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Big Ten Media Days: What We Learned

Taking a look at what we learned about Iowa Football at Big Ten Media Days.


Kirk Ferentz confirmed that Ryan Boyle had made the move from quarterback to wideout. However, it is only for the Fall as of now. Ferentz explained that it would be something that would be re-visited once again in January and that a return to quarterback had not been ruled out. They just wanted to find a way to make the team better in the present and Boyle's move was a part of that. Not only that, but the Iowa head coach admitted that he was excited to see Boyle run some real routes and get legitimate practice time at the new position. He should have a chance for playing time with Jonathan Parker expected to miss most of Fall camp. 


Ferentz released some unexpected news while in Chicago that wideout Jonathan Parker had suffered a foot injury that is expected to require surgery and sideline him for 6-8 weeks. That timeline would suggest that Parker would miss all of Fall camp and perhaps the beginning of the season if he indeed has to go under the knife. The injury comes at an inconvenient time for Parker as he clearly had a shot and a path to real playing time with the uncertainty at wide receiver. His absence should clear a path for Jay Scheel, Adrian Falconer, or Ryan Boyle to emerge. 


A lot of last year's success was credited to a sensational senior class and their leadership for an entire year. That was a question headed into this season on whether or not they could replace that or build on it. In talking to players and coaches, and knowing who's on the roster and assuming those roles, I do not foresee that being a problem. I think they have the right guys leading the ship and taking control of the locker room. You knew seniors C.J. Beathard and Desmond King hold a lot of clout and lead everyone in the appropriate direction, but they'll be supplemented nicely by guys like Josey Jewell, Sean Welsh, Cole Croston, Matt VandeBerg, Riley McCarron, LeShun Daniels, Parker Hesse, Miles Taylor, Brandon Snyder and Greg Mabin. 


Linebacker Josey Jewell shared his recruiting story and how he barely received the opportunity to head to Iowa. He always wanted to play for the Hawkeyes and would jump at the chance but it came so late in the process that he was lining up his other options and was going to attend Luther College in Decorah and play football there instead of Northern Iowa. Reese Morgan got the staff to buy in and he eventually became a Hawkeye. It's a heck of a story and Jewell doesn't hold any bitter feelings about the process. He knew the knock on him was that he looked slow on film and he actually agreed on that criticism. He certainly isn't slow anymore. 


Kirk Ferentz has expressed optimism but also concern for his wide receiver group headed into fall camp, noting that the situation is similar to where the offensive tackles were a year ago. There's uncertainty, inexperience, and little has been proven on the field. Beathard may be saying what everyone wants to hear currently but he has shared optimism about his weapons in the passing game, noting a substantial improvement in what he's seen since a year ago. He's complimented guys like Jay Scheel, Jerminic Smith, and even freshman tight end Noah Fant. It is evident guys like George Kittle, Riley McCarron, and Matt VandeBerg are the ones that have his complete trust. Others seem to be inching towards that. 


When you pass on a possible NFL Draft first round selection it can become tough not to look back and think "what could have been". It can also be tough to not think about what the moment will be like in the future and develop an approach with that in mind. Cornerback Desmond King seems to be doing none of that. He was asked question after question about the NFL while he was in Chicago for Big Ten Media Days but said all the right things. He made it clear he passed on the NFL not only as a business decision but that he wanted to graduate from college and finish what he started. His evaluation suggested he had more work to do and he returned to accomplish those things, such as getting faster. He was also asked about the worry of suffering an injury that could alter his pro future, much like what happened to Notre Dame Jaylon Smith, and he answered by saying that does not pop into his head and that he will play the game as he always has. That has to be music to the ears of Iowa fans. 


Hearing Kirk Ferentz openly discuss how many they plan on signing in the 2017 class was quite a surprise, as he doesn't dive too much into that topic publicly, nor do they get specific about their recruiting plans and strategy. His answer, however, was not surprising if you've been reading Hawkeye Insider for the last several months. They feel that they can/will sign about 20 prospects in the 2017 class, give or take one either way. That's exactly what we've been reporting. Although I will say that I believe 20 is absolutely realistic and could be one or two more. I'd be surprised if they signed less than 20. The omission of Frank Darby in the 2016 class, Lance Billlings' departure, and other attrition has a lot to do with that. 


This is the first year that the Big Ten will transfer to a 9-game conference schedule instead of the 8-game schedule they've been operating under for the longest time. Kirk Ferentz and Iowa have no qualms with it. Ferentz stated that everybody in the division would have the same amount of home conference games each year. He also shared that you still have to go out and win games, and having five road games just means that you'll have five home conference games the following year. Some see the imbalance as an uneven playing field but the Hawkeyes have zero concerns. 


While in Chicago, I was able to go around and ask representatives from Big Ten West programs how they felt about the Big Ten West competition this year and if they viewed Iowa as the favorite. There were mixed feelings about that, with some using the politically correct answer as it being wide open. New Illinois head coach Lovie Smith vowed that they don't look at it as there's one team to beat, but that the division is full of strong teams and they have to beat them all. Purdue defensive lineman Jake Replogle and Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys did state that Iowa was the likely favorite headed into the season. Gopher players Damarius Travis and Jack Lynn would not go that far but sharing that they had to respect all of their opponents. Mitch Leidner obviously went on a rant on how he still held a chip against Iowa, while Wisconsin defensive back Sojourn Shelton was very complimentary of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard. Illinois running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn explained he thought the race was wide open and that they hadn't discussed Iowa or heard much chatter about them in the offseason. 


Perhaps the biggest revelation in Chicago was the strong compliments true freshman Noah Fant received from Kirk Ferentz and C.J. Beathard. He's obviously someone they are very high on early even though Fall camp has yet to begin. They love his natural pass catching skills, how he's done everything they've asked, and his pure athleticism. With the depth behind George Kittle being a question mark, there should be no doubt that Fant plays right away and avoids being redshirted.

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