Folks. We’re just a few weeks away from the return of Iowa Football. With fans. (Whether or not this will come back to haunt us is TBD, but I digress). You can smell it in the air. And hear the sounds of pads crashing against each other. And gum being chewed by Kirk Ferentz...and the media assembled at Kinnick Stadium today for the annual media day. As always, head coach Kirk Ferentz kicked things off. We weren’t there, but we read the transcripts. Check out the full transcript here, and the highlights (with my lovely commentary, back again) below.
Let’s kick off this annual event with some annual news: an injury on the offensive line. Sigh:
KIRK FERENTZ: Kyler Schott, who had a really good summer, and unfortunately, had an accident or a setback during the course of our guys had a week off before we started last Thursday. He was at home helping bail hay, and I think he’s the first guy, at least in 23 years, I can remember that got injured bailing hay. Jump off a bail and landed on his foot and had a foot injury. So he’s probably going to miss some playing time early in this season. I can’t tell you when, if it’ll be the second week, third week or fourth week. But we expect him back somewhere in the first portion of the season, but he will not be ready early, at least I think that would be a real long shot to expect him to be ready for the first game. And you’ll see him today. He’ll be on crutches today, so no need to ask him that.
PROTECT THIS MAN AT ALL COSTS. NO MORE BAILING HAY, KYLER.
Kirk discussed early in his intro remarks that the team is currently working on training and discovering its identity as they go through fall camp. We better hope that identity comes through quickly, because the season opens with two tough opponents in No. 17 Indiana and (vastly, vastly overrated) No. 8 Iowa State. At least Kirk is acknowledging it:
I think it goes without saying, one thing that’s very, very obvious we play two teams that are highly ranked going into the preseason polls, very highly ranked and for good reason. They’re both coming off historically good seasons. Both teams, their arrows are definitely going up. They got a lot of veteran players coming back in both cases. So we’re starting right off with a really tough schedule. And then to me every game we play is tough and competitive, and that’s kind of what it is in college football. You better have that attitude or you’re going to be in for some disappointment, that’s for sure.
I don’t know about you all but I’ve been watching Iowa football for many, many years now and one thing I always have is an expectation for disappointment, sooooo...
Kirk also mentioned that the team’s vaccination numbers continue to improve, which is great. (Also, you should go get vaccinated too, if you haven’t already. Spencer Petras says so).
Given the injury news, let’s talk offensive line!
Q. Where does offensive line sit now with Kyler out? Is Justin Britt healthy? What’s kind of your staffing situation?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah. So Justin jumped right in there and played the right guard position. You never want injuries to happen, but that is a good reminder for all of us ... But both of our lines right now, we’ve got some really good players up front on both sides, but we also have a bunch of guys that haven’t played much. Justin would be in that category. He’s missed a lot of time — I say a lot of time — significant time during the course of his career with injuries. So it’s tough to get better when you’re not out working, but the good news right now is he’s gotten a lot of quality work in these seven or eight days that we’ve practiced, and every snap is so valuable for him. And that bleeds in to the other guys that haven’t played. I think Justin is a guy, like DeJong — like the guys that are rotating at tackle. We’ve got basically a rotation going, Plumb, Mason is in that rotation, DeJong and Colby. Those guys are all young guys that haven’t played much, and every snap is important. But we’re I don’t want to use the word unsettled, but really don’t have any idea. I couldn’t tell you who’s going to be starting when we get the season going here. Have a better idea when we have our press conference before the game who’s going to be at least the two deep, but right now it’s wide open for everybody to compete. It’s pretty much the same on the defensive line. I expect VanValkenburg, I expect Linderbaum to be in there playing, but after that it’s wide open.
Well, again, at least this is an annual occasion. We should be used to this kind of thing by now. But can we never have nice things?
Q. You lose some key wide receivers a year ago. Tyrone is obviously the number one, but behind that who are you looking at as stepping up into some of those key roles?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, that’s a great question ... when you have two guys like Ihmir and Brenden go to the NFL, those are two big holes. Luck, whatever it is, but two of the guys that came in January, you know, the younger guys, both Keagan and Arland, have really done a nice job. Keagan got a little boo-boo yesterday, so I don’t think he’ll work tomorrow. We’ll see. We’re not ruling him out yet. But he couldn’t go today, but he’s done a really nice job, did a nice job in the spring, and Arland has done the same thing ... So they’re definitely in the picture. We consider Nico Ragaini to be a starter. Charlie Jones was a really good returner last year. He’s made strides as a receiver and done a lot of good things. Couple of young guys out of the exposition, Desmond Hutson and Jackson Ritter, are both making strides and Brody Brecht is not with us. He had a thumb injury today. So you’re going to see him probably wrapped up at media day. He’ll be out for a while, and he’s a little behind because he’s been really focused on his baseball, and rightfully so. So I think we have a healthy group. Jack Johnson is another guy that’s caught our eye, young walk-on guy from Des Moines. He’s done a really nice be job. We’re just going to let it play out and see what happens. We’re not there yet, but I think we’re going in the right direction with that group.
Nothing unexpected there, particularly with regards to Nico Ragaini and Charlie Jones, but this could be a big weakness for this team, especially early in the season. The run game, however...
Q. What would it mean for this team to have a healthy guy in Kelly-Martin?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s going to help a lot. He’s really looked good in practice. First of all, he’s a veteran player. He really knows how to play. And just like I kind of mentioned about those younger guys, Ivory is a veteran player. He clearly knows how to operate and just how to do things. He’s been a really good leader on our football team ... Tyler has played a lot, but he’s still a younger guy, third-year guy. So that gives us a good strong, I think, one-two punch. He’s come off the injury. We were very cautious with him through the spring and summer, but he seems to be at full speed right now and really doing well.
Inject that 1-2 punch into my veins. We might be seeing a lot of it, especially if the passing game doesn’t fan out...
We’re getting close, folks. We’ll see more of the squad at Kids Day, and we’ll be back in Kinnick in no time. ARE YOU READY?