Iowa Football

Iowa football notes: Hawkeyes' defense rolls out the 'hybrids'

Iowa is down a punter; Ferentz taps out on cut block complaints; tickets update

IOWA CITY — During spring, Iowa defensive line coach Kelvin Bell made a switch on football terminology. Instead of calling defensive ends “ends,” he introduced the term “edge defenders.”

The NFL started using that term a few years ago. This isn’t just a name change, it might be a new position group.

Right now, the term is “hybrids.” It’s linebackers being plugged into the defensive end position. There’s more to it, so let’s allow defensive end A.J. Epenesa to explain.

“They work mostly off the weakside of the defense,” the junior said. “They don’t get put into the heavy five (inside run defenders). They get after it. You can always expect them to run to the ball and play hard.”

Senior Amani Jones and redshirt freshman Joe Evans are two hybrids. There are probably more, but Jones and Evans are now officially listed as defensive linemen after playing mostly linebacker last spring.

They’re smaller, yes, but Jones can squat more than 600 pounds. He holds records at linebacker. According to Epenesa, Evans, a 6-2, 240-pounder, can bench press 360 pounds.

“They bring speed and they have natural leverage over people,” Epenesa said. “They’re shorter and strength is not an issue.”

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It’s more of a different look. And, of course, the hybrids will be expected to stop the run.

“It was fun getting switched over to D-line in the spring,” said Evans, an Ames High grad whose parents now live in Tipton. “It’s not just going at the quarterback, and it is a lot of fun.”

The race at punter

The Hawkeyes are down to two potential punters.

Graduate transfer Michael Sleep-Dalton and senior Colten Rastetter are in camp and competing. Sophomore Ryan Gersonde is out for the year after suffering a knee injury, head coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Punter remains a race and so does kicker. Juniors Keith Duncan and Caleb Shudak are in competition there.

The Hawkeyes have an open scrimmage Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

“Anxious to see them both in Kinnick tomorrow,” Ferentz said about the punters.

Ferentz isn’t surrendering, but ...

Last season, Ferentz snorted at rules that prevented offensive linemen from cut-blocking linebackers from the side. If the contact is straight on, it’s not a foul. From the side, it’s a flag. The Hawkeyes had at least two of those in early 2018.

Ferentz didn’t like the rule then and he doesn’t like it now, but, no, he’s really not down with 15-yard penalties because of stubbornness.

“I think we’re just going to be very careful about our cut blocking from how we teach it,” Ferentz said. “I think the rule is really ambiguous right now. I think it’s almost impossible for the officials to officiate correctly. ... I think we’re fighting a fight that’s probably not worth fighting at this current moment.”

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Ticket update

Iowa is at more than 90 percent capacity for three games — Miami (Ohio), Penn State and Purdue, according to senior associate athletics direct Matt Henderson, who handles revenue and external relations.

Out of 8,000 student tickets, only around 100 remain. “Those go once students start getting here,” Henderson said.

Overall season tickets are at a 94 percent renewal rate. That’s up from a February measure that had Iowa at 87 percent renewal.

In February, around 8,000 season tickets remained for football. Henderson said sales are down about 1,000 season tickets. Part of it is opponent, Henderson said. Iowa State, Wisconsin and Nebraska are travel-friendly fan bases. The Hawkeyes face all three on the road this season.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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