116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The summer is going by quickly for Iowa football.
The end of the recruiting dead period has brought many young faces to campus for the first time, but more importantly, players are back on campus training for what Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz hopes to be a season that closely resembles normalcy.
"Maybe the strangest sensations was pulling in for that first game and there was nobody on the sidewalks,“ Ferentz said. ”It looked like a science fiction movie.“
This is the part of the summer players work on strength, conditioning and fundamentals, but with 7-on-7 play coming in the next week, players had a lot to say about what their realistic goals are for the season.
Tyrone Tracy wants to be the best
The largest crowd gathered around junior Tyrone Tracy on Tuesday as he proclaimed his goal for the season.
“I want to be the best wide receiver in the Big Ten,” Tracy said. “I also wanted to hit 1,000 yards because we haven’t had that happen here in a while.”
The last Iowa receiver to amass at least 1,000 receiving yards in a single season was Marvin McNutt in 2011, who caught 82 passes for 1,315 yards. Tracy has been working out with him, asking for advice.
But the biggest reason why Tracy, Ferentz and other players were confident on Tuesday was because the offseason is somewhat normal. Players have time to establish chemistry and build on their strengths. This will also be the second season with junior quarterback Spencer Petras leading the offense.
“All the reps, all the chemistry was gone, we had to build all the way up through the year, and I honestly think that's why we started off 0-2 (in 2020),” Tracy said.
Dane Belton embracing role as hybrid player
Junior defensive back and linebacker hybrid Dane Belton returned to offseason training after rehabbing a shoulder surgery. Belton plays a unique position on the Iowa defense as a cash player, which acts as an additional cornerback in what would normally be called the nickel defense, but also aids in stopping the run game.
“I was in my freshman year when I moved to the cash position, and they put me in this linebacker room for film and then on practice I was at the linebacker end, but as far as last year and going forward, I'm with the defensive backs again,” Belton said. “We do a lot of drills to cater to the cash position, like zone movements, so I'll say I'm spending time in both.”
Belton, at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, said the biggest difference between him playing a safety position versus cash is what is visible and what he has to read. At safety, he said he can see everything, and at cash, he keys into specifics.
“You have to pick up on receivers’ tendencies instead of, like, line and running back/quarterback tendencies,” Belton said. “So I would say the preparation is definitely the hardest.”
The other piece is being proactive — Belton has to be able to read the play almost before it happens, so he knows if he should stay back and cover, or help stop the run. But the challenge is something he’s embraced.
“I just love being able to be versatile to go out and cover receivers, and then come on a blitz and get in the box,” Belton said. “I feel like I can do a lot of things and I'm closer to the ball and involved with a lot of players.”
Xavior Williams adding depth
The rumor around Iowa football is that Northern Iowa transfer Williams has the hops, maybe the highest of any Iowa player.
“He broke the vertical record, like, three weeks being here, so it was crazy,” Iowa senior defensive back Riley Moss said. “He’s one of my best friends and even though he's a transfer, you know he knows how to watch film and how to prepare, so he brings a lot of stuff to the table.”
Moss added that Williams’ experience at UNI is translating well during film review, and Belton agreed that his athleticism will add an edge to the backfield.
“He's very explosive, and he has that ability to play anywhere,” Belton said. “Once he gets to know the system and the playbook, I would say just bring it.”
Comments: (319)-398-8387; firstname.lastname@example.org