Iowa Football

Iowa football notebook: Nico Ragaini getting more comfortable as punt returner

Receiver still focused on the "Little Things"

Iowa's Nico Ragaini. (Associated Press)
Iowa's Nico Ragaini. (Associated Press)

IOWA CITY — You notice the letters “LT” on the inside of one of the fingers on his left hand. Nico Ragaini is asked about it, and he rather sheepishly smiles.

“It’s kind of a stupid story. Kind of corny. But I’ll share it,” the redshirt freshman receiver said.

Ragaini and a couple of his best friends back home in Connecticut always talked about how it was the little things they did for each other that showed the strength of their relationship. So one night, they were together when a girl was doing “stick-and-poke” tattoos.

Unsure of what kind of ink to get, they finally decided on “LT.” The Little Things.

“The crazy part is I come here, and Coach (Kirk) Ferentz is always talking about how it’s the little things that you do,” Ragaini said. “It’s the little work that you put in. It’s just a little connection. It could be nothing, but it’s a little sign that I think is pretty cool.”

Ragaini has been Iowa’s main slot receiver this season and appears to be getting more and more comfortable as its primary punt returner. He had his best game in that latter department last Saturday at Michigan, returning four punts for 17, 17, 10 and 10 yards, in that order.

He has gone from being too passive on fielding kicks to apparently finding the right passive-aggressive mix, so to speak. He’s doing ... the little things.

“I started out a little rough at first, obviously,” Ragaini said. “I let the ball roll a little bit, which isn’t good. But I feel like I’m starting to get my swagger back there. In high school, it was really easy. The ball would be kicked on a line drive for me. So I had no fear back there, I was running by everybody. But now everybody is good. Just have to have confidence, my swagger to come up and catch the ball, field it, make the correct decision. Just playing fast and smart.”

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Matt Kroul to join ANF Wall of Fame

Former defensive lineman Matt Kroul was announced Tuesday as the 2019 entrant to Iowa’s America Needs Farmers Wall of Honor. He will be feted during Saturday’s game.

Kroul played for the Hawkeyes from 2004 to 2008. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the NFL’s New York Jets and played six games as an offensive lineman.

Kroul is the eighth member of the Wall of Honor, which features former players dedicated to Iowa agriculture. The other seven are Aaron Kampman (2018), Chad Greenway (2017), Dallas Clark (2016), Robert Gallery (2015), Bruce Nelson (2013), Jared DeVries (2012) and Casey Wiegmann (2011).

“This is a great opportunity to recognize former Hawkeyes who display the tenacity, the integrity and the work ethic Iowa farmers show every day,” said Iowa Farm Bureau Executive Director Joe Johnson.

Kroul runs a farm with his family near Mount Vernon.

“I’m humbled, honored to be a part of this list with the seven previous names,” Kroul said. “That’s a special group of guys. I tell Coach Ferentz all the time that they accomplished a lot more on the field ... I’m excited to represent farming day in and day out.”

Injury update

Ferentz said he expects defensive tackle Brady Reiff to be available for the Penn State game. Reiff has only played in two games this season because of a knee injury. Ferentz said Reiff began practicing again last week.

The coach also said cornerback Matt Hankins has been working out this weekend and “has a chance” to be ready for Penn State. Hankins also has played in just two games because of a hamstring injury.

“We’ll play it by ear, see what he can do,” Ferentz said. “But he’s a veteran player we have confidence in. And D.J. (Johnson) has done a good job (as his replacement), too.”

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Tyler Goodson a PPR king

That’s a Fantasy Football reference, if you aren’t aware. Point Per Reception is the category.

True freshman Tyler Goodson of Iowa leads Big Ten Conference running backs with 14 receptions this season. The Georgia native has accumulated 83 yards on those catches.

Goodson also has 40 carries for 217 yards. His 54 touches rank second on the Hawkeyes team.

Nittany Lion Iowan

Penn State sophomore kicker Jake Pinegar played high school football with Iowa sophomore cornerback Riley Moss at Ankeny Centennial. Pinegar has made 41 consecutive extra points for the Nittany Lions and hit 20 field goals in his two-year career.

Pinegar made 10 extra points alone in PSU’s 79-7 season-opening win against Idaho, tying the school record. Moss, of course, played last season as a true freshman for Iowa but has not gotten into a game, yet, this season because of a leg injury.

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

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