IOWA CITY — For the most part, Tuesday’s media availability for Iowa football players is pretty tame. As you’d expect, there are a lot of mundane things said, especially this week when it’s a rivalry game against Iowa State.
Zero bulletin board material here.
But one of the more interesting conversations came from Landan Paulsen. The senior left guard from Moville is starting for the first time in his Hawkeyes career, with his twin brother, Levi, up front with him at right tackle.
Landan hasn’t had an easy time of it here. He had a knee injury that cost him a full season, and his prior playing time has been as a backup or on special teams.
He said he has tried to share his story with as many of Iowa’s younger players as he can. The road sometimes has potholes, and instead of running away and transferring someplace, sticking it out and persevering is an awesome feeling.
“For me, this year, being in a leadership role and being able to be in the starting five has been the most rewarding part of my athletic career,” Paulsen said. “Because I didn’t play football for four years. I played on special teams last year, I was injured the year before. So I didn’t really play for four years. I practiced and gave the scout team my best look. But I’m trying to tell the young guys that it’s a process. That is the way our program is built.”
Paulsen said this offensive line group, young and old, is tight. It’s mostly comprised of Iowa kids.
“Our program is for guys to come in, get bigger, get faster, get stronger, learn the system so that they are at their best the last two or three years,” Paulsen said. “And there are exceptions and stuff like that. But that’s really what I’m trying to get across to the young guys. When you are in your fourth and fifth year, it’s very emotional. It’s unbelievable to be in the spot that I am. It seems surreal.”
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Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said free safety Kaevon Merriweather is out for Saturday’s game with a foot injury incurred in practice last week. Walk-on Jack Koerner will get his second start at the position. He is one of six former West Des Moines Dowling preps involved in this game on both sides.
Ferentz also said cornerback Geno Stone is fine after coming out of last Saturday’s game against Rutgers late after making a tackle and appearing to hurt a leg.
Offensive lineman Cole Banwart missed Iowa’s first two games but is expected to go into the playing rotation.
Ferentz was evasive when asked if starting cornerback Matt Hankins is healthy, saying his team has some banged-up players.
Not much cash
A ton of talk since last season has been on Iowa adjusting its defense to a 4-2-5, with a ‘Cash’ hybrid safety-linebacker position added. But in the first two games of the season, the Hawkeyes have gone primarily with its tradition 4-3, with linebackers covering slot receivers.
Ferentz said there’s a reason for that.
“As much as anything, we’re a little thin right now on the back end,” he said. “There are some names on our two-deep (roster) right now that you have to get out your program to figure out who’s who. We’re a little thin back there. One thing you want to try to do ... is get your best players out there.”
Injuries to Merriweather and cornerbacks Julius Brents and Riley Moss have unknown guys like senior Wes Dvorak (a Morningside transfer) as backup strong safety and redshirt freshman Terry Roberts number two at right cornerback.
Nine is fine
Iowa has won nine consecutive non-conference games dating to the 2017 season. The last non-conference loss came to North Dakota State, 23-21, on Sept. 17, 2016, at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa has won 15 of its last 16 non-Big Ten games.
The Hawkeyes are 59-34 all time against current members of the Big 12 Conference.
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ESPN’s “College GameDay” program has not been kind to the Hawkeyes. When Lee Corso, Reece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit and company appear Saturday in Ames, it’ll be the eighth time Iowa has been involved in a “College GameDay” game. Its record in the previous seven is 1-6, the lone win coming in 2009 at Penn State, 21-10.
The six losses: at Northwestern in 1995 (31-20), at home against Ohio State in 1996 (38-26), at Ohio State in 1997 (23-7), at home to Ohio State in 2006 (38-17), to Michigan State in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game (16-13) and to Stanford in the 2016 Rose Bowl (45-16).
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