Iowa City, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz wrapped up the year with his final thoughts on the season that was. After the rollercoaster season Iowa experienced, he had plenty of content to cover and many questions to answer regarding the team to come.
He opened with the obvious: the teams bowl win in New York against Boston College. A win that snapped a five game bowl losing streak.
“I think in a lot of ways the Pinstripe Bowl was really representative of our season,” Ferentz said. “We played tough, smart, physical football in that second half, but we has some ups and downs during the course of the game.”
“There were other times where we didn’t play as smart.”
The way the game was won shows what it takes to be successful. He added that a win adds energy heading into the offseason and towards the fall. It boosts the momentum to make the necessary changes.
Some areas mentioned for the defense included improving the run defense and being more opportunistic. On offense, ball security and simply executing fundamental plays highlighted the focus for the next few months. Special teams also needs to improve.
“Obviously our punting game has to improve,” he said. “It wasn’t good enough.”
Ferentz also mentioned the departures. He appeared to be a little cocked up as he mentioned the job the seniors did. Their leadership and ability to show the younger team member the ropes along the way were among his praises. Iowa is also losing players to the NFL and so far two to transfer, Tyler Wiegers and Noah Clayberg.
Parting Words To Those Turning Professional
Ferentz couldn’t have spoken higher of both early exits headed for the NFL. Josh Jackson and James Daniels announced their decision to forego their final season last week.
Daniels, a center, played a significant role in his three years as a Hawkeye. He first played as a true freshman during the undefeated regular season two years ago. He leaves as one of the many accomplished Iowa offensive lineman.
“I’ll say this about James: I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a more talented center prospect,” he said. “That includes my time in the NFL.”
Ferentz noted his intelligence and skill-set as major attributes, but it was his personality that stuck out most. NFL teams have yet to get to know him personally. Ferentz expects his stock to rise once they investigate the kind of person he is.
He foresees the same thing for Jackson as he enters the draft process.
Anytime a player leaves early there is fear about their true readiness for professional football. Running back Akrum Wadley wasn’t ready a year ago as he contemplated entering. In regards to Daniels, Ferentz has no doubt that he has what it takes to succeed immediately on the next level. Jackson as well, both players made the correct choice by entering.
“I think they’re more mature, more NFL-ready,” he said. “In my mind [Daniels] could go and play guard for just about anybody in the league. Josh is a really good player too.”
Other recent NFL selections such as Brandon Scherff, Riley Reiff, and Bryan Bulaga would’ve received similar praise.
Replacing The Linebackers
Filling a void left by the exit of 199 total tackles is no small task. Iowa’s three leading tacklers, Josey Jewell, Bo Bower, and Ben Niemann, won’t be lining up at linebacker next year. Ferentz has to find the new staple of his defense.
Kristian Welch and Aaron Mends are likely to be the lead candidates for two spots. They have been listed as the number-two behind Jewell and Bower. The third opening, possibly Jack Hockaday who has seen limited game action in his first three seasons but has recorded 15 tackles and two forced fumbles in his career.
Special teams tacklers will also be in the mix. Amani Jones picked up eight tackles this past year to put himself in the mix. Needless to say though, there isn’t much experience returning to the linebacker position.
Ferentz is going to let them battle for the coveted spots.
“I wouldn’t even want to predict who is going to line up there for the first ballgame,” he said. “It’s obviously going to be something we look at closely. It’s a wide open competition for everybody right now including anyone that comes in.”
As far as newcomers, Dillon Doyle, son of strength coach Chris Doyle, joins the team next year as a three-star prospect at linebacker. If his dad can increase his weight from his listed 214 quickly, Doyle has a shot at joining the competition.
Ferentz added that he does have some favorites, but wasn’t going to divulge that information just yet. He plans to decide within the next six to eight months. It’s a waiting game at the linebacker position.
Hopeful For A Return
Brandon Snyder and Alaric Jackson were suspended for the bowl game in New York. Ferentz addressed their status with the team. He mentioned that Jackson still has some things he needs to check off before moving forward.
“It’s going to be ongoing for those guys to get back where they need to be and hopefully in the near future that will be the case,” he said.
The next time Ferentz will speak to the media will be after signing day this spring.