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Archive for July, 2015

Egg-citing endeavor

Friday, July 31st, 2015
It's just Drew. From driving his scooter 10 hours to his family's home in Nebraska to downing raw eggs complete with the shell, Drew Ott marches to the beat of his own drummer in addition to rating among the elite defensive ends in the Big Ten this season. A video of Ott devouring an egg made its way into cyberspace earlier this summer and at the Big Ten Kickoff, a reporter showed up complete with a Grade A opportunity. Would he be willing to down an egg? No sweat. Ott performed the feat, then explained that he first performed the trick when offered $5 by an uncle who dared him to do it when he was a little kid. It's become a more common occurrence lately, in part because Ott said at times he has become too lazy to cook. That's Drew, who coach Kirk Ferentz labels "a character with character.'' Teammates aren't surprised by anything Ott might opt to come up with. His wardrobe includes a t-shirt that proclaims him as the "No. 1 Dad.'' There's just one hitch -- Ott isn't a father. "He's just the kind of guy who doesn't care about all that stuff. He'll just do whatever,'' Iowa center Austin Blythe said. "He's the kind of guy who flies by the seat of his pants.'' Ott has an easy explanation for the t-shirt as well. He bought it for "less than five bucks'' on a sale rack at an Iowa City Wal-Mart. "People do ask me about it,'' he said, adding that he has not fathered any children. "It's a talker.'' Just like eating raw eggs. It's just Drew.

Yastrzemski and Hawkeye football

Thursday, July 30th, 2015
yazWhen Carl Yastrzemski waved to the crowd at Boston's Fenway Park on Tuesday after being introduced at a ceremony where the jersey of Pedro Martinez was retired, he caught the eye of Iowa football fans. Underneath is sports coat, Yastrzemski was wearing a "Hawkeye football'' polo shirt, complete with a golden tiger hawk logo. Shortly after the close-up look appeared on television and a picture popped up on social media, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz realized something had happened. "I heard pretty quickly from John Bridge, who I taught school with in Worcester. He wanted to know how I pulled that off,'' Ferentz said today at the Big Ten kickoff. Ferentz couldn't take credit. That went to assistant coach Chris White, whose father played baseball with Yastrzemski at Notre Dame. "They apparently still golf all the time and are good friends. It was great to see, some good publicity,'' Ferentz said. In some ways, Ferentz figures 'Yaz' was simply returning the favor. "I used to have a 'Yaz' bat when I was a kid, a real thin-handled bat,'' Ferentz said. "I didn't hit like him, though, but that type of a bat seemed to work for him.''

The unanimous decision

Monday, July 27th, 2015 has assembled its annual preseason Big Ten football poll, seeking the opinions of journalists from throughout the conference to rank teams from top to bottom. A total of 40 individuals participated this year and they agreed on one thing - that defending national champion Ohio State is the team to beat this season. All 40 first-place votes went to the Buckeyes and in the East Division, Ohio State and Michigan State were ranked 1-2 on every ballot. Things were a little more scrambled in the West, where Iowa was picked to finish fourth. Wisconsin was listed first on 32 of the 40 ballots, with Nebraska receiving five votes and Minnesota gaining the other three. The Badgers, Cornhuskers and Gophers finished in that order in the poll, with Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue rounding things out. The poll, which has been conducted for the last five years, originated in part because the Big Ten has never released a top-to-bottom projection of how the league will play out. It did until 2011 ask those attending the Big Ten media day to rank their top three teams and then released that ballot. Since that time, the league has not asked that question. The Big Ten will, as it has done in recent years, release a watch list of 10 players in the league - five from each division - when conference begins its annual kickoff event in Chicago on Thursday. Here's how this year's poll played out, with first-place votes in parenthesis: EAST 1. Ohio State (40) 280 2. Michigan State 240 3. Penn State 186.5 4. Michigan 163.5 5. Maryland 95.5 6. Rutgers 78 7. Indiana 76.5 WEST 1. Wisconsin (32) 272 2. Nebraska (5) 231.5 3. Minnesota (3) 197 4. Iowa 158.5 5. Northwestern 125 6. Illinois 77 7. Purdue 59 And when asked to pick the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes made a clean: Ohio State over Wisconsin (32) Ohio State over Nebraska (5) Ohio State over Minnesota (3)

Measuring stick

Thursday, July 16th, 2015
A survey sent by the Iowa athletics department to football season ticket holders this week has created a bit of a buzz. Playing off of the department's core emphasis of "Win. Graduate. Do it Right,'' it asks fans who have invested in the Hawkeye program to rank on a scale of 1-to-10 with 10 being the highest how important each of those three components are to them. The survey also asks if the response would be the same from the individual if they were asked the same question about each of the 24 sports Iowa offers and then it asks fans to prioritize the three. While Iowa officials have determined in their minds that each is an equally important component of what they want all student-athletes to achieve and how they want to accomplish it, there are some things to be learned from the results. Fans, ultimately, want wins. They're being asked to weigh that compared to other elements as they form responses to the survey. Some may criticize the survey's intent or are suspicious of why the questions are being answered. Iowa responded to those notions on its Twitter account this evening, suggesting that the survey is merely another way to connect with fans. Much like the telephonic town hall meetings the university has conducted with season ticket holders to the survey it sent fans on the game-day environment at Kinnick Stadium, Hawkeye officials are looking for a way to engage customers of the university's athletic department and perhaps get them to think a bit. There's nothing wrong with that, no matter how strange the questions may seem on the surface. As a series of Tweets concluded, "The objective is to know what is important to the people who are important to us.'' That seems to make perfect sense.

For starters

Monday, July 13th, 2015
There are plenty of reasons why Iowa's season-opening football opponent will present the Hawkeyes with a number of challenges. Illinois State is a veteran team that finished as the runner-up in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision a year ago, winning a school-record 13 games. Two of the reasons the Redbirds will be among the preseason favorites at the FCS level again this year can be found on the list of 22 players announced today as preseason candidates for STATS FCS offensive player of the year award. Senior quarterback Tre Roberson - who Iowa fans may recall giving the Hawkeyes fits when he was lining up behind center for Indiana - and senior running back Marshaun Coprich are two of the three players from the Missouri Valley Football Conference named to the list. Roberson was chosen as the newcomer of the year in the Missouri Valley last season after transferring from Indiana. He earned first-team all-conference honors a year ago while throwing 3,221 yards and rushing for 1,029 yards. The 6-foot Indianapolis native averaged 283.3 yards per game while throwing for 30 scores and rushing for 11. Roberson will be making his second start at Kinnick Stadium. He completed 16-of-24 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown in addition to rushing 16 times for 84 yards for Indiana in a 45-24 loss to the Hawkeyes in 2011. Roberson had suffered a season-ending injury by the time the teams played in 2012. Coprich, who has been reinstated following a brief suspension from the team this spring following his arrest on charges that he sold marijuana to a police informant, was the Missouri Valley's offensive player of the year last season. Coprich pled guilty to the charge, was placed on probation and was reinstated to the team. Nicknamed the "Baby Bull,'' the 5-9, 205-pound senior was a first-team all-American last fall while leading the FCS with 2,274 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. Coprich finished fifth in balloting for FCS offensive player of the year honors last season.

Any kind of edge

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
It won't receive much ink, but a hiring announced today by Nebraska illustrates how intercollegiate athletics are changing. Tucker Zeleny was introduced as the director of sports analytics and data analysis for the Nebraska athletics department. He will held a new office that will work with all of the school's 24 intercollegiate programs to collect, analyze and summarize data related to team and individual performance. He won't be working alone. Zeleny will head a staff which will have a responsibility of providing data that can help Cornhuskers teams gain a "competitive advantage.'' "Our sports teams and departments stand to benefit significantly from the information Tucker and his staff will provide,'' Steve Waterfield, Nebraska's senior associate athletic director for performance and strategic research said in a statement announcing the hire. Sports analytics is a growing field and Zeleny's staff will be tasked with dissecting the numbers of everything from performance on the practice field and competition to measuring potential in recruits from a statistical basis. This isn't your father's Oldsmobile, folks. This is how decisions are being made and the data collected is guiding coaches and staff to those decisions. A Nebraska native, Zeleny holds a doctorate in statistics from Nebraska. His dissertation involved multivariate time series on multiple time scales with applications toward weight lifting data collected by the Cornhusker football team. He previously worked as a data analyst for the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory.