Greasing the Skids: Football Inches Closer

HN.com's Jon Miller begins to dust off the old pigskin as football season is just around the corner...

There are fewer that 50 days remaining until Iowa opens the 2005 college football season.

Man, that just has a great ring to it, doesn't it?

It feels better each and every year, at least to me.

I don't know what it is about Iowa football that does it to me, but there are few things in life that bring me as much enjoyment, aside from my wife's smile and my daughter's laugh.

As we get closer and closer to kickoff, closer and closer to media day and the 40 or so interviews we are going to conduct that day and post back here on the website during the month of August, most of what we can do is speculate about what is to come this year.

We have gone ‘round and ‘round regarding Iowa's preseason rankings in the national magazines as well as my ballot in the Scout.com poll, so let's not rehash that.

We have talked ad nauseum about the inexperience along Iowa's defensive line, and how their play will go a long way as to whether or not this team can win 10 games for the fourth year in a row or if they might take a step back to something less than 9 wins.

Let's dig into a key position that did not provide many positives last year; running back.

Of course, I am not knocking anyone who carried the ball for Iowa last year, as Sam Brownlee and Damian Sims were the only healthy backs on the roster some six or seven games into the season.

Albert Young and Marcus Schnoor are expected to be 100 percent for August camp. Those two blew out their ACL's very early in the season last year; Schnoor in the first quarter of the first game, and Young would get injured in the second game against Iowa State.

Marques Simmons hurt his ankle against Ohio State, and missed most of the remaining regular season games, but did make it back to action against Wisconsin and in the bowl game against LSU. He too is healthy heading into August.

Old reliable Sam Brownlee continues to get the most out of his opportunity. I doubt that Brownlee dreamed that he would be mentioned in each and every major preseason college football magazine during his Iowa career, but thanks to his leading the team in rushing yards last year and some laziness by magazine publishers across the nation, good ole Sam is listed as the #1 in a lot of mag depth charts.

Damian Sims flashed this spring and showed off some new muscle as well as a greater understanding of the system.

Everything I have heard regarding Shonn Greene this summer has not only been positive, but downright giddy. Granted, the kid has yet to play in a live practice at Iowa, but he is going to be in the mix. Kalvin Bailey is also going to be afforded every opportunity to earn some time at fullback, as he is a very talented ‘big back', something Iowa has not had since Jeremy Allen graduated after the 2001 season. But Bailey might not line up at tailback, as fullback is more likely.

OK, so let's handicap this race a bit.

If I had to wager on who the starter will be, I would say smart money goes on Young. And even though I don't think Schnoor has as much talent as some of the other backs, he probably will be listed at #2 on the depth chart.

Marques Simmons might come in to grind out some of the tough yards this year, and I think it would fantastic if Iowa could afford to redshirt Sims, something they intended to do last year until so many backs got hurt.

I just have a sneaking hunch that Shonn Greene is going to get some carries this year, and I am not talking about mop up duty, something you typically would not do with a true freshman, anyway.

But Greene had the year at prep school, and its not often that a prep school running back with his skills would chose to stay in college five years anyway (see Fred Russell).

If you don't see Greene right away, it will be because of blocking schemes. But that does not mean you won't see him later.

Here is a stab at who will have the most carries of the tailbacks this year:

1. Albert Young
2. Shonn Greene
3. Marques Simmons
4. Marcus Schnoor

REMINDERS

It's been a while since Spring football, so it might be a good time to remember who Kirk Ferentz talked about back in April. Here are some ‘outtakes' from some of our stories from April…we hope that they whet your appetite as we all head down the home stretch prior to media day, which will take place in Chicago (Big Ten, also televised on ESPN PLUS) two weeks from today and in Iowa City three weeks from today.

Ferentz: "Ed Miles has made great strides. He is practicing with the kind of consistency that we have not seen. Mike Klinkenborg is another guy that has practiced well this spring. He was hurt last fall, but he was out there most of the time but he was never himself. Between he and Ed Miles, we have a couple of guys that have taken the step where those guys could start games and we would be in good shape."

Q: Outside of Klinkenborg, who are your backup linebackers?

Ferentz: "Klinkenborg, Klinkenborg and Klinkenborg. The few, the proud, the three."

Q: Do any true freshmen have an inside track?

Ferentz: "It's more by position. We are intrigued to see what the defensive linemen can do. The running backs, possibly. But we will have to see what our health situation will be there and what they show. We will be open to everybody."

Q: What has Ryan Majerus done (at tight end) that has you talking about him making strides?

Ferentz: "He has gotten better and is playing with a lot more confidence. I use the term young player some times and I don't mean it in a demeaning way, but young players play young. They are not as confident; they are not as stout, not as decisive. He has always been a hard working guy, but you can see it paying off. He looks more mature and comfortable. It's in everything he does. You can project him to help our football team now. I think he will be good on special teams, too. You hope players do that and he is on that path right now.

Some guys jump out at you, and he is one of them. Klinkenborg and Ed Miles have made big strides, too. Mike Jones. Even though he has played, he is totally a different guy right now. Experience means so much. He has really practiced well, that is another guy I would single out. Mike has played for two years, but he is really starting to act like an older guy now. He has been extremely attentive and the concentration has been great. He is visibly trying to improve; you can tell that by the way he is practicing.

Ferentz said after the last practice in April that it would be too early to predict who would emerge out of the DL group, outside of Ken Iwebema and Matt Kroul.

And for those of you who are thinking about an ‘open practice' in Kinnick this August, and I know a lot of you are thinking about it, here is what Kirk said in April:

Q: No spring game, are you happy with that situation now that it's over?

Ferentz: There was no choice, we didn't have any options on this one. I think we'd all still prefer to be in Kinnick Stadium and playing in front of a crowd, I think it's fair to say we had a nice crowd today. I'm still hopeful we can duplicate something like that in August, I guess it's not technically a 'spring game', but have an open house. Get our guys in front of the fans, I think that's important.


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