Iowa takeaways: Jackson '50-50' on NFL, some fullback trash talk, and which Niemann is fastest?
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson said Tuesday “it’s about 50-50” whether he returns for his senior season or enters the 2018 NFL Draft.
“I’ve definitely thought about it and I’ll probably make an announcement after the bowl game,” said Jackson, who earned unanimous all-American honors after a brilliant junior season.
“I’ve thought both ways and both perspectives. So I think there’s good in both.”
The Hawkeyes are preparing for the Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bowl in New York against Boston College. Jackson, who missed a couple of practices this month while flying to different award shows, said he’ll definitely play in the bowl game.
Jackson said he’s been discussing his future with his parents, Vanessa and Paul; coaches; and former Hawkeye players who have had to make a similar decision. Among those are Desmond King, currently a rookie with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Damien Robinson.
Robinson played safety at Iowa from 1993-96 and then had an eight-year NFL career. Like Jackson, he is from the Dallas area.
“It’s really my decision. That’s the main thing that I’ve got from the advice,” Jackson said. “It’s not stressful. I try to just enjoy everything.”
Jackson is nine credits shy of receiving his degree in sports management. He is on track to graduate in May. The draft is in April.
Jackson said he’s confident he is good enough to play in the NFL right now.
So why would he come back to Iowa?
“To finish out my degree and just play another year with my guys,” Jackson said.
Many mock drafts list Jackson as a first-round choice.
Fullback on full blast
The 14 Hawkeye players who met with the media Tuesday were in a relaxed and fun-loving mood. Yes, they are focused on ending a five-game bowl losing streak. But they found time to address other topics.
For senior Drake Kulick, that included some good-natured shots at his fullback counterpart, Brady Ross.
Reporters were told earlier this month that Ross is a huge New York Yankees fan and is excited to play a football game in Yankee Stadium. Kulick wasted no time in dousing that narrative.
“He’s a fake fan. He says he’s a fan,” Kulick said, before launching into an amusing rant about how Ross only roots for the winningest pro teams.
Those include the Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers and New England Patriots. Ross is a particularly zealous fan of New England quarterback Tom Brady, Kulick said.
“So is Brady Ross really a New York Yankees fan? I don’t know. He didn’t know who Aaron Judge was,” Kulick concluded, referring to the team’s star outfielder.
“As a football player, he’s the furthest thing from a front-runner. As a sports fan? I mean, you decide.”
On Monday, Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker casually offered his opinion that redshirt freshman linebacker Nick Niemann is actually faster than his older brother, senior Ben.
Ben Niemann was asked Tuesday if he had heard that remark.
“Yeah, I did. I don’t like that,” he quickly replied.
“Coach (Seth) Wallace actually brought it up to me at meetings last night, took a screen shot of a tweet and just put it right in my nose.”
Ben Niemann has 196 tackles and 39 starts at linebacker for the Hawkeyes. He is known for his speed. So his reaction to Parker’s statement was predictable
“Not true,” he said. “I’m not going to give into it.”
One person Niemann hadn’t heard from was his brother.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t given me any crap for it. Usually, he’d be all over that,” Ben Niemann said.
Iowa tailback Akrum Wadley grew up in New Jersey, some 30 minutes away from Yankee Stadium. Therefore, he is the team’s unofficial tour guide next week.
Wadley said Times Square would be his destination of choice for the Hawkeyes, who arrive in New York on Sunday. He’s more concerned about what will happen when he makes his first trip to Yankee Stadium.
“I know I’ve got to have a good game. The pressure’s on. I’m going home after the game, so if I don’t have a good game I’m going to get teased. I’m going to get joked on a lot. So I’ve got to be sharp,” the senior said.
Wadley will have many friends and relatives there to watch him. It will be reminiscent of last season’s game at Rutgers, where Wadley ran 26 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a 14-7 Iowa win.
“I’ve got to top that,” Wadley said. “I didn’t have the best game against Rutgers (84 rushing yards), but finished strong and we got the (win).”
Iowa’s practices are normally closed, but Tuesday marked one of the few occasions where media were permitted to watch. For 20 to 30 minutes, the team mostly ran through different drills, but absences and injuries were noticed.
Strong safety Miles Taylor wasn’t present. He suffered a knee injury in the season finale against Nebraska and likely will be replaced in the starting lineup at Yankee Stadium by Amani Hooker.
Backup inside linebacker Amani Jones was praised by Parker on Monday for having a strong December, but on Tuesday he was in sweat clothes. Offensive linemen Boone Myers and Cole Banwart (on crutches) also were non-participants.
Backup punter Ryan Gersonde wasn’t practicing, with Colten Rastetter handling all of those duties.
Iowa’s leading receiver, Nick Easley, wore a red no-contact jersey that usually indicates a player is dealing with an injury. So did backup cornerback Michael Ojemudia.