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Five takeaways from Iowa's Tuesday media availability.
By now you know all about Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg’s marriage proposal to his girlfriend Laura Bulanda. It happened after the No. 11 Hawkeyes’ 42-3 victory over Iowa State.
Iowa wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy has made it a practice for the receivers to take a group photo after victories. VandeBerg, in cleats and full gear, sprinted down the tunnel with a few other receivers. VandeBerg caught seven passes Saturday night. He took one knee.
You also know that Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard has a poet’s heart somewhere under his shoulder pads. His dad, Casey, writes songs for a living. His brother, Tucker, is an up-and-coming country music singer/songwriter.
VandeBerg broke the news to teammates before the game. He laid out the plan. With his girlfriend now fiance hanging with his family in the bleachers near the field, he planned to pop the question.
Beathard thought he’d help out his favorite receiver (they’ve connected 76 times in 16 games).
“I told him, ‘Yeah OK, I’ll throw you a few extra balls to make sure she says yes,’” Beathard said Tuesday with a laugh.
Do you think that’s a young age to get married?
“It depends really,” Beathard said. “If you’re in love, you’re in love. Clearly, they’re in love. I’m happy for him.”
And now for the news from Tuesday. The Hawkeyes (2-0) are prepping for North Dakota State (2-0), the No. 1 team in FCS and the five-time defending FCS national champion.
Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker began meetings with the defense this week by asking a simple question, “Have any of you won a national championship?”
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said sophomore defensive end Parker Hesse has a chance to return this week. Hesse sat out last week after suffering a hamstring injury in the opener against Miami (Ohio). Hesse is doing more work at practice, which is how the Iowa staff has gauged returns during Ferentz’s 17-plus seasons.
That might be where sophomore center James Daniels is right now. Daniels suffered a knee injury last Wednesday and missed Iowa State, being replaced by sophomore Lucas LeGrand.
“James Daniels hasn’t been ruled out,” Ferentz said. “We’ll see what he can do. He’s moving around pretty good right now. We’ll play that day by day, but we certainly can’t count on him.”
Running back Akrum Wadley injured his right knee going into last weekend. He played and rushed for 49 yards and a TD and caught a 26-yard TD pass. Wadley said Saturday night that he’s OK. Ferentz said Wadley is banged up but OK. So, Wadley is OK.
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta watched some of the Labor Day weekend games and told The Gazette last weekend that one of those mega-games is something he would consider.
Barta specifically mentioned the LSU-Wisconsin game at Lambeau Field. The Big Ten now has a nine-game league schedule. Iowa also is tied by contract to the Iowa State game through the 2021 season. With those two factors, a mega-game at a neutral site won’t happen, Barta said.
“There’s nothing brewing (along the lines of taking a break in the Iowa State series), but it’s just intriguing,” Barta said. “I really was just reacting to watching some of those games last weekend. Who knows? Sometime in the future, but there’s nothing imminent.”
On Tuesday, Iowa deputy director of athletics Gene Taylor discussed football scheduling. Football schedules are part of his job. Iowa’s next open date is 2019. Taylor said he’d like to fill that and then look to scheduling out.
During Iowa’s Rose Bowl trip in January, Taylor said Iowa has had some talks about a neutral site game. Iowa hasn’t done a neutral site non-conference game since it played Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in 2012. Nothing has been announced and nothing may ever happen, but on the topic Taylor echoed Barta’s thoughts.
“It’s time to change it up a little bit,” Taylor said. “I’d like to see some other Power 5 schools, maybe not always a MAC (Mid-American Conference) school.”
Taylor also added that the nine Big Ten Conference games coupled with the Iowa State game freeze Iowa’s scheduling possibilities.
“Those kind of things, if we ever do it, would be something you want to do for your fan base,” Taylor said. “Just right now, it’s not anytime soon that I can see.”
Still, this is the second time in a week that a top Iowa athletics official has at least acknowledged that the UI wants a different look in scheduling.
Mining is a huge industry in North Dakota. It’s just not a place where FBS college football coaches mine for players.
In fact, according to a survey on where every FBS college football comes from for the 2016 season, North Dakota produced 0.01 percent of the players in major-college football this season. (Yes, that probably does reflect the fact that the state’s population is just less than 740,000.)
The key thought here is “FBS.” North Dakota State is the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers of FCS, where the Bison are five-time defending national champions.
The Bison have 12 native North Dakotans in their two-deep depth chart, including three starters on the offensive line. This is a fact that didn’t escape Ferentz’s attention.
Carson Wentz is probably the flagship for North Dakota players. The former Bison QB was the No. 2 pick in last May’s NFL draft. He led the Philadelphia Eagles to a victory in his debut. He’s from Bismarck, N.D.
“We might have to start recruiting North Dakota because they have a lot of guys in-state who play well for them,” Ferentz said.
Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan is a veteran recruiter of the plains region. He’s delivered former Iowa linebacker and current Minnesota Viking Chad Greenway, former Iowa offensive tackle and current Detroit Lion Riley Reiff and VandeBerg from South Dakota.
Ferentz might hand Morgan a road map of North Dakota.
“We haven’t ventured that far north,” Ferentz said. “We may have to get Reese a new car or dogsled to help him out.”
It’s just two games, but redshirt freshman defensive end Anthony Nelson is off to a fast start to his career.
The 6-7, 252-pounder currently leads the Big Ten with 3.5 sacks. Nelson has a very team-oriented approach to the game. After his first sack of the season in the opener against Miami (Ohio), he did kind of a J.J. Watt celebration with his back arched and head tilted toward the sky.
No, Nelson didn’t plan that and, no, he has no idea who does what sack dance. The best celebration, he said, was just getting with teammates. He understands sacks are tough to get and it’s a team thing.
“When it happens, it’s defensive effort,” Nelson said. “There’s got to be good coverage on the field. All the defensive linemen have to be rushing in their lanes and pressing him back to contain him. A lot of things have to go right for those to happen.”
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