Hawkmania football & basketball blog

New year, same approach

July 28th, 2014

Michigan State enjoyed a championship season last year, but coach Mark Dantonio doesn’t expect that to mean a thing this fall.
Dantonio said at today’s Big Ten kickoff that how the Spartans handle the success they had a year ago will put them in a position to repeat in 2014.
“What we’ve tried to talk about really is how we handle success now,” Dantonio said. “We’ve had success. We’ve gotten to a point where we’ve done some special things. Now, how do we handle it? That’s really going to be one of the biggest things we’ll have to deal with this year.”
Dantonio expects that opponents will have a little more energy as they lineup against Michigan State.
“I think we’ll be a little more of the hunted this year,” Dantonio said. “That’s a good place to be, but it is also a precarious place.’
He said the Spartans must work to improve, much in the same way Hawkeye players talk the same talk.
“We haven’t earned a thing yet this season,” Iowa running back Mark Weisman said. “We won eight games last year, but that doesn’t matter now and we have to understand that.”
Weisman’s right, just as Dantonio is.
Big Ten football teams are judged only by their most recent result.
That provides teams with hope and provides them with motivation.
It’s the type of thing that pushes teams forward during the summer.
Dantonio believes his team has had a productive offseason since returing from Pasadena.
Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said the Hawkeyes have never been better prepared for the start of a fall camp since he has been on campus.
“The commitment is there,” Davis said. “Guys are bigger, faster, stronger. Now, we have to turn that into results.”

Bob being Bob

July 22nd, 2014

Bob Bowlsby didn’t mince words Monday at the Big 12 football media days in Dallas, simply portraying the landscape of intercollegiate athletics as he sees it.
The Big 12 commissioner didn’t paint a pretty picture, describing the NCAA’s enforcement of rules as “broken” and saying that cheating, while not rampant, is possible because of the inability of the NCAA to hold its members accountable.
Bowlsby also forewarned that the future of men’s Olympic sports is shaky because of financial structures which will change as schools begin to spend millions to facilitate funding full cost of attendance scholarships and deal with a growing number of class-action lawsuits.
He predicts rising tensions between sports on campuses and between institutions with differing levels of resources.
“I think it’s really unknown at this point what the outcomes will be, but generally speaking, I think those are the things you should watch for,” Bowlsby said.
The former Northern Iowa, Iowa and Stanford director of athletics measured his words carefully but accurately defined the complicated and conflicting state of affairs facing intercollegiate athletics today.
That’s no surprise. It was simply Bob being Bob, articulating his beliefs in the same fashion that he delivered them when he led athletic departments in this state.
Bowlsby articulated reasoned and frankly accurate statements as he stood behind the podium in Dallas.
Like many of his peers, including Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, he believes funding scholarships at the full cost of attendance level is a step in the right direction.
He took time to point out that the five power conferences would have already enacted that proposal if they had not been outvoted by the rest of the Division I membership.
Bowlsby repeated his support for creation of a governing structure that would allow the five conferences to remain under the NCAA umbrella but operate under their own terms in order to deal with issues unique to the largest of the Division I programs and conferences.
“The fact is we have some challenges at our level that other institutions in Division I don’t have,” Bowlsby said.
He acknowledges that the change has the potential to create additional separation among the 350 Division I programs, but will allow all to continue to share in the Division I brand as well as provide access to revenue sharing and championship qualification.
In exchange, Bowlsby said members of the five conferences will “get some prerogatives that will allow us to better manage and to better meet the needs of student-athletes.”
In his Bob being Bob way, Bowlsby hit the ball out of the park on Monday and should provide his contemporaries with greater reason to contemplate and seek potential solutions to growing issues within the current structure of the organization.

List of priorities

July 16th, 2014

It is probably better to be mentioned on a preseason watch list than it is to be left off of one, but Iowa football players aren’t spending much time congratulating each other for being listed on the growing list of watch lists that hype postseason awards.
At this time of year, between time in the weight room and on the field working toward the start of fall camp, those awards seem about a million miles away to the Hawkeyes as they probably should.
“I think there is too much preseason talk, to be honest,” Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock said today.
Rudock appreciates that two of the linemen in front of him, Brandon Scherff and Austin Blythe, are among players listed on some of the nearly two dozen watch lists which have been released in recent weeks.
But, he appreciated them before their names were added to lists that sometimes seemingly include as many names as small-town phone book.
“I just feel good with the way they play and they way they compete,” Rudock said. “That tops my list of priorities.”
Blythe can relate.
He said he had to ask his father who one of the lists some Hawkeyes made this summer was named after.
“There are too many to keep track of. It’s an honor and everything, but at the end of the day it’s more important how you play and right now, there isn’t a player in the country who has earned anything because none of us have played any games,” Blythe said.
Among a group of 123 players, including three Hawkeyes, on the preseason watch list for the Lombardi Trophy presented to the game’s top lineman, Blythe said he has other priorities right now.
“It’s the middle of summer. You have to get through camp, have a good season and then, those things will come,” Blythe said. “The big step is getting onto that next stage of the watch list.”
But there is a lot of work to be done before any of the Hawkeyes will put much thought into that.
Offensive guard Andrew Donnal said players typically take the hype for what it is.
“Nobody ever knows,” Donnal said. “When it comes to the season, there are so many upsets. Those things can’t be predicted. We just take care of business and things will work out. That’s always been our approach here.”

Coffee talk

July 8th, 2014

I’ve never been one to spend money I don’t have on wagers, but I do find that the odds make for “good coffee talk,” a phrase former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry used to toss around to describe debatable issues.
That probably includes how the folks in Vegas and elsewhere see things from their own perspective.
With the start of the college football season a little more than 50 days away, the odds makers are starting to show their hands when it comes to how they see the college football landscape in 2014.
The usual suspects, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, Auburn and Ohio State, tend to be viewed by most among the early favorites. The online site Bovada lists Iowa as a 100-to-1 shot to win the national title this season, placing the Hawkeyes on the same tier its lists Arizona, Kansas State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Washington.
The site lists Ohio State as a 1-to-1 pick to win the Big Ten title this season, putting Nebraska at 5-to-1, Michigan at 6-to-1, Michigan State and Wisconsin at 9-to-2 ahead of Iowa at 12-to-1.
It also rates the Hawkeyes as a 5-to-1 pick as the team which will win the Western Division title and advance to the league title game, behind Nebraska at 3-to-2 and Wisconsin at 6-to-5. The longshot in the West? Purdue at 100-to-1.
In reality, it will all be determined on the field and a schedule that brings both Wisconsin and Nebraska to Kinnick Stadium in late November could position the Hawkeyes to make things interesting down the stretch.
If nothing else, it’s “good coffee talk” for a mid-summer day.

Welcome to the weekend

June 20th, 2014

The late-night streets of Iowa City have not been kind to Iowa football players the past two weekends.
As the third weekend of June arrives, Hawkeye players are taking it on themselves to end the recent run-ins with local authorities.
“It’s up to us as players to make certain that we don’t put ourselves in situations that can lead to what has happened the last couple of weeks,” running back Mark Weisman said. “Call it peer pressure, call it whatever, but we need to be accountable to each other. That’s part of being on a team.”
The weekend police blotters have not been kind to Iowa football players so far this month.
Defensive back Nico Law was charged with disorderly conduct following a early-morning incident in downtown Iowa City on June 7. Days later, he announced he planned to transfer.
Last weekend, defensive tackle Dean Tsopinades was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated shortly before midnight on June 13 near downtown Iowa City.
A little over an hour later on the west side of town, receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley was cited for having a disorderly house when police were called in following a complaint of loud music and noise.
Incidents with local authorities have been sporadic in recent seasons for Iowa football players and leaders on this season’s team are taking a proactive approach to bringing the current streak of issues to an end.
“It’s our job to stop it before it starts,” defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “We cannot put ourselves in those situations.”
Toward that objective, leaders on this year’s team held a meeting with their teammates this week.
One of the things to come out of the meeting was a decision by players to refrain from spending any time in downtown night spots.
“If downtown is the area where most of the problems are occurring, there’s no reason to go there,” Weisman said.
Davis said Hawkeye seniors are willing to put pressure on themselves and on underclassmen to end the recent issues.
“We’re here to work and prepare to compete for a championship and you can’t do that if you’re dealing with distractions,” Davis said. “If we have to tell each other ‘No, we’re not going to go there’ or ‘No, we can’t do that,’ I feel like it’s a small sacrifice to make for the good of the team. We need everyone to buy into that idea.”
Davis believes the message, delivered in a direct approach during their meeting this week, has been received.
“It’s up to all of us now to hold each other accountable and to remember that what we do impacts not only ourselves, but everybody else on the team,” Davis said. “We can’t let each other down.”
Welcome to the first weekend of what Hawkeye leaders see as the start of a new commitment to each other.

‘A lucky coincidence’

June 18th, 2014

Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, Kirk Ferentz had a hometown view of Chuck Noll and the well-oiled ways his Pittsburgh Steelers operated.
The Iowa football coach said today that he “idolized” Noll as a youth, recalling days after the NFL coaching legend’s death at the age of 82 just how much influence Noll had in Ferentz wanting to become a coach.
“To me, he stands for what is good in coaching,” Ferentz said. “For me to grow up in that town, that was a lucky coincidence and I’ve been lucky along the way.”
Ferentz recalled when he was away at college how his father would send him a week’s worth of sports sections from the local paper in the mail, allowing him to keep up with Noll and the Steelers.
“I read every article. I still have a lot of them right there in my file,” Ferentz said today. “I’ve got everything that has been written over the last several days.”
Ferentz credited Noll with a decision he made early in his high school days that he one day wanted to become an educator and coach.
He had the chance to learn from Noll in person, attending a 1995 clinic at Robert Morris that included the future NFL hall of fame coach as its featured speaker.
Ferentz was working as a Cleveland Browns assistant at the time, but Noll’s words left an impression on the future Hawkeye coach.
“I got to hear coach Noll talk about the art of hitting for 50 minutes. For me, that was a thrill. Maybe not for anyone else, but for me that was a thrill,” Ferentz said.
“I was just mesmerized that an NFL coach could talk for 50 straight minutes just about technique and fundamentals. If you watched their team play, that was the trademark of their team.”

A fitting finish

June 16th, 2014

Dallas Clark, whose play at tight end helped elevate the Iowa football program to the Big Ten’s elite, will be receiving a fitting finish to his NFL career on Wednesday.
The Indianapolis Colts announced today that Clark will sign a contract with the team on Wednesday and then retire, concluding his career as the franchise’s career leader among tight ends in receptions and touchdown receptions.
Clark suited up for the Colts from 2003-11 after Indianapolis selected the all-Big Ten Hawkeye with the 24th pick in the 2003 NFL draft.
He will join Jeff Saturday as the only Indianapolis players to re-sign and then retire as members of the Colts organization.
“It’s an honor I can’t even explain,” Clark told Colts.com. “It’s amazing just the love and support I have for the Colts and fans, but to see it come back toward me (is humbling).
“For the Irsay family and Colts family to do this is an honor, something I can’t thank anyone for enough. It’s so special I can’t even express how awesome it is.”
Clark caught 427 passes, including 46 for touchdowns, as he surpassed NFL Hall-of-Famer John Mackey in the Colts record books during his nine-year run in Indianapolis before finishing his career with Tampa Bay and Baltimore the past two seasons.
Overall, the product of Twin River Valley High School who grew up on a farm near Livermore, Iowa, caught 505 passes for 5,665 yards and 53 scores while starting 118 of the 143 NFL games he played.
Former Colts coach Tony Dungy told Colts.com that Clark was the “last piece of the puzzle” the organization needed to put itself in a position to win seven division titles, two conference titles and a Super Bowl.
As was the case when he left Iowa after winning the Mackey Award as the college game’s top tight end following his junior season in 2002, Clark told the Colts website that he felt the timing was right to call it a career.
He said he always wanted to walk away healthy instead of being forced out for not being able to perform.
“That’s the case now and I’m good with that,” Clark said. “I got to the point where I could do it for a couple more years, but I need to walk away.”
Clark walked away from the Iowa program after catching 43 passes for 742 yards and four scores in 2002, helping the Hawkeyes to an unbeaten Big Ten season which ended with a loss to Southern California in the Orange Bowl.
Then a fourth-year junior, Clark knew it was time to challenge himself at the next level.
Now, he’ll challenge himself with enjoying time with his wife and the couple’s two children, ages 3 and 5.
Not surprisingly, Clark’s timing remains impeccable.

On the move

June 10th, 2014

Iowa quarterback recruit Jack Beneventi is on the move.
One of three quarterbacks among the eight players the Hawkeyes have received verbal commitments from as part of the 2015 recruiting class, Beneventi is leaving the Lisle Benet program he has quarterbacked the past two seasons for Oak Park Fenwick.
The 6-foot-6 Beneventi reached that decision last week after visiting the Chicago Catholic League school and talking with its coach, Gene Nudo.
Nudo told both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times that things fell into place quickly after Beneventi visited the school last Thursday.
“It all happened very fast,” Nudo told the Sun-Times.
The 6-foot-6 Beneventi is one of two transfer quarterbacks who will vye for an opening starting position at Fenwick, which finished 10-3 last season and won the Chicago Catholic League White championship before falling by a point to Wheaton North in the Illinois 7A playoffs.
Gavin Graves, a 6-0 junior who started at Mundelein the past two seasons has also announced plans to transfer to Fenwick.
The two quarterbacks have differing styles and with Illinois prep coaches allowed 20 contact days with their players during the summer months, Nudo has some time to figure out which one better suits Fenwick’s returning personnel.
“We’re losing some pieces on offense, and hopefully (Beneventi) can be one of the people who can come in and fill the holes,” Nudo told the Tribune.
Beneventi quarterbacked Lisle Benet to a Class 7A playoff berth as well last season after leading the program to the state semifinals as a sophomore.
Nudo likes Beneventi’s size, saying the few tapes he has watched of Beneventi have shown him that he sees the field well and has a strong arm.
“We’re in a unique situation,” Nudo told the Sun-Times.

A fitting tribute

May 31st, 2014

Norm Parker would have appreciated what took place at Kinnick Stadium this afternoon as much as he enjoyed a good cup of coffee.
The gruff-but-lovable Parker – an old-school coach whose teachings were embraced by generations of new-school players during a 48-year career – would have liked both the messages and the way they were delivered during the 90-minute celebration of life held in the stadium where Parker did some the best work of his career.
Former Iowa players, current and former Iowa coaches and Parker’s son and grandson were among those who spoke, keeping things brief and keeping the atmosphere light as they reflected on one of the more unique individuals to coach the game at Iowa.
There were emotions.
Former Hawkeye assistant Eric Johnson who followed Parker to Iowa from Vanderbilt fought off tears as he spoke about working with him.
And, there were laughs.
Parker’s grandson Tyler Anderson, who works in the Iowa football offices, recalled how Parker was late in returning to the office following game. It was later discovered that Parker, then using a golf cart to get back-and-forth from the stadium to his office, had a reasonable explanation for his delay.
“We were starting to get worried, but a spectator had flagged him down and asked him if he was in charge of accessible parking. He gave the guy a lift in his golf cart to the guy’s car over at Carver,” Anderson said. “That was grandpa.”
Aaron Kampman was among the former Hawkeyes who stood behind the podium and talked about Parker and the impact he had on his life.
“Look at the people who have come back. They’re here from all over the country and that says a lot about what coach meant to all of us,” Kampman said before the ceremony started.
“It’s like a reunion, but I think that says something about the respect we all have for Norm and what he means to all of us.”
Former Hawkeyes Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge, Mike Humpal and LeVar Woods, all coached by Parker, were among the speakers.
They recalled situations they found themselves in while learning from Parker, often on the sharp end of Parker’s wit, and how those lessons benefitted them once their collegiate careers ended.
“Norm never taught us to be NFL players, none of us,” said Woods, now an assistant on the Hawkeye staff. “He taught us how to be better men, successful men, brothers and fathers, contributors to society.”
That is the legacy that Parker leaves.
As Humpal put it, “People would ask Norm how long he planned to coach and he’d always say he was going to coach ‘until the lid’s closed.’ Well, the lid’s closed and he’s still coaching.”

100-day itch

May 22nd, 2014

The 2014 Iowa football season kicks off 100 days from today when the Hawkeyes welcome Northern Iowa to Kinnick Stadium.
What happens between now and Aug. 30 when Iowa plays the first of three straight home games to open the season will go a long way in determining just what type of Hawkeye team this will be.
There are questions still be answered, mostly on the front end of the offense and the back end of the defense.
Work put in by offensive linemen and defensive backs during the summer months will have a major say in what transpires once the season turns from summer to football.
Iowa coaches are comfortable with the front five on their offensive line, where right tackle Andrfew Donnal and left guard Sean Welsh have moved into open lineup spots.
Both performed well enough during spring drills for coaches to be comfortable with where the starting unit is at for this time of year.
Behind them, the Hawkeyes have work to do. Iowa’s offenisve line depth is paper thin, and coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff expect summertime growth from a group of listed back-ups which included one senior, one junior, three sophomores and two redshirt freshmen among reserves heading into fall camp.
Iowa started the same front five in its 13 games on offense a year ago, a rarity in the Big Ten allowed by the fortunes of good health and consistent performance.
The Hawkeyes cannot count on being as fortunate in 2014 from a health standpoint and ideally, coaches would like to see at least three of those reserves improve to the point where they could take the field and provide the needed consistency for Iowa to compete up front.
In the secondary, this spring was somewhat a time of experimentation for coordinator Phil Parker and Jordan Lomax’s progress at free safety and the emergence of one of three contenders at left cornerback will be important once fall camp begins.
Maurice Fleming, Sean Draper and Greg Mabin all finished spring drills battling at the position and that competition will likely continue into the opening weeks of fall camp.
Iowa needs to solidify the back end of its defense to help a trio of first-year starters at linebacker ease their way into action.
While a veteran defensive front will help that situation as well, there will likely be a few growing pains along the way as the linebackers step into starting roles.
On offense, the same scenario exists at receiver, where Kevonte Martin-Manley and Tevaun Smith return with starting experience but Iowa needs growth over the next 100 days from a group of receivers who will impact the Hawkeye passing game this fall.
From Jacob Hillyer to Derrick Willies, Matt VandeBerg and Damond Powell, Iowa needs its receiving corps to elevate its level of consistency as it works with Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard during the upcoming months.
It’s what happens when quarterbacks are drilling receivers on their routes during individual work in June and July that can make or break a team, developing the needed cohesion to compete with the Big Ten’s elite or settling for something less.
Just how much the Hawkeyes scratch that 100-day itch will go a long way in determing just what transpires just off of Melrose Avenue this fall.