Iowa Football

4 true freshmen in the mix early for Iowa football. Will there be others?

Tyler Goodson, Sam LaPorta, Justin Britt, Desmond Hutson played vs. Miami (Ohio)

Iowa Hawkeyes running back Tyler Goodson (15) is tackled by Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Devonte Young (17) during Kids Day at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Players signed autographs and took selfies with fans, and families had a chance to watch a Hawkeye football practice. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes running back Tyler Goodson (15) is tackled by Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Devonte Young (17) during Kids Day at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Players signed autographs and took selfies with fans, and families had a chance to watch a Hawkeye football practice. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — As you know, true freshmen are verboten when it comes to interviews with the Iowa media.

That means you won’t hear from any of them until next season. Not a word.

But four frosh did see playing time for the Hawkeyes in their season-opening, 38-14 win last Saturday night over Miami (Ohio). And Coach Kirk Ferentz has spoken about three of them.

The exception is wide receiver Desmond Hutson, who got some special teams time and some snaps late on offense. He’s got good size at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and from Raytown High School in the Kansas City suburbs.

Running back Tyler Goodson played a lot in the fourth quarter, including when the game was still relatively in the balance. He got nine carries for 36 yards, a solid 4.0 per-carry average, and also caught a pass from quarterback Nate Stanley for 4 yards.

“Tyler, he’s just done real well this whole month, and for a first-year guy seems pretty unaffected by it,” Ferentz said. “He’s practiced well. He’s a sharp guy mentally and he handles himself really well on the field.

“The guys that have been practicing well … all those newer guys that were in there, that was part of our plan. We were going to go with it and (take) a chance to get them up and running.

It was interesting that Goodson played ahead of Ivory Kelly-Martin, who got in only on Iowa’s final offensive series. Ferentz said not to read into that much.

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“He’s not ahead of him, but he’s in the picture, for sure,” Ferentz said. “My guess is we’re going to need all four of those guys, and we like all four. And we like (true freshman) Shadrick Byrd, too. He’s been a good addition, and there’s nothing about him not to like based on what he’s done thus far.”

Byrd enrolled at Iowa last spring, by the way, and is from Alabama. Goodson was Georgia’s player of the year last season, when he rushed for 1,180 yards and 25 touchdowns for North Gwinnett High School, which is about an hour and 20 minutes northeast of Atlanta.

Tight end Sam LaPorta played in jumbo packages for Iowa inside the 10-yard line. LaPorta played wide receiver at Highland High School (near St. Louis) and ranks second in Illinois prep history in career touchdowns and third in career receiving yards.

With Iowa losing first-round NFL draft picks in T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, LaPorta has made a favorable immediate impression at what is a new position for him. Ferentz said the group of Nate Wieting (who started), Shaun Beyer, Drew Cook and LaPorta is continuing to improve.

“Nate played well, and we’ll need Shaun and Drew. And LaPorta was in there, a true freshman. Got him started up a little bit,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to need that whole group.”

The best story of the freshmen who played Saturday belongs to Justin Britt. The offensive lineman from Indianapolis played on all extra-point and field-goal attempts, and was rotated late in at guard.

Britt didn’t play his entire senior season at Warren Central High School because of a knee injury. He, too, enrolled at Iowa last spring and has shown he is not only healthy again but has some serious potential.

“I just kind of made mention that we were looking at the tape from this morning, and really he hasn’t played football since ‘17, if you really want to talk about playing serious football,” Ferentz said. “To me it’s amazing that ... he did as well as he did in camp, and he’s doing a good job right now in practice. A couple circuits blown, but that’s about what you’d expect for younger guys, especially. It all starts to add up a little.”

Ferentz raved about Britt’s makeup as a player but especially as a person.

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“During the recruiting thing, I sat down with him in December, I guess it would have been at his school,” Ferentz said. “He’s just a really impressive guy. He impressed us in camp a couple years ago, and the more you learn about him, the more you really like about him. He’s a tremendous young guy.”

There is no guarantee Hutson, LaPorta, Goodson and Britt will play enough to burn their redshirts. This is the second year of the NCAA’s rule that says true freshmen can play four games or less and still get back that year of eligibility.

Other guys surely will get opportunities at some point this season for Iowa. Ferentz said before the season opener that he anticipated only freshmen on the offensive side would play, though everything is fluid.

“I kind of alluded to it last week (that) our mindset right now, the offensive guys, they’re on the fast track, those four guys,” Ferentz said. “We haven’t changed our thoughts on that. And then defensively, we’re just kind of (evaluating) that right now on defense.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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