The Iowa football coach had more than 20 new additions to the team's practice facility Monday in the form of the Hawkeyes' incoming freshmen class.
Freshman orientation inside the Iowa Football Performance Center began in earnest Monday.
That was when first-year players reported for college football duty for the Hawkeyes — a scheduled 24 of them, (alphabetically) from Toks Akinribade to Toren Young.
It’s an important step for those youngsters, to be sure, but also an important check-box in the program's charge to maintain the 12-2 success of 2015.
“Yeah, it is. Probably a bigger day for them. I’m sure a lot of butterflies, being anxious,” 18th-year Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said prior to Monday’s Polk County I-Club gathering at the Wakonda Golf Club in Des Moines. “It’s part of the routine. All of us have gone through that at some point in our careers, whether it’s starting a new job or a new phase of your life. It’s just good to have them in house. We’re eager to start working with them.”
Returning players have been back for a week, but bringing the freshmen into the fold signals that the season is coming fast — just 2½ months until the Sept. 3 opener against Miami of Ohio, which on Monday was announced as a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff on ESPNU.
“Once those guys roll in … you know it’s about time to get back going on the field,” said offensive lineman Ike Boettger, one of six Hawkeyes to play in the best-shot golf outing earlier in the day. “A few more months, then camp.”
Another newcomer that joined the program Monday was punter/kicker Ron Coluzzi, a graduate-transfer student from Central Michigan. By NCAA rule, Ferentz wasn’t able to talk about Coluzzi until he arrived. But he’s officially in Iowa City, and he immediately becomes a candidate to help answer big kicking-game questions.
“He’ll be here all summer long, and that’s good,” Ferentz said. “I think that whole thing will shape up in August. At least that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Coluzzi was the Chippewas’ primary kickoff man (20 touchbacks on 61 attempts) and punter (he averaged 39.2 yards, and 20 of his 59 attempts went inside the opponent’s 20-yard line) last season. Iowa’s first-string punter is untested redshirt freshman walk-on Colten Rastetter.
Sophomores Miguel Recinos and Mick Ellis waged an inconsistent battle in the spring to succeed Marshall Koehn as Iowa’s place-kicker. Coluzzi likely will join the fray on kickoffs, though nobody will match what Koehn did in that department — 58-percent touchback success (47 of 81).
“Certainly, we’re really young and inexperienced at that position. I think we have good potential,” Ferentz said. “The consistency part, as I said in that last (spring) practice, is probably the biggest concern that we’re looking at. And that’s always the biggest case with specialists.
“And then Ron’s a guy with experience, so we’re excited about him joining our team.”
Several former Hawkeye football greats — Ed Podolak, Chuck Long and Marv Cook — participated in Monday’s golf outing, as well as head coaches from other Iowa programs.
What about Ferentz?
Though he recalled playing a lot in the 1980s, as a Hawkeye assistant, and living near Finkbine Golf Course, those days have passed.
“As you start having kids and the professional (advancement), it just got a little tough,” Ferentz said. “I think the last round I would’ve played was in June of 2000. Did everybody a favor.”
Eighteen holes doesn’t get him going.
Having the whole team in Iowa City clearly does.
“It’s good to see them around again,” Ferentz said. “That’s the fun of it all.”