Pat will be back to serve your press conference roundup needs next week; in the meantime, you get a substitute teacher. -- Ross
This was the first Iowa football press conference since Ferentz's post-game presser following the Maryland loss (neither Ferentz nor his assistants did a press conference during the bye week last week) and it was also expected to be more newsworthy than usual, thanks to the Reggie Spearman and Derrick Willies incidents over the past week. So what did Ferentz have to say?
First up: Reggie Spearman's status. Over the weekend, he was "suspended indefinitely" following his OWI arrest, but on Tuesday we found out how long "indefinitely" is: two games.
Reggie Spearman will also be suspended for Minnesota game then be back on good standing. #Hawkeyes— Todd Brommelkamp (@ToddBrommelkamp) October 28, 2014
Spearman will be suspended for this week's game against Northwestern and next week's game at Minnesota, but will be eligible to return for Iowa's game against Illinois in two weeks. Mind you, whether or not he slots right back into his starting role for that game is another matter entirely, which could depend heavily on how well Josey Jewell does as his replacement for these next two games. Although it may not just be Jewell who sees increased playing time in Spearman's absence, either:
This will increase Cole Fisher's role on the whole deal. And Travis Perry's a guy that we can put around there too. I wouldn't be shocked if all three guys played at some point.
Fisher has seen action in all seven games this season (primarily on special teams) and has just two tackles to his credit. Perry has bounced around the depth chart and several linebacker positions and might be solid depth, but the fact that he's been consistently beaten out for starting roles by other players (including two redshirt freshmen, Jewel and Bo Bower) doesn't fill us with a ton of confidence.
Next up: Derrick Willies is indeed gone baby gone. Willies announced his departure via Instagram on Monday but didn't provide any details about the whys and wherefores of said departure. Ferentz filled in some of the blanks on Tuesday:
COACH FERENTZ: Derek Willies came to me last night and expressed some interest in transferring. His dad has had some medical issues and he's interested in getting closer to home. If that's the case, we'll certainly support him as he moves forward.
Q. Did you know that Derrick Willies' father was going through health issues?
COACH FERENTZ: I think he's fine. He's got some issues that have been concerning, and my understanding is the prognosis is good, so that's just something that's important to Derek at this point.
Q. Is there a chance he could come back?
COACH FERENTZ: If he has a change of heart in the near future, that would be fine. But I'm not counting on it. It kind of came out of thin air last night. Derrick's had some health issues himself that have kept him off the field for a significant amount of time this year, but we'll see how it goes. He's a young person, and we'll certainly honor his wishes if he chooses to leave.
Willies moved around a lot during high school and finally settled in Rock Island (away from his biological father), but it's certainly difficult to criticize Willies for wanting to be near his father if he's dealing with some health issues at present. That said, it's not clear that his father's health issues were the only reason behind his departure, either. Ferentz was asked about the playing time issue with Willies:
Q. Has he expressed any kind of dissatisfaction with his playing time at all this year?
COACH FERENTZ: Not to me, no.
Maybe Willies didn't mention any playing time concerns or his frustrations with the offense in his conversation with Ferentz -- but that doesn't mean that they didn't play a factor in his decision to leave, a conclusion that's backed up by what C.J. Beathard said about the reasons behind Willies' departure:
CJB said Willies' father's health was a factor. Said frustration with role in offense also was a factor.— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) October 28, 2014
You can view some of Beathard's comments here, via The Gazette's Marc Morehouse, but here's a transcript of his comments about Willies:
"I was surprised. I was actutally surprised. Especially midseason like this. I didn't expect that for sure. He told me he wasn't really... It was nothing, there was no specific person... it was just, you know... he kind of wanted... you know, his dad lives in Arizona and isn't doing well. He told me about that. He just didn't feel like it was right here and he wanted to move on to the next chapter in his life."
Beathard also speaks with uncommon candor, and addresses a host of topics, like whether he was healthy enough to play against Maryland (yes), whether he was expecting to play (yes), and whether he got any increased reps with the first team during the bye week (no). He was also asked about his own playing time:
"I'm all right with it. It can be frustrating at times. I just gotta keep the faith. It's all gonna work out. You just gotta be positive -- make the best out of every opportunity you have."
In related news, don't be surprised if C.J. Beathard isn't made available to the media next Tuesday.
Ferentz also provided some injury updates. The big bad news first: LeShun Daniels is out for the rest of the regular season with a foot/ankle injury.
COACH FERENTZ: Just updates medically as we released this morning with LeShun Daniels, unfortunately, he's going to be out probably six weeks.
Ferentz added that they'll apply for a medical redshirt for Daniels, but didn't seem optimistic that it would be granted, since he's played in four games this season and Iowa's past the halfway mark of the season. It's worth a shot, at least. Unfortunately, Daniels isn't the only banged-up Iowa running back:
Q. Is Jordan Canzeri one of those guys that's a little dinged up?
COACH FERENTZ: He's a little dicey. We'll see where it's at. Like I said, if we played Saturday, it's probably a handful of guys out. But that's October. October, November, it's going to be that way.
So that's exciting! AIRBHG may be staying away from the catastrophic injuries, but He's still making his presence felt among Iowa's running backs. Iowa's running back depth chart is down to Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock, and two redshirt freshmen, Jonathan Parker (who has played) and Akrum Wadley (who has not, at least at running back). Good times.
At least the quarterbacks are healthy:
Q. You said at Maryland that C.J. Beathard may not go. Is he fully functional this week and in the plans at all
COACH FERENTZ: Yeah, I think we have a handful of guys we'll still wait and see on this week. But I think he's fine, and Jake's fine, so we'll let them both go.
Based on past precedent, "we'll let them both go" could very easily mean that Beathard will still be holding a clipboard for the entire game, but hey. At least now we know his hip won't be bothering him while he signals in plays.
There was also a PUNTERWARS 2K14 update. Connor Kornbrath made his first appearance of the season two weeks ago in Iowa's game against Maryland -- will we see him again?
Q. Where are you at with the punter situation?
COACH FERENTZ: At Maryland we did the plus-50 punting with Connor, and Dillon handled the rest of it. It's still very close competition.
Q. Will you proceed that way?
COACH FERENTZ: We'll decide this week. We'll decide this week when we see how practice looks.
It wouldn't be the first time in recent years that Iowa has gone with a two-headed approach at punter -- Iowa used a combination of Kornbrath and John Wienke (sorry, that's Former Elite 11 QB Recruit-Cum-Pooch Punt Specialist John Wienke) in the 2012 season. We don't really care whether Iowa uses one punter or two punters -- we just need to see some consistently strong performances out of the punting game. Iowa can't afford to lose (or even draw) the special teams battles.
Meanwhile, in this week's installment of Kirk Ferentz talking about really old players, he talked about Iowa punting legend Reggie Roby, although this time he was prompted rather than bringing up a decades-old player out of the blue.
Q. You were here when Reggie Roby was kicking off, is Marshall in that league?
COACH FERENTZ: Boy, you're testing my memory there, although I remember when Reggie kicked the ball, you heard it, be it a punt or a kickoff. And Marshall's done a great job. Struggled early with the field goals, but I think his confidence level is really starting to rise now because he's fought through it. Like most players, you go through some tough times, but he's done a really nice job there, and his kickoffs have been great, certainly. There is going to come a time when they're going to come out. Either you return them or you kick them with wind and that type of thing.
We don't really believe Ferentz when he claims the questioner is "testing [his] memory" about Reggie Roby -- Roby's an all-time Iowa great and Ferentz is the kind of guy who was rattling off Pitt linemen from the '70s a few weeks ago -- but hey. And he's right about Koehn -- he's come around pretty well on the field goal front after a disastrous start to the season and his kickoffs have been outstanding all season long.
Full transcript of Ferentz's press conference available here.