Iowa Football

Tuesday Takeoff: Trying to remember Iowa's first "next man in"

Injury updates

Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) and fullback Brady Ross (36) take the field to warm up for their game against Miami (Oh) Redhawks at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) and fullback Brady Ross (36) take the field to warm up for their game against Miami (Oh) Redhawks at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

OK, I’m at the age apparently where I need to come up with digital devices that hold me accountable for producing content.

I used to do more digital. Then, I kept to a print schedule. Now? I don’t know, but we’re going digital on Monday and Tuesday mornings. I’m tired of being tied to the newspaper schedule.

Lots of O-linemen and defensive backs today.

Iowa FS Kaevon Merriweather

Some quick notes from Kirk Ferentz’s news conference:

— Guard Cole Banwart should return this week. He missed last week with an undisclosed injury. Ferentz said he is practicing. That is the best sign.

— Iowa is suddenly a little thin at corner. Riley Moss suffered a leg injury during the Miami game. It sounds like a sprain. Ferentz said 4 to 6 weeks. Julius Brents remains out with a leg injury. Ferentz said Tuesday he’ll be a few more weeks.

Cash defensive back D.J. Johnson and redshirt freshman Terry Roberts could see some time. Freshman Daraun McKinney could also get a shot, but Ferentz also said the plan of not taking redshirts off defensive frosh remains the plan.

— Offensive tackle Alaric Jackson suffered a sprained knee and will miss the next two games at minimum. Sprains are slight tears and do take time to heal. So, good timing on the bye week Sept. 21.

— Kaevon Merriweather was solid in his debut as free safety. After camp broke, defensive coordinator/secondary coach Phil Parker introduced the world to walk-on safety Jack Koerner as a free safety. So, the stage was set for a demotion. Maybe not really a demotion, since Merriweather is a brand-new starter.

It sounded like a change was in the air.

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Well, Merriweather lived to tell the tale. You know how many things we take for granted in talking about football performance? You know defensive backs and communication.

That was a toughie for Merriweather. Think about it. First-time starter in a sold-out Kinnick Stadium.

Cornerback Michael Ojemudia said Tuesday the free safety is the general. Merriweather is responsible for setting coverage and run fits. It’s high-football IQ stuff.

But it’s also a little bit about volume.

— Yes, Ojemudia gave cash defensive back D.J. Johnson the business after a 20-yard completion set up Miami (Ohio) at Iowa’s 1 on Saturday night.

“We’d seen that play in practice,” Ojemudia said, “but then we get into the game and it’s so much faster. I said on the bench, ‘Relax, you’re going to get your chance’ and blah, blah, blah.”

— Can anyone remember the first “Next Man In?”

I have this quote from running back Jermelle Lewis in 2002. Fred Russell and Aaron Greving were banged up and it looked as though 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.”

On Tuesday morning, I heard “next man in” about 40 times. It’s time to tag this phrase or Ferentzism — whichever way you want to go — as enduring, a program motto or creedo.

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“Coach Ferentz preaches that every single day,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “And it’s got to be every single day. Unfortunately, injuries happen. Unfortunately, that also is almost every single day.”

So, let’s go with Jermelle Lewis as the first official Kirk Ferentz “next man in.”

— Our columnist Mike Hlas is working on a Kyler Schott column. Schott is the current “next man in.”

“That man has some strong hands,” defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon said. “We went at each other in one-on-ones every day. We would fight to the death. It was like war out there. And then we’re in the locker room and just laughing about it. That man is strong.”

— Is the running back duo thing just a whim, a placeholder to constrain a defense?

Maybe. Half of the fun is not knowing where the hell this is going. Toren Young is 225 pounds and the obvious “blocker type” back with Mekhi Sargent on the field with him. But Young and run, too. And you saw Sargent out of the backfield. Five targets and led the team in receptions and receiving yards. By the way, the last time an Iowa back led the team in rushing and receiving was Akrum Wadley against Penn State in 2017 (80 rush, 70 receiving).

“We haven’t done a lot of that in the past,” Young said. “Teams haven’t seen that. There are some plays we can run out of there and some blocking that I may be able to do.”

— Oh, Schott’s nickname is “Shooter” not because of his last name, I assumed that, but because OL coach Tim Polasek blanked on his name in practice.

I’m actually kind of glad to hear that happens. I would have a helluva time with that.

— Just a bit of logistics: You don’t hear from A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs on Tuesdays because they have class. Iowa is working on making them available. I used to think that was important for postseason awards, but I’m probably overvaluing the hype and not putting the premium on the play. (Wirfs had an all-American week. Watch the tape.)

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

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