SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - It seems a natural assumption that Iowa will miss Derrell Johnson-Koulianos Tuesday night when it faces No. 12 Missouri in the Insight Bowl. Hawkeye Tight End Allen Reisner says it's not a big deal.
"It doesn't really affect us," he said. "Last year, I think Derrell got hurt again or something like that and Colin (Sandeman) stepped in and had a touchdown or two and played well. So, we're not really worried about that.
"Colin is a great player. He can easily step up in that position."
Sandeman (17 catches, 183 yards, two touchdowns in 2010) gets the start after Johnson-Koulianos was removed from the team following a drug arrest earlier this month. True sophomore Keenan Davis (10, 126, 1) also is likely to see more reps with the school's all-time leading receiver out of the lineup.
"Colin played extremely well, as I pointed out, in the Orange Bowl last year and did a great job," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Our guys have to be versatile. That's what we like them to do, and they have done a good job with that. We will be ready to go. We will be fine there."
Marvin McNutt, who led the team with 51 receptions and 798 yards in '10, will garner more attention from the Missouri defense with Johnson-Koulianos out. The two receivers also have a chemistry built playing alongside each other the last two years.
"Really, it just changes the relationship," McNutt said about his role without Johnson-Koulianos. "With Derrell, we played a lot together and we knew each other's tendencies. But as a group, we've always worked well together.
"I feel like if we convert our practices that we've had the last two weeks and put them on the field, we still should see a lot of plays made."
McNutt said there's no more pressure on him to perform with Johnson-Koulianos out.
"Each game, you always want to put the pressure on yourself," the junior from St. Louis said. "Every game I go into as if all the pressure is on me. That's the way you want it. You want the pressure on you.
"With the guys around me now, there's no added pressure. It's more of a focus that you know you're going to need."
Reisner (39, 410, 2) also will be targeted by Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi.
"They're used to going against more speed at the tight end position than we have here," Reisner said with a smile. "But we'll do what we can to get open, you know."
Two Scoops of Vanilla?: Critics of Iowa football point to plain game plans on both sides of the ball as a reason for struggles late in the season. A pro style offense and a base 3-4 defense that blitzes very little sticks in the craw of many a Hawkeye fan, who feel like it‘s too easy for which to prepare.
Missouri players on both sides of the ball disagreed with the assertion that predictability is a drawback.
"I'm pretty sure they're good at what they do," Tiger Defensive End Aldon Smith said. "If somebody doesn't do a lot of things then the things that they do they're going to be very good at. You still have to prepare.
"If they can beat you running, they're going to keep doing it. If you can't stop it, then why should they change it? You have to get a lot of repetitions on each thing they do well. You need a lot of reps on stopping the run game and the passing game. They're balanced."
Missouri Quarterback Blaine Gabbert says the offense takes a similar approach in preparing for the Hawkeye defense.
"It depends on the way you look at it," he said. "In the sense that you know the coverages, it is easier. But in the game, you have to go out there and execute at such a high level in order to have 85-90 yard drives to score points. That's what makes it tough."
Gabbert watched the ‘10 Northwestern-Iowa game a few times in preparing for his Tuesday opponents. The Wildcats have beaten the Hawkeyes the last three years using a similar attack as that of the Tigers.
"Dan Persa did a great job of just dinking and dunking and getting all of the stuff underneath," Gabbert said. "Five-yard passes can turn into 15-yard plays. You just have to be patient in the pocket and take what's there for you."
Center of Attention: Iowa center James Ferentz joked about his name plate at Sunday's media day here. It said "outside line" for his position.
"I guess maybe I'm moving out," the coach's son said.
James' brother, Brian, played the position at Iowa, leaving after the 2004 season. He was hired as the New England Patriots Tight Ends coach before this campaign.
"We'll spitball a few ideas here and there when he has time," James said.
The young Ferentz also can lean on his father, whose area of expertise is on the offensive front.
"I have an unfair advantage to everybody else on the team," James said. "I get to go home and see him at times. I try to pick his brain and see what he's thinking and bounce a few ideas off of him.
"Occasionally it's constructive but usually it's him teaching me a few lessons. I'm very fortunate to get to do that and have the opportunity that most players don't."
Mary Ferentz, wife to Kirk and mother to James and Brian, as to set ground rules.
"My mom tries to keep that conversation away from the dinner table," James said. "She's your typical mom there."
EXTRA POINTS: Coach Ferentz said on Monday that he didn't expect any casualties when final semester grades are released on Tuesday…The likelihood of Iowa and Missouri meeting again during the regular season in the near future is not good with the potential for a nine-game Big Ten schedule and Iowa State already on the Hawkeye docket, Ferentz said…The Iowa coach said not to expect anything different from them in their three phases of football Tuesday despite late-season struggles - "We won't be any different offensively or defensively in terms of our schemes, special teams."