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IOWA CITY — If there’s one little thing that symbolizes Iowa’s 12-2 run in 2015, it’s Desmond King’s cowboy hat.
It made a brief appearance at a basketball game this winter. Of course, you know that King won the 2015 Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. Part of that deal was a trip to Oklahoma City, where cowboy hats are a rule more than an option.
King picked one up, a nice brown felt hat. He wore it to a basketball game and now his cowboy hat has maybe three Twitter accounts.
The cowboy hat is so 2015, you guys.
During the Hawkeyes media day Saturday, the general theme was this year is this year, last year was last year. During an I-Club meeting in Cedar Rapids in late June, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta told an audience that it was the last official night of talking about the 2015 season, which did see the Hawkeyes win a school-record 12 games, pick up their first Big Ten West Division title and claim their first Rose Bowl spot in 25 years.
Iowa’s 2015 season is Desmond King’s cowboy hat. You know where that is?
“In my closet,” King said. “It’s symbolic. It capped off a great season that I had. I took pride in wearing it. It goes with my trophy, so that’s where it’s at.”
So, just to recap. Things that the Hawkeyes should put in Desmond King’s closet: Rose Bowl rings, anything Rose Bowl, Big Ten championship game sweat shirts and four traveling trophies claimed during 2015.
Things that shouldn’t go in King’s closet: Quarterback C.J. Beathard, linebacker Josey Jewell, a chorus line of returning starters on the offensive and defensive lines. You know, all of the elements that put Iowa at No. 15 in the USA Today coaches poll preseason rankings.
And, no, head coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t vote for his team. He doesn’t have a vote.
“Preseason polls are kind of like rankings of recruiting classes, too,” Ferentz said. “It really doesn’t matter until you get there and start doing something.”
The Hawkeyes are three days into fall camp, so there’s not a ton of news. Here are a few tidbits:
— Wide receiver Jonathan Parker is out after foot surgery. He could miss six to eight weeks. Linebacker Jake Sobotka, offensive lineman Mitch Keppy, sophomore defensive lineman Michael Slater and incoming freshman defensive lineman Austin Schulte (suffered a torn ACL at Pella High School last season) are coming off surgeries and aren’t ready to participate yet, Ferentz said.
— With just three practices down, there are no conclusions on incoming freshmen who might play right away.
“Since they got going in June, (strength and conditioning coach) Chris Doyle and his staff have really enjoyed working with the group,” Ferentz said. “They’ve done a nice job academically, and three days on the field, we like what we see so far. A long way to go obviously, but I think that picture will become clearer, and if they can help us on special teams, help us with depth, we’re wide open to it, or if they have a skill set that might be a little bit unique compared to what our older guys have, we’re open to that, too.
“We want to win right now. That’s our first goal.”
Ferentz said true freshman Shaun Beyer, a Cedar Rapids Kennedy grad, is playing some wide receiver. He was slated to play tight end.
— Four kickers and two punters are in camp. The punters are redshirt freshman Colten Rastetter and senior Ron Coluzzi. Kickers in contention are sophomores Miguel Recinos and Mick Ellis and incoming freshman Keith Duncan and Caleb Shudak.
Running backs/special teams coach Chris White said the logistics on working out four kickers are still being hammered out, but did pledge a fair look for each of the contestants.
— With NCAA regulations on feeding athletes lifted last season and with the Hansen Performance Center totally online, Doyle reported a six-pound average gain for Iowa’s roster last year. He said there was a similar gain this offseason.
“Right now, this current roster is as big as we’ve ever been, maybe a little bit bigger,” Doyle said. “Our offensive and defensive lines are good size. We’ve never been numbers driven. Some of our best linemen back in the day would be considered undersized. We’re not size-driven, but we’re happy with the development of these guys.”
Hot spots in personnel? Yes, Iowa has position groups that need bodies to respond. On offense, wide receiver and tight end are under the spotlight.
“There are a lot of young, talented guys we're testing out right now to see if they can handle it,” Beathard said. “It’s just a matter of who’s going to step in front of other guys and be better in this camp.”
Defensively, there are depth concerns in the front seven. Can Iowa find eight defensive linemen?
The Hawkeyes have all of August to figure that out. Right now, the 2015 cowboy hats go into the closet. OK, not everything from 2015 is gone. A massive banner with a picture of King celebrating his Thorpe Award still hangs on the south side of Kinnick Stadium.
“Ugghh,” King grunted. “It’s like looking at myself and I don’t like that. I don’t want to be seen as conceited or anything like that. I kind of honor the achievements and accomplishments that I have, but I don’t bring it into the meeting room at all.”
Ferentz did put up King’s portrait on the wall of consensus all-Americans in the Hansen Center, but that’s it. In the team meeting rooms, there are “Fathead” poster wall hangings of Iowa’s all-Americans. All-Americans also go up in the weight facility.
King’s image isn’t there, not yet.
“I think the big thing is there’s a time and place for all of that,” Ferentz said. “Right now, this is the time and place to do your best. The reason he came back was to have a great senior year. That’s really all he needs to focus on. It’s kind of like our team. Instead of worrying about the big picture, let’s just worry about doing a good job in camp and hitting that first game.
“Just like I’d encourage our team to do that, I’d encourage Desmond to do that. He won that award last year because he played well game in and game out. I don’t think he set out to be the Thorpe Award winner or set out to be an all-American. It happened because he was thinking right and doing right. That’s the secret to success.”
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