IOWA CITY — There was an honest-to-goodness depth chart released Thursday afternoon.
Of course, as head coach Kirk Ferentz was quick to point out, it didn’t mean too much. Cole Banwart wasn’t on it, as he works back from knee surgery, and he’s certainly going to see playing time at one of the offensive guard positions.
Ferentz made sure reporters took note of that.
But at least there really was a depth chart. That really shows there’s going to be Iowa Hawkeye football: starting in two weeks at Purdue.
“It’s good to be back,” said defensive coordinator Phil Parker, one of nine assistant coaches to join Ferentz in meeting the media at Kinnick Stadium.
“Appreciate everybody coming out today, especially finally being able to talk about football,” said running backs coach Derrick Foster. “We’re really excited about it, excited to get the season going. Excited to get the guys back into the building, and excited to get back into the flow of things.”
The Big Ten Conference’s about face about a season was especially welcomed for a program that has reeled, with everyone else, from the COVID-19 pandemic and, unlike everyone else, the summer independent investigation into accusations from current and former players of coach bullying and racial disparities. Those cost strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle his job.
His longtime assistant and interim replacement, Raimond Braithwaite, spoke Thursday.
“That was a very difficult situation for everyone involved,” Braithwaite said. “I would say I have been close friends with Chris Doyle since 2002, and I have never witnessed or heard him make a racial comment. Now with that being said, we need to move forward and push guys on this team to help instill a confidence in them that they can do things and achieve things that they may not necessarily think they can. While at the same time, we must assure that they have a good experience while they are here at the University of Iowa. That’s what we’re going to do moving forward.”
Everyone Thursday said they believed the culture in the program has improved and will continue to do so. Players interviewed the previous couple of days agreed.
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“We have all been through a lot, and I said it before on record, that we had some really honest and raw conversation back in June,” Ferentz said. “I think a lot of good honest discourse, and it just forced us to move forward and really re-examine some things that our program held to be very important. And it’s kind of a rehash of the last time we visited, or two times ago, I guess, but I think we made adjustments, we haven’t altered our core principles, but we made adjustments that I think are probably a little bit more palatable to a lot of our players.”
Now back to the actual football.
Iowa has had only six practices in pads in the last nine months. How that lack of contact, especially for a program that prides itself on physical football, affects everything moving forward into games is anyone’s guess.
The coaches definitely don’t know.
“There is a lot we are missing right now, a lot we are trying to catch up with,” said linebackers coach Seth Wallace.
“I would be less than honest if I said that I was totally comfortable with starting practice this year,” Ferentz said. “It’s the hardest camp we have ever had, only because we weren’t sure where our guys were physically. And the other component is we had a lot of guys at different levels ... So we really went slow at the start. We really tried to be as cautious as we possibly could, as smart as we possibly could, trying to avoid any injuries that would be avoidable in a normal season. But I do feel like we’re starting to catch up right now, I think our work capacity is a little closer to what you would hope for a college football team, And I think our guys’ attitudes have been good all the way through it.”
In simplistic terms, this Iowa team has potential.
It has three quality running backs, as good and deep a receiving corps as Ferentz ever has had, experience in the offensive line but a quarterback in sophomore Spencer Petras who has never started a college football game. Defensively, it has quality though not much depth at linebacker, as well as a mixture of experience and relative inexperience on the line and in the secondary.
It has an All-American kicker in Keith Duncan but no punter who has had any playing time. That latter position could be manned by a 23-year-old freshman from Australia (Tory Taylor).
But questions be damned, at least they are questions. At least there’s going to be a season, or at least the start of one.
“When we got back to practice here and they put the season back on, it was good for me, it was good for our coaching staff, and it was good for our players,” Parker said. “We’re very fortunate to have this opportunity. Practices have been going really well, and I think our kids are coming close together as a team. We’ve seen some great improvements as we have been going on here the last couple of days, and we’re excited about that.”
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“I would like to think we have a chance to have a good football team, but we have to get it done,” Ferentz said. “And that’s the fun part, the doing.”
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