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IOWA CITY — The saga that was Drew Ott’s medical redshirt status won’t be repeated again.
At least that’s the indication Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz gave on Tuesday when asked about injured wide receiver Matt VandeBerg’s status going forward.
A non-contact injury to his foot led VandeBerg to surgery and put an end to his senior campaign. While the Hawkeyes don’t have official word on the medical redshirt for the senior, all signs point to No. 89 being back on the field at Kinnick Stadium next season.
“Yeah, I think Matt would really like to come back,” Ferentz said Tuesday when asked if VandeBerg would seek one at all. “I don’t have official word yet, but it sounds like this one is a little bit more clear-cut than the one we dealt with last year. So that would be good news certainly.”
By “clear-cut,” Ferentz means NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.6.2, which allows VandeBerg to receive a hardship waiver if he’s played in less than 30 percent of games this season (3.6 games in a 12-game season). VandeBerg appeared in the first four games of the season, but the Bylaw allows schools to round up to the next whole number or game.
To qualify, VandeBerg’s injury would have to be season-ending (it is), as diagnosed by a physician (it was). He’s also a true senior, meaning he has one year left on his five-year clock that expires in 2017-18. VandeBerg’s desire to seek the medical redshirt means any chance that he’d come back for postseason play (conference championship or bowl game) is now out the window. He cannot play another down this season if he’s going to take the medical redshirt.
VandeBerg’s desire for the hardship waiver was the newest development in his injury story, with Ferentz essentially removing that doubt Tuesday about whether or not he’d have his leading receiver for another year.
His return would mean the Iowa receiver corps would only lose senior Riley McCarron for next season. Current starter Jerminic Smith, as well as Jay Scheel, Ronald Nash and Devonte Young, among others, would be back as well.
I’M THE CAPTAIN NOW
Desmond King is a captain again.
The senior defensive back got his captaincy back this week after two weeks away from the coin toss and locker room duties. He’ll join quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back LeShun Daniels and linebacker Josey Jewell.
When asked about it on Tuesday at the Hansen Performance Center, King said those four players, as well as the leadership group (16 players who vote on captains) have to be the ones to carry the weight of change if the Hawkeyes want to improve.
“The leadership has to start with our best players, and it has to start with our captains,” King said. “We need our best players playing at their best, we need our older guys leading the way. That’s the only way to get everybody on board and moving as one train. We’re there, but at the same time I feel like we can do better.
“My role is being there, being a captain; playing my best when my best is needed. I’m doing my part and I have to put that effect on other people.”
Coach Kirk Ferentz talks a lot about the leadership group when discussing matters of the locker room, and said Tuesday that the leadership required to get Iowa’s ship righted is going to have to be a collective effort.
Linebacker Ben Niemann, who is on the leadership group, pointed out that, at 3-2, there are “guys that can take that not in a good way,” and that, “there could be negativity, so that’s where we have to be at our best and try to get our team on the right track.”
Beathard agreed with Ferentz, Niemann and King, but added the caveat that the leadership hasn’t been enough.
That’s not to say the Hawkeyes have poor leaders, but that those who are part of that group can affect the team in a better way. It’s no longer an issue of maybe, Beathard said. It needs to happen.
“We need guys to do more,” Beathard said. “I feel like we’ve been practicing well, but (need to) practice harder. When guys make drops, stay on guys with every little thing. Don’t let anything slip up. Sometimes maybe you miss a route or a drop, you say, ‘It’s all right, we’ll get it back.’ No. Clean some stuff up. On the field and in (the locker room), making sure things are cleaned up and stuff like that.”
SUSPENDED GOPHERS RETURN
Minnesota got four players back from suspension on Tuesday after four weeks away from the team.
Iowa’s next opponent saw KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson suspended for a violation of team rules before the Gophers’ game against Indiana State. The players were part of an unspecified investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department, but were cleared Monday when Hennepin County announced it had reviewed the evidence and declined to file any charges.
Hardin, Buford, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson returned to practice Tuesday, but Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys was vague in his weekly media availability when asked if they would play Saturday against the Hawkeyes. Conditioning could be a factor, as all four were completely away from the team while on suspension.
“We’ll just see. We’ll go day by day with it,” Claeys said. “They haven’t been involved in anything, so I’ll know a lot more in practice how that’s affected.”
Hardin started at defensive back for Minnesota in the season-opener, finishing the game with six tackles and two pass breakups. According to the Star-Tribune, Buford was in the mix for a starting position in fall camp, but did not play in the opener. Redshirt freshman Dior Johnson and true freshman Tamarion Johnson have not yet played for the Gophers.
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