Well folks, we made it through the marathon that was Iowa vs. Nevada and the offense WASN’T the cause of our misery!
It’s Wednesday, so let’s recap what head coach Kirk Ferentz had to say yesterday to the media at his press conference. It’s safe to say it was a little bit less contentious than last week. Check out my highlights below, and the full transcript here.
As always, let’s start with injury news:
Q. What’s the latest on Keagan Johnson? Saw him in action but didn’t see him on the depth chart.
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, he pulled out somewhere around the 34th, 35th play. It’s a nagging injury, and there’s nothing to say right now. We’ll take it a day at a time.
Q. Is he available for Saturday?
KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t think so. He hasn’t practiced yet this week, so we’ll see. It’s just day-to-day.
What do we put the likelihood that we see Keagan Johnson in Iowa black and gold next season? I’d have to wager that it’s under 50%.
Q. Personnel-wise, Noah Shannon played only a couple snaps the other day. Is he available this week?
KIRK FERENTZ: Hoping he is, yeah, we’ll see. We’re hoping by middle of the week he’ll be ready to go. We have — like a lot of teams, you have guys that are out and then you have other guys that are nursing injuries and just trying to play through it. We had a fair amount of guys miss yesterday and maybe a little less today, but that’s one of the frustrating things ... You want everything to be perfect, and it’s an imperfect game, and then when you factor injuries in, that makes it a little bit less perfect even more.
Offensive woes aside, I truly can’t help but wonder if we’ll start to consider this season a loss just due to the sheer amount of injuries alone. We’ve been so lucky overall for so many years, maybe it’s catching up to us.
Q. A couple of players, just kind of housekeeping, is Jacobs available? Deasfernandes? I don’t think I saw him the other day. And then somebody I haven’t seen all year is Josh Volk.
KIRK FERENTZ: So the first two guys have a shot, I think, to be back. We’ll see. Deasfernandes, I think, he practiced today and we’re hoping Justin does tomorrow. Again, it’s soft tissue so it’s hard to predict.
Then Volk has been in and out, but we’ll see where he’s at. He’s not in the two deep right now, though. You won’t see him this weekend.
JESTIN JACOBS (potentially) BACK. That’s big (if it happens).
Q. When you look at the passing game the other day, Spencer looked like he was throwing the ball with a lot of confidence, and the receivers looked like they were still a little rusty, I guess, maybe the way they were attacking the ball versus what they’ll probably do five weeks from now or something like that. How does that chemistry grow, and is it just day by day? Can you see the improvements?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, you hope to. We feel like we are. We felt like we saw some of that last week, but it’s not so basic, but it’s so true. Guys have to be on the field and they have to be working together. It’s probably true in every sport. I don’t know many other sports, but we’re not independent contractors. In football you have to be out there getting the timing down, getting the work done, and from my experience, that’s the only way you really improve ...
That’s how you learn how to play. The biggest thing last week was having some other bodies out on the field helping, just supplementing what we already had.
If we can keep that going in that direction, that trend, that’s going to help guys like Arland Bruce who’s been shouldering a big load and Sam LaPorta, those guys will be better players when we get a little bit more support around them, a little bit more experience, and certainly help Spencer, too.
I agree with this answer here. Yes, I was shouting to the rooftops last week that adding more receivers wasn’t necessarily the only solution to end the problem — and I still don’t think it is — but last week was a definite improvement on every level. Petras was fine, having Keagan and Nico back really made a lot of difference, and Brian called what I thought was a solid game overall (although it’s tough judge it fairly). The question now is whether it will continue against stiffer competition.
Q. How do you evaluate the offensive line here through three weeks?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think we’re gaining ground, but we’re not there. There’s still a lot of little things that we can do a lot better, and that gets back to experience. I alluded to it last week that we had some guys that have been playing a lot that have missed a lot of significant time, and that’s one — that isn’t my background. It’s hard for players that are veteran guys to miss time.
When you get guys that are a little bit younger in their development, it’s a little bit of a strain. I think we’re chasing the clock there. I think we’re gaining ground. We made up the last two weeks, I think we’ve gained ground, but there’s still a lot of loose ends that we can get tied up, and that’s a challenge for our guys. If we can just keep closing the gap, that’s going to — I’m encouraged because I think there’s potential to be pretty good, but we’re not there yet.
The offensive line has been a surprising weak point for me this season. Obviously we knew there would be a lot to replace, but I don’t think anyone thought we’d see this much shifting, or just general lack of protection for Petras. All snark aside with Kirk answers, if he thinks he sees potential with this line and is encouraged, I’m encouraged. That’s his wheelhouse; we could be seeing a completely different line come November.
Let’s end with this:
Q. As far Kaleb Johnson goes, given his performance last Saturday, will you maybe continue to ease him into more opportunities?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, no question. If you earn it, you’re going to get it. He certainly has earned it. He’s done a really good job ...
During that time — and this is how it works, too, is if you earn the right to be considered for playing time, and he’s certainly, I think, done a nice job since we got started back in August. He’s improved every week ...
But you know, players have to — it’s a road to get there because he didn’t look that way four weeks ago. I think he’s earned our confidence and is earning more and more from everybody as we go, and so yeah, if you do that, you get a chance to play. That’s a good thing certainly, and it was great to see him look like he did because we’ve seen him look like that occasionally in August, and it’s good, and hopefully there’s some consistency there with him. Great young guy.
YES. Obviously, very tough situation with Kaleb getting playing time due to Leshon having to attend his father’s funeral, but I came away from the game extremely excited for Kaleb Johnson’s potential. The more snaps he can get for the rest of the season, the better, in my opinion.
Like I said, a lot less contentious. No Alex Padilla talk. Petras is our guy. I guess we’ll see how it works out for us on the road this weekend. As always, go Hawks.