CEDAR RAPIDS — What a great week for Dalton Ferguson.
The walk-on senior tackle from Solon is getting his first college football start Saturday against Northern Illinois. And he’s no longer a walk-on senior tackle from Solon.
He’s a scholarship senior tackle from Solon.
Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said at his Tuesday press conference that Ferguson is one of four players that have been given scholarships for the 2018 season. The others are senior fullback Austin Kelly, senior wide receiver Kyle Groeneweg and junior tight end Nate Wieting.
“It’s a big deal. It’s a huge deal for anybody to earn a scholarship,” Ferentz said. “You talk about truly earning a scholarship. We award them during the recruiting season, but when you come here of your own volition ... And every one of those guys is a good story.”
Ferguson turned down other Division I scholarship offers to come to Iowa. The 6-foot-4, 308-pounder redshirted in 2014, played 12 games on special teams in 2016, then tore an ACL that following spring and missed the first nine games of 2017.
Because of one-game suspensions to starters Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs, Ferguson will get a start on the right side against NIU. Ferentz said he envisions freshman Ferguson, redshirt freshman Mark Kallenberger and junior Levi Paulsen all to get tackle time Saturday.
They’ll be pitted against NIU’s Sutton Smith, who broke his school’s record for sacks and tackles for loss last season.
“I think they see it as opportunity,” Ferentz said. “Dalton is a good example. He’s a fifth-year guy, done a lot of good things here. Unfortunately, (former Hawkeye center) Rob Bruggeman went through the same thing. Had a knee injury later in his career when e was just getting ready to, we were hoping, blossom. But now he’s coming off that, and this is a great opportunity for him to go out and play.”
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Ferentz said he anticipates four true freshmen playing Saturday: defensive backs Julius Brent and Riley Moss, defensive tackle Tyler Linderbaum and linebacker Dillon Doyle. Linderbaum is from Solon, Doyle from Iowa City West, the son of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
True freshmen can play four games and still be eligible to redshirt. Because of that new rule, the number of players who can dress for road games has been increased from 70 to 74 this season.
“We’ll see how it goes week to week,” Ferentz said. “But pretty much the way our schedule pans out, we’ll come up for air in three weeks, four weeks, and reassess everything.”
Ferentz said on offense, junior college running back Mekhi Sargent and prep school freshman wide receiver Nico Ragaini have impressed in fall camp and are expected to contribute. Game captains Saturday will be quarterback Nate Stanley, defensive end Parker Hesse, fullback Brady Ross and senior safety Jake Gervase.
Depth chart notables
Ferentz kidded that he never checks the two-deep roster, when it was pointed out that Moss and Doyle were not on it. He clarified those two will see special-teams duty, for certain, if not defensive duty.
He also corrected the two deep at punter, pointing out junior Colten Rastetter is No. 1, with sophomore Ryan Gersonde behind him, not the other way around, as was listed.
“Boy, I’ve got to check that depth chart. Have you got a copy of one of those?” he said. “I apologize for those mistakes. What else did I put on there? Hopefully those guys are on our roster that are on there.”
At quarterback, redshirt freshman Peyton Mansell has cemented the backup spot, with true freshman Spencer Petras.
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