Iowa Football

Iowa football #PaintedTower mailbag: Aw man, we're never getting into practice again

You can build an offense around tight ends, but the supporting cast better bring some explosion to the table

The Iowa Hawkeyes during practice for the 2019 Outback Bowl Friday, December 28, 2018 at the University of Tampa. (Brian Ray/
The Iowa Hawkeyes during practice for the 2019 Outback Bowl Friday, December 28, 2018 at the University of Tampa. (Brian Ray/

Hey, last #PaintedTower of the season.

Tampa has been cool. They have seafood here. Some good breweries. Mostly seafood.


I’m pretty sure Mike, one of the best at Twitter kung fu, is being facetious, but let’s play this out.

The 20 minutes the media had for videos Friday was on the schedule for a while. Like, you know, everyone knew. It wasn’t a sneak attack. There was no drone, no blimp, no spy up in the condo across the street.

So, everyone knew. I thought the media showed remarkable restraint. I could’ve tweeted about the double-reverse pass, Ihmir-Smith Marsette running the wildcat or the elaborate blitz schemes that the coaches accidentally showed the media even though they knew the media was going to be there.

Whoops, wow, I just really let the cat out of the bag. Man, there go my credentials.

(PS: Anyone who believes the old “tearing the credentials” away is a threat is living in some moron dreamland. It’s a story when teams take away credentials. A big story, so it’s not a thing that’s ever going to happen. Move on to the next media punishment, please. I vote pushups posted on social media. That actually might be pretty pathetic and embarrassing. I would definitely fall in line if that were the punishment.)

Anyone feeling outrage over any tweets they might’ve thought were revealing out of that practice, push the keyboard away and take a deep breath.

There was the Tristan Wirfs thing. The sophomore offensive tackle did line up as a second-teamer behind junior Levi Paulsen for a portion of the walk-through. Media saw it and tweeted it. Kirk Ferentz gave everyone a slap on the wrist during his Saturday news conference, saying Tristan’s mom called and wondered if he had fallen ill.


Honestly, I didn’t even pick up on that. I enjoy football. I love the sights and sounds of practice. I used to be a serial tweeter when allowed in. Oh, this guy isn’t in uniform. And, wow, all that swearing.

Anymore, I’m just taking video. That seems like that’s kind of the deal. I can show restraint and wait to ask about something out of the norm. Context is key, and I’m not living and dying on the competitive aspect of this job anymore. That’s 20 years of digging this ditch talking.

I’ve always thought market dictates whether or not a school has open practices. Wisconsin has to fight for media attention in Wisconsin. There’s the Packers, Brewers, Bucks and major golf tournaments. So, Wisconsin does have some open practices. But then Nebraska also opens practices. I’m not sure why, but maybe that’s just how it’s always been. Maybe it builds and holds loyalty and keeps fans’ attention in a state that probably has more radio stations than a lot of states (it’s vast and rural).

There’s also this: What do you have to hide? Do you think a smattering of media is going to be a bigger distraction than, I don’t know, the crowd at a game?

Easy for me to say because I’m Team Media, but if I were a coach, I’d have the first 15 minutes open. I’d have a “background,” informal news conference. Let media know why some things are really the way they are. For example, Tristan Wirfs is distracted this week because his mom thinks he has the mumps.

That takes trust and that bridge just has never gone up with Ferentz. So, yes, Mike, football will be played by robots the next time media is allowed into an Iowa practice.


I can tie this room together.


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This summer, I had a conversation with Mike Saboe, the head brewer at Toppling Goliath. He’s an Iowa grad. He’s one of you guys. The topic of Iowa State came up, and Mike was like, “You know, after the one week, I enjoy watching the Cyclones and wish them nothing but the best.”

I thought that was incredibly refreshing. Kind of like a fresh Pseudo Sue.

From my end, I don’t care. I’m paid to cover the Hawkeyes. I get to know ISU for the one week and then I follow from a distance. My stance on this has always been I love that our state is crazy enough to believe it can fuel two Power 5 football teams. I think two Power 5 football teams is awesome for our state.

Flip side, talking trash with friends and neighbors is fun. You guys know I grew up a Packers fan. Love smack talk with Bears and Vikings fans. The only Lions fan I’ve ever met was one of my grade school buddies. He knew the Lions’ place.

I can see people having fun with that. Obviously, not everyone is built for that and it often spirals into stupidity.

Busch Light? Iowa State has the freedom to run with something like that. Iowa is terminally stuck in squashing the “party school” image and simply can’t (or won’t, whichever) embrace the alcohol vibe.

Still, there’s going to be a Big Grove Party Deck at Kinnick sometime in the future. There’s your beer, Hawkeye fans.


That makes sense.


Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette will be juniors. They’ll miss Nick Easley (all-time underrated Hawkeye), but Tyrone Tracy and Nico Ragaini could tag team that spot. Beyond those four, it’s hard to say how wide receiver will shake out, especially with Max Cooper rehabbing a torn ACL.

Smith is an octopus out there. After pass protection, he is the most improved Hawkeye. Smith-Marsette is the fastest. Iowa needs his speed and needs to find ways to get him the ball.

We all know offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is a tight end conessiuer (like the “Christmas Story” dad and turkeys). It’ll be interesting to see how that position reloads if T.J. Hockenson does leave. I’ve always liked Shaun Beyer’s athleticism. The leg injury that’s kept him out of bowl prep and out of the Outback Bowl has to be a bummer.

Iowa signed three tight ends in this class. I’m not sure Josiah Miamen, Logan Lee or Sam LaPorta will be game-ready, but someone likely plays for class-staggering purposes. I expect Drew Cook to be a factor. He’ll be a senior. He’ll have had a year and a half at the position. Nate Wieting also will be a senior. He’s been a solid No. 3, probably more proven as a blocker than receiver but that can change.

So, Jonny, your logic is totally sound. I think this is one of the more interesting topics going into 2019.


Can’t go wrong with either, but I like the springboard idea.

Whatever happens, 2018 is over after Tuesday. Can things get more bitter than after the Purdue loss? The Northwestern loss? The Wisconsin loss? My Twitter account would rather not find out.


Ferentz had an “unbearable lightness of being” moment after last year’s win in the Pinstripe Bowl. I think that pumps energy into the program during those grubby, gritty winter months, when it’s strength training and cold moped or car rides over to the Center.

Let’s go with that.


Agree. Defenses lose tight ends more than any other position, except maybe running back/fullback in the flat. Brian Ferentz has the “block and then go out for a pass” thing down. I really think that could be Iowa’s RPO. I don’t think they did that enough this year.

It’s tough to match up with tight ends. Iowa should have speed there, so defenses have to decide, linebacker or safety? Advantages and disadvantages to either choice.

Former Hawkeye and BTN analyst Chuck Long brought up a great point that really got my attention: Can TE-based offenses be explosive enough?

I don’t think TEs alone can stretch defenses. Explosive plays were a problem this year. Iowa finished 11th in the league with 47 20-plus plays. That said, Iowa had just seven 20-plus rushes in the run game this year. That might be a Ferentz-era low. That was last in the Big Ten and a sign of an offense trying to find balance. The last time Iowa was in the single-digit neighborhood was 2011, when the Hawkeyes passed for 3,052 yards (great number) and rushed for 1,790 (not great).

You can build a scary offense around tight ends, but you have to have a healthy amount of explosive plays coming from other places to support that idea.

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