IOWA CITY — The offense is pretty much healthy, the defense is still kind of banged up.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz gave a team injury update at his weekly press conference Tuesday, and it appears linebacker Nick Niemann will be a go Saturday against Maryland. Niemann has been the starter on the outside for the Hawkeyes but missed the last two games after incurring a leg injury on Iowa’s last defensive play Sept. 22 against Wisconsin.
Ferentz said Niemann has practiced this week. The sophomore has 22 tackles in four games, including 2.5 for loss.
On the other hand, middle linebacker Jack Hockaday appears out for Saturday’s game. Ferentz said he was hopeful the senior would be able to play going into the week but listed him as doubtful now.
Hockaday hurt his knee two weeks ago against Minnesota.
While Ferentz said cornerbacks Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia are continuing to progress from their respective injuries, the plan is to start true freshmen Riley Moss and Julius Brents. It would be the third start in a row for them.
“That’s our plan right now,” Ferentz said. “I think Hankins is pretty close to being about there, same thing with O.J. At least we have some guys to pick from. We’ll let them compete this week.”
Fullback Brady Ross is out against Maryland and will miss extended time. He was injured last week against Indiana.
Senior Austin Kelly will take his spot in the lineup. Running back Ivory Kelly-Martin is practicing again and will play Saturday, Ferentz said.
He missed the Indiana game after likely incurring a concussion against Minnesota.
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Devonte Young is a safety now
Junior wide receiver Devonte Young is the only Maryland native on the Iowa roster, from Waldorf. Oh, and he’s not a wide receiver anymore. Iowa flipped him to safety during its bye week in late September.
“It’s going pretty good,” he said. “I’m just learning the plays, developing. There’s progress. It feels pretty good. It’s not weird, I played it in high school. It’s just learning the fundamentals again.”
Young primarily has been a special teams guy in his career, playing as a true freshman in 2016. He has not had a catch in his career.
He said he’s getting a lot of help adjusting to the defensive side of the ball, mentioning teammate Amani Hooker and former teammate Miles Taylor (a student defensive assistant coach), in particular. Taylor also is a Maryland guy.
“Just kind of going with the flow,” Young said. “Wherever the coaches want to place me at.”
“He’s just trying to help the football team,” Ferentz said. “He’s got a really cool number now in 17. I guess that’s his reward.”
Young had been wearing jersey number 80.
The Terrapins have the Big Ten Conference’s third-ranked rushing attack, averaging 245.2 yards per game. They have thrown the fewest passes in the league at 118. Next lowest is Wisconsin at 138.
Like Iowa, it’s a three-headed running back monster in senior Ty Johnson and redshirt freshmen Anthony McFarland and Tayon Fleet-Davis. Johnson is fourth all-time at the school in rushing yards and all-purpose yards.
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Interestingly, Maryland leads the nation in red zone offense, scoring points on all 15 of its trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. That would be 11 touchdowns and four field goals.
Also interestingly, Maryland’s punter is 30-year-old Wade Lees, the second-oldest player in Division I. Its kicker, contrarily, is a true freshman (Joseph Petrino).
Maryland’s defense ranks third in the Big Ten at 316 yards per game.
“They’re very big,” Iowa guard Ross Reynolds said. “Their size is one of their strong suits. But it’s not just their size. They’re going to come off the ball, and they’re going to attack.”
“As we look at them, first thing that stands out, a little bit like last week, we don’t have a lot of familiarity with them, haven’t played them since ‘15,” Ferentz said. “Only played them in a two-game series. Almost like starting over again, a non-league game in some ways. What we have found is they’re a really good football team. They’ve got a lot of really good players, very talented. They’ve got good size, good speed, good athleticism. They can do a lot of things very, very well I think in all three phases.”
Fun with Hawkeye numbers
Iowa’s defense is allowing 2.7 yards per rush, fifth in the country. Iowa, Alabama, Auburn and North Carolina State are the only schools in FBS to allow only four rushing touchdowns this season.
The Hawkeyes are 11-0 since the start of the 2017 season when scoring 20 or more points. Its 48 points against Minnesota and 42 against Indiana marks the first time in program history Iowa has scored 40 or more in consecutive road Big Ten games in the same season.
Iowa is one win shy of being bowl eligible for the 17th time in the last 18 seasons.
Probably a sellout
Only a few single-seat tickets remain for Saturday’s game, according to Iowa Sports Information Director Steve Roe. Go to hawkeyesports.com or phone 1-800-IA-HAWKS for availability.
Aye aye captain
Ferentz said team captains this week are defensive lineman Parker Hesse, quarterback Nate Stanley, center Keegan Render and safety Jake Gervase.
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