IOWA CITY — When Kirk Ferentz brought the phrase “next man in” to Iowa football almost 20 years ago, it was interpreted as a rallying cry.
The “next man in” mantra was something you heard after a player was injured and a replacement went into the game. In 2002, when the Hawkeyes rolled through the Big Ten at 8-0, there were only five lineup changes due to injury, so when Ferentz said “next man in,” it did have the feel of a rally.
In 2002, running backs Fred Russell and Aaron Greving were banged up and it looked as if Jermelle Lewis was going to get his shot.
“Coach is always talking about the next man in — everybody’s got to be ready to step up at any given time,” Lewis said. “I guess this time, Aaron and Fred are kind of banged up, so I have to be ready to step in.”
It’s 17 years later and coach still is talking “next man in.”
“Coach Ferentz always talks about the next man up,” sophomore defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon said. “Injuries happen, things happen, so the next guy in line has to be ready to go.”
During his news conference Tuesday, Ferentz copped to stealing the phrase from the Denver Broncos. That’s OK. How many “Break the Rocks” are out there?
“Everything we do in coaching is stolen, and I’ll admit to that,” Ferentz said.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Beyond copyright, the point is that it’s reality in football and if you’re not conditioning your players to take it seriously, well, then maybe the No. 2 guy is asleep in meetings and allowing things to slide.
“There are two things you can do: You can just wallow and worry about your problems or you can just say, hey, it’s an opportunity for somebody to step up and go, and that’s what we’re counting on,” Ferentz said. “We need that every week.”
The No. 20 Hawkeyes (1-0) needed “next man in” in their opener last week, a 38-14 victory over Miami (Ohio). Junior offensive tackle Alaric Jackson went down with a knee injury during the Hawkeyes second series.
Jackson will be out for at least a couple of weeks with a sprained knee. That means no Big Ten opener, Rutgers (1-0) comes to Kinnick Stadium this weekend, and no Iowa State. Ferentz believes it’s realistic that Jackson, a three-year starter and all-Big Ten pick last year, could return for the Middle Tennessee State game on Sept. 28.
“Everybody heals differently, and the good news is it doesn’t look like we’re looking at surgery, so that’s a good thing, and just hopefully he goes a little faster than everybody hopes or thinks, that type of thing,” Ferentz said. “But we can’t count on him. We’ll just see how it goes. But I think it’s realistic to think he’ll play this year for us.”
When there’s an injury in the O-line, it’s going to cause a few “next man in” opportunities. First last week, Levi Paulsen did his yearly migration over to right tackle. The senior guard started two consecutive games at right tackle for the Hawkeyes, the Pinstripe Bowl to end the 2017 season and the 2018 opener against Northern Illinois. So, yes, he does have more tackle than guard starts and is probably in line for the starts that Jackson will miss.
Sophomore Kyler Schott, a 6-2, 290-pounder from Coggon, saw his first significant action, playing 53 snaps after Jackson left the game. Junior Tristan Wirfs slid over and saw his first extensive action at left tackle since the ’17 Pinstripe. Wirfs and redshirt freshman Tyler Linderbaum kept the O-line churning.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Wirfs seemed to really enjoy left tackle. He got out in front of a few running plays on the edge and opened up huge alleys for the running backs.
“I thought he’s clearly played his best game since he’s been here,” Ferentz said.
Some good news on the O-line front: junior Cole Banwart, who missed the opener with an undisclosed injury, has a “shot” to return, Ferentz said. Banwart practiced Tuesday and “looked good,” Ferentz said. Also, a few younger players will continue to rotate into the game. Last week, Iowa played six combinations and nine different players on the O-line.
The “next man in” thing has a history with Iowa football. And Ferentz still brings it up every day. If he didn’t, it wouldn’t be “conditioning.”
“Coach Ferentz preaches that every single day,” quarterback Nate Stanley said.
Every single day?
“It’s got to be every single day,” Stanley said.
Here’s Ferentz in November 2002: “When teams have success, you typically can go back and find out they played pretty injury-free. That being said, we’ve had a lot of ‘next man ins’ this year, for whatever reason.”
Here’s Ferentz on Sept. 3, 2019: “I think it’s really important that the players understand that things are going to happen. You never know what the adversity is going to be in a season or a week, but typically something happens every week where you have to make an adjustment and try to improvise a little bit, so if people aren’t conditioned to do that, it could be problematic for sure.”
Comments: (319) 398-8256; firstname.lastname@example.org