FOOTBALL IS BACK BABY.
The Swarm Returns to Kinnick on Saturday afternoon, hosting the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, which means I have returned to the blogosphere to recap Kirk Ferentz’s annual media availability.
Let’s get right into it, shall we? My highlights (and snarky responses) from the press conference are below, and the full transcript is here.
Let’s start with this:
KIRK FERENTZ: We’ve had to work through some injury situations ... Depth-wise we’re fluid in some spots. We’ll see where all things play out. Then there’s some other spots where it’s pretty much a given that our three linebackers will be the same three guys you saw last year: Riley Moss and Kaevon in the back end. LaPorta at tight end and Petras as our quarterback. Those things are set in stone right now. Some other things we’re working through
We’ll get a little more into where the fluidity comes into play here in a bit. But there you have it, in case you were wondering (you weren’t) that Spencer Petras is our guy for the season.
Some other injury news before we get into that:
KIRK FERENTZ: Last note on the roster, Jackson Ritter and Justin Britt will not be able to play this year, medical reasons, and David Davidkov will be in that group, as well. I’m sorry to say he won’t be able to play.
Ok...we’re already down two offensive linemen and a wide receiver before we’ve played a down. Not great, Bob!
Q. Injury-wise, what’s the latest on Nico Ragaini and how quickly do you think he can get back?
KIRK FERENTZ: He has a medical issue right now. It’s going to be at least a couple weeks, so he’s not on the depth chart, which means he has no chance to play this week. It’s unfortunate because he’s really practicing well, great guy, and another one of our veteran players, so would be great to have him with us.
No Nico Ragaini, either. So we’re down two wideouts, including our most experienced one, for “at least a couple weeks.” Really not great, Bob!
Q. I know Keagan Johnson is slowed. Is he available for a full workload this week?
KIRK FERENTZ: We’ll see. It’s been touch and go. Like I said, we’ve had a lot of guys in and out of the lineup with injuries ... He’s got a chance, and we’ll see where it goes.
Q. A chance to play?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, chance to play.
And there’s another receiver banged up — again — before we’ve played an actual down. At least Johnson has a chance to play, but still. Congratulations, you, reader, are playing wideout this weekend for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Q. You mentioned the depth real quick at wide receiver. Two walk-ons in the two deep. Is the depth a concern at all? Maybe touch a little bit on those walk-ons.
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah. First of all, those guys have done a good job, Jack and Alec have done a really nice job and been consistent ... and Arland has done a nice job, as well.
We’re not as deep as you’d like to be. It seems like every preseason ... certain segments get tagged a little bit with the injury deal, and just got to work around it. That’s what we’re doing there.
I think the good news is we’re a little deeper at tight end than maybe some years past, so we’ll figure out a way to complement things and make it work.
So expect Petras to only target LaPorta. Got it. I’M NOT WORRIED I’M NOT WORRIED.
Q. Going back to the spring and even after the off-season, you considered it a competition at quarterback. What did Spencer do that enabled him to continue to be the starting quarterback at Iowa?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s a long evaluation, and we evaluate everything, we tell our guys starting in January ... just the time on the field, I think Spencer has out-performed Alex a little bit at this point. He’s further ahead and gives us a better chance to be successful. That’s not to diminish what Alex has done. Both have improved.
Ok...so am I reading that basically, Petras won the job because of more time on the field? Listen, I’m willing to go into this season with a new outlook on Petras, take Kirk at his word here. But this isn’t exactly the ringing endorsement I want about either quarterback, frankly, so I’ll believe Petras has actually improved when I actually see it.
Folks: WE’VE GOT A KICKER COMPETITION (uh oh?)
Q. Is there a resolution at kicker at this point?
KIRK FERENTZ: We’ll let that play out, and it may play out for a week or two or a couple weeks, you never know. Unlike this spring, we’re doing better certainly in the fall. I’m more encouraged. It’s gone back and forth a little bit, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing quite frankly. But both guys have improved a lot since last April, and they both have worked hard, have a good attitude, and I think they’re both very capable.
Q. Who will be the first one out there?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’ll tell you on Saturday. I don’t know right now.
Good thing we score so many touchdowns and hardly ever have to settle for field goals, right? ...shit.
Let’s talk defense for a bit before closing:
Q. How do you look at your defensive line right now? It seems, appears as deep as it’s ever been. Do you anticipate Van Ness playing more on the edge as opposed to inside, and how does Aaron Graves fit in?
KIRK FERENTZ: A couple points there. We’ll see how it all plays out about us in position versatility. Lucas does have that versatility, so that’s a good thing.
I think you’re accurate in our depth. It’s probably about as good as I can remember. We’ve got a lot of guys that I think we can put in there that we trust and I think will play well.
And then it’s kind of like we’re talking about some of the guys, just curious to see, Lucas is a year older; let’s see what he looks like now. If he is playing outside, does that make a little difference for him, all those kind of things. Who knows who’s going to emerge. We’ve got some interesting guys in the group.
And then with Aaron, Aaron has done nothing but impress us. The challenge there is that we do have some depth. If he were at some other positions, he’d probably be in there an awful lot. But we’ll see how the game plays out, but we fully intend to play him and push him forward and see what happens after a couple weeks.
Very excited to see some action from Graves this year, and very excited about this defense in general. It’s certainly not going to be easy for teams to run on us, or score. But it also might not be easy for us to score again on the other end, so who knows. But I will never complain or doubt a Phil Parker defense, especially one with depth.
There’s a lot more in the rest of the transcript, so check it out if you’d like. We made it folks, it’s time for for football. Let’s hope for a win (and health for our wide receivers). Go Hawks.