Iowa Football

Ivory Kelly-Martin makes a push at Iowa running back

Tuesday with the Hawkeyes coordinators

Iowa running back Ivory Kelly-Martin runs for a big gain during the second half against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa running back Ivory Kelly-Martin runs for a big gain during the second half against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa still is in camp mode and still trying to fit the final pieces together for the initial launch of the 2018 Hawkeyes.

Initial launch? There’s only one opener, right? There is, but as camp wraps up, coaches have a good idea who their starters are so then it’s time to turn to depth.

For a few positions, second-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz went over the number of players needed to comfortably stock position groups.

Eight for the offensive line. Six for the wide receivers. We’ll skip tight ends, because Iowa’s TE group is in a really good place right now, especially considering the AP on Tuesday named junior Noah Fant a first-team preseason all-American.

Three for running back. OK, that’s maybe one short. The depth thoughts came up a lot Tuesday when Iowa’s coordinators met with the media.

Running back might’ve been the biggest news. Ferentz said sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin (5-10, 200) has earned starter status. Still, it’s a position where everyone is going to have food on their plate and sophomores Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent will eat.

“Going into camp, we had two guys we felt pretty good about,” Ferentz said. “Now, I feel like we have three guys we feel pretty good about.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

There’s more to this and it probably shows where the staff’s attention is going right now.

“That’s great right now, week zero,” Ferentz said. “I’m hoping in week 12 we still have three guys we feel pretty good about. If the past is any indicator, it’s kind of like that offensive line. That’s you have to have a number like eight, just to get you through 12 games with five.”

Still, Ivory Kelly-Martin? That’s a depth-chart move that happened in camp. Young seemed to be in line for lead-back status going into camp. Kelly-Martin just kept developing. It was only 20 carries and it was in mop-up duty, but the Plainfield, Ill., native did average 9.2 yards a carry last season.

That’s pretty interesting.

“He’s got some wiggle, he’s got some power, he’s got really good balance,” Ferentz said. “Can (running backs) get hit and still run? Some guys can, some guys can’t. He’s a guy, and Mekhi is the same way, very difficult to bring down. They have enough power, but if you don’t bring them to the ground, they will find a way to stay upright and keep moving.”

Ferentz said Kelly-Martin also is a trusty receiver and that gives him third-down potential. Ferentz also mentioned Kelly-Martin as a pass blocker and said that actually makes him a four-down back and that’s “a pretty good deal.”

That’s the running back story. There was a bit of news. Beyond that, what else did Brian Ferentz, defensive coordinator Phil Parker and special teams coordinator LeVar Woods have to say about the 2018 Hawkeyes?

(Nothing global here, just good, old running through personnel.)

— The linebacker puzzle still is being pieced together. Junior Amani Jones has sank a fence post and built a ranch around the middle linebacker spot.

Beyond that, the other two spots have contenders, but nothing has been painted over yet.

The one specific grouping defensive coordinator Phil Parker was asked about Tuesday was Jones, sophomore Nick Niemann at weakside linebacker and sophomore Barrington Wade at outside linebacker.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

“That’s a good choice,” Parker said. “You must’ve been in our meetings or something like that.”

Niemann is practicing at weakside and outside.

“He does have the ability to play inside and outside,” Parker said. “It all depends on how Barrington Wade is coming along. We feel comfortable with that and so we’re excited about it.”

— Top four corners: Michael Ojemudia, Matt Hankins, true freshman Julius Brents and redshirt freshman Josh Turner.

Mark down Brents as a freshman who is playing.

“He’s able to pick up what we’re doing scheme-wise, not like we’re doing a lot of things,” Parker said. “You have to do a pattern read, playing certain coverages, reading certain routes and knowing who the support guy is, I think he’s done a good job of understanding where he has to be and what he has to do. That’s the biggest thing for freshman. It’s a cram class those first two weeks of camp. How much can they learn?”

— Parker loves the D-line and loves the numbers of bodies the Hawkeyes plan to rotate. It could reach as high as nine.

The more the merrier on the D-line.

“The grind on the guys up front, no one understands it until you’re out there doing it,” Parker said. “It’s a lot different from the skill guys who might be at the point of attack five or six times in a game. These guys are at the point of attack for every play, 70 or 80 plays a game.”

— Woods said punter is too close to call between sophomore Ryan Gersonde and junior Colten Rastetter.

“It’s been incredibly competitive in camp, I like the direction both guys are going,” he said. “I think they’ve drastically improved from last year and the race is too close to call.”

Woods didn’t dismiss the idea of split duty, like last season.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

— The three players in contention for punt return: wide receiver Kyle Groeneweg, wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette and safety Amani Hooker.

Kick return contestants are the same group along with Kelly-Martin.

“He did it last year and was pretty good at it,” Woods said.

— Backup QB still is up in the air between redshirt freshman Peyton Mansell and true freshman Spencer Petras.

“The picture is becoming a little more clear every day with that No. 2 battle,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to let it play out a little longer and figure that out next week. Obviously, it’s important.”

— No guarantees yet on which true freshmen might play, but here were the names mentioned Tuesday: LB Seth Benson, CB Julius Brents, DT Tyler Linderbaum, DB Riley Moss and QB Spencer Petras.

— If Iowa knows who’ll start in place of offensive tackles Tristan Wirfs (OWI) and Alaric Jackson (team rules violation), who are suspended for the opener, you won’t know until head coach Kirk Ferentz talks next Tuesday. And even then, it might remain a mystery.

Best guesses are Levi Paulsen and Mark Kallenberger, but Brian Ferentz wasn’t naming starters. He did talk about what he hoped would evolve from the suspension situation.

“In a perfect world, the best lesson we could teach some of these guys not playing in game one is if they didn’t have a job in week 2,” Ferentz said. “Boy, it’d be great if some guys stepped in and took their jobs over. I would have no issue with that.”

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.