 60 percent. That’s where we’d like to be. We were 57 last year. That’s just not good enough.”
He’s actually off. Iowa only completed 56.1 percent of its passes last season, including just 55.8 percent from Stanley. Shooting for 60 percent is good and certainly not unreachable for the Hawkeyes.
Ferentz didn’t say much else, but I’ll end with a truly epic quote from him using Star Wars as an analogy.
“You’ve been there in those games where things are rolling, and it’s kind of like -- I’m watching “Star Wars” with my son the other day, and I would use this analogy. Okay, when you’re in the Wisconsin game, it’s like you’re the pilot of that little sad rebel ship at the opening of Star Wars. Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer is closing on that ship, right. That’s what the Wisconsin game feels like. But if it’s the Ohio State game or the Nebraska game, then you’re Luke Skywalker making the trench run in the Death Star. Everything is going to go right, don’t worry about it. Use the Force, Luke, you’ll be all right; call whatever you want.”