Iowa Football

For Iowa, the Oliver Martin transfer was a quick, no-brainer

Martin has filed his appeal; Iowa has started planning for three-year players; Barta on transfer rules

4-year-old Charlie Maher of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fist bumps Iowa Hawkeyes football head coach Kirk Ferentz during an appearance at the Here Come the Hawkeyes Cedar Rapids coaches event at NewBo City Market in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
4-year-old Charlie Maher of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fist bumps Iowa Hawkeyes football head coach Kirk Ferentz during an appearance at the Here Come the Hawkeyes Cedar Rapids coaches event at NewBo City Market in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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There was no talk of billboards during Wednesday night’s Hawkeye I-Club event. Iowa athletics director Gary Barta did count off the Hawkeyes’ victories against Iowa State this year and proclaimed Iowa a “Hawkeye State.”

These summer college football thingies are mobile pep rallies. Lots of things are said. Some make headlines.

Of course, Iowa’s are more sedate. But hey, the Hawkeyes are 13-3 in football rivalry trophy games since 2015. When you’re trying to rev up a crowd of a couple hundred in Cedar Rapids on a Wednesday night, you push those buttons.

Head football coach Kirk Ferentz greeted the crowd, the fight song was played and there was more talking and visiting than the summer pep rally shenanigans.

In a quick interview before the event, Ferentz talked about some of the current news items with the Hawkeyes.

— Iowa City native and former Michigan wide receiver Oliver Martin transferred to his hometown Hawkeyes less than two weeks ago.

It was quick with the Hawkeyes. Martin wanted to be in Iowa City at the University of Iowa. Ferentz and staff did not hesitate.

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“There really wasn’t much to it,” Ferentz said. “He made up his mind. When he came forward to us about it, we definitely had interest. When he expressed interest, nothing had changed on our end. He took the steps he had to take and it was a logical move, I think.”

Your next question is whether or not Martin will be eligible for the upcoming season.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” Ferentz said. “He’s appealing it right now. It’s in the hands of compliance and the NCAA.”

— When Iowa announced Martin’s transfer, it also announced that it was adding wide receivers Charlie Jones (Buffalo) and Jack Combs (Central Michigan). They are walk-ons and will have to sit out 2019 unless they file a waiver. No news on if that is happening.

All three wide receivers will be redshirt sophomores.

— NFL early entries have gone from a trickle to a fire hydrant in recent years. This year, a record 135 underclassmen declared for the draft, including four Hawkeyes (tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, defensive end Anthony Nelson and safety Amani Hooker).

Hockenson and Fant were drafted in the first round. Nelson and Hooker were fourth-round picks. There have been 400 early draft entries over the past four years.

Ferentz knows this is not going away.

“That number will keep going up, I’ll predict that, even though the job openings aren’t there,” Ferentz said.

Yes, Iowa has started to factor three-year players into how it builds its roster.

“We’re already doing that, you have to,” Ferentz said. “That train left the station.”

How do you ready for that?

“You have to be alert and aware and realize it could happen,” Ferentz said. “More players are thinking about it who shouldn’t be thinking about it, that’s my concern, but there’s nothing I can do about that.”

— How’s it going with the transfer portal? (The star of the offseason for college football maniacs.)

“I really don’t have a problem with it, quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “Everyone puts their cards on the table and then they do it. That’s probably a good thing. It’s a lot more transparent.”

— There is going to be plenty of time to talk football, but Iowa will have six running backs on campus soon if it doesn’t already, with freshmen Shadrick Byrd and Tyler Goodson arriving for summer workouts.

Six is a lot, but ...

“Every time we suggest we have too many we end up with none,” Ferentz said with a laugh. It’s true and you don’t have to look any further than last season. Iowa mostly had just two running backs healthy — Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young — most of the season with Ivory Kelly-Martin dealing with a few different injuries.

“Ivory had some injury issues last year,” Ferentz said. “We’ve always thought he was a really good player and we still do. Hopefully, he can stay healthy this year.”

Iowa ran the ball 488 times last season, the third lowest since 2012. So, there still is a discovery process going on right now with Sargent, Young and Kelly-Martin.

“The fact is that both our running backs last year (Sargent and Young), we didn’t see enough from them,” Ferentz said. Sargent ended up leading Iowa in rushing with 745 yards on 159 carries. The 159 carries are the lowest number for an Iowa leading rushing since Mark Weisman had 159 carries and 815 yards in 2012.

“I’m hoping both of them have great years and move forward,” Ferentz said. “They also had injury issues and things like that, so we need to get a good, consistent look at them.”

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Ferentz hopes to get the six running backs in camp and then have the problem of finding them enough reps.

— Barta asked Wednesday night for a show of hands for fans who have seats in the north end zone. Maybe a dozen or more hands went up.

The $89 million project isn’t complete, but Barta said it is ahead of schedule and will be ready for the opener on Aug. 31.

After the north end zone, the next possible refurbishing will be the east stands. Barta said that would be the next logical thing. It will be the oldest remaining structure in the stadium. Barta also said that’s not in the school’s plan for the next five to seven years.

Barta said he’s also been asked if the south end zone will be remade to model the north. He said probably not in the short run.

— Transfers have been the highlight news of the summer. Between portals and waivers, everyone with any interest in college football is ready to go panhandling for a Tuesday night MAC game.

Barta has been on the NCAA transfer committee for the past two years. The goal is to make transfers more uniform across all sports while finding fairness for students and schools.

In March, a proposal of five years to play five, with no redshirts, medical redshirts or sitting a year after transferring, gained some traction. Barta said Wednesday that traction has started to slow down.

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“I’m not letting go of that,” said Barta, a proponent of this potential legislation. “It’s not getting the traction that those of us who are supporting it would like it to get.”

So now, Barta said, it’s becoming binary. Either everyone needs to sit a year in the major sports or it’s going to be immediate eligibility (men’s and women’s basketball, football, baseball and hockey).

“We can’t keep doing what we’re doing,” Barta said. “Legally, that’s becoming a little cumbersome. So, the discussion this summer has been everyone sits or everyone gets the opportunity for a one-time transfer exception.

“My opinion would be for everyone to sit the year. I don’t know if that’s where we’ll end up or not.”

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

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