IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa defensive end Drew Ott will be a marked man if he continues to play like he did in last week’s opener against Illinois State.
“Whatever it takes,” Ott said.
Iowa State left tackle Jake Campos, who should see Ott up close and personal on Saturday, fielded a lot of questions about him on Monday. But here’s the thing. Ott wasn’t happy with his first game, which included two sacks.
“I could have been a lot tighter with my tackling, and I could have been a lot better on my run blocking and stuff like that,” Ott said. “So I wasn’t too happy about it.”
You can always get better, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
“Every player can,” Ferentz said. “That’s one of the reasons he’s a good player. He’s got that kind of attitude. He understands it. He did a lot of good things, too. Hopefully he has a few more in his pocket.”
The song has been pumped into Iowa's football complex this week. Chad Leistikow | Hawkcentral.com
INJURY UPDATES: Tight end George Kittle, who banged up a knee in the second half against Illinois State, is questionable for Saturday’s game.
“We’re hoping he can play,” Ferentz said. “He’s working his way back. He has a chance.”
Derrick Mitchell, the No. 3 running back, sat out the opener with an undisclosed injury and is also questionable.
Meanwhile, tight end Jake Duzey continues to make progress from a patellar tendon injury he suffered late in spring practice.
“He’s getting significantly more work this week,” Ferentz said. "To put a number (on his return) wouldn’t be fair. He’s had the shoulder pads on for some football activities. That’s a positive step.”
Senior defensive tackle Darian Cooper, who has been sidelined since the start of last season, sounds like a longshot to make it back to the field. Ferentz also said that petitioning the NCAA for a sixth season probably isn’t realistic.
“We’re trying to push as hard as we can within limits, and be smart about it, and hopefully he gets an opportunity to play this year,” Ferentz said.
DUEL TO WATCH: Ferentz said the play of Iowa’s secondary against Iowa State’s talented receiving corps will be one of Saturday’s biggest matchups.
“Obviously, they want to throw the football well, and they should,” Ferentz said. “They’ve got great receivers.”
But this won’t be just the secondary against the receivers. It will take a team effort for Iowa to win the matchup.
“Our secondary has to do a good job,” Ferentz said. “And there are going to be some balls we’ll have to try to fight for and come out ahead on. They’re got some good size at the wide receiver position, which is always concerning.”
But the defensive line has to pitch in to put pressure on Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson to help the secondary.
“I know this,” Ferentz said. “If we just let the guys run the routes they want to run, uncontested, it’s going to be a long night. The linebackers are involved with that, as well as the secondary.”
SPEAKING OF LINEBACKERS…: Fifth-year senior Cole Fisher made his first career start against Illinois State. He acknowledges he was frustrated at times during his career. But he said the long wait to get on the field was worth it.
“I had a good time on special teams,” Fisher said. “I did enjoy that. But it’s a completely different game on the defense. I had the time of my life on Saturday. Even when I messed up, I was smiling.”
Linebacker is a position that needs to improve this season for Iowa to be successful. Fisher beat out sophomore Bo Bower for the starting weakside linebacker spot, but Bower and Travis Perry are part of the five-man rotation.
“I think the biggest thing for us is the depth,” Fisher said. “We have five guys who can play. That takes a lot of pressure off. If one guy goes down, we have another guy who can jump right in, no problem.”
The new starting weak-side linebacker led Iowa in tackles in the opener vs. Illinois State. Chad Leistikow | Hawkcentral.com
NO CUT POLICY: Ball security is keeping running back Akrum Wadley on the outside looking in when it comes to cracking the rotation at running back. And he fumbled again in the fourth quarter against Illinois State when he got on the field.
“I’m not a big doghouse guy,” Ferentz said. “This is not the pros. We don’t cut guys and ship them out and bring new guys in. This is college football. We’re trying to develop our guys as best we can. He wasn’t ready to secure the ball Saturday, unfortunately. Hopefully, the next time out he’ll do a better job. Somewhere in there is a good player. We just got to get it out of him.”