Iowa takeaways: Big void at left tackle, tight end on the rise, 3 recruits to watch
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Alaric Jackson has been a mainstay on Iowa’s offensive line as a redshirt freshman.
But he won’t be at his usual left tackle spot when the Hawkeyes face Boston College in the Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bowl.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz announced Wednesday that Jackson won’t be in uniform in New York because of an unspecified violation of team policy. True freshman Tristan Wirfs will slide from right tackle to fill Jackson’s role. Sophomore Levi Paulsen will get his first career start at right tackle.
It’s one final shuffle at the tackle spots for the Hawkeyes (7-5) in a season that has been full of them. Fifth-year seniors Boone Myers and Ike Boettger were the projected starters, but both were lost to injury early. That elevated the rookies Jackson and Wirfs, who have proved capable if not always consistent.
Jackson was the only Hawkeye offensive lineman to start at the same spot in all 12 games.
“He's worked hard so far to meet the goals we've put in front of him,” Ferentz said of Jackson. “As long as he continues to do that, he'll be with the team but not dressed for the ballgame.”
Ferentz said Jackson’s transgression was not a legal matter.
Senior right guard Sean Welsh, who has played tackle at times in his career, will be Paulsen’s backup against Boston College (7-5), Ferentz said.
Senior strong safety Miles Taylor will also miss the bowl game after having surgery on his injured leg. That likely means Amani Hooker will get the start.
Injured safety Brandon Snyder won’t even make the trip to New York after his Dec. 10 arrest for driving while intoxicated, Ferentz said. The junior is rehabilitating from knee surgery.
“It's not acceptable behavior for anybody, certainly not someone on our football team, certainly not for a team leader,” Ferentz said of Snyder.
“Brandon is very understandably apologetic. He's remorseful. He will not be with us. When he comes back from the spring term, we'll try to move forward here and have some things set in place for him, some requirements to reach as he gets back into good standing with our football team.”
Ferentz also revealed that sophomore running back Toks Akinribade, who has not played this season, is recovering from a medical procedure and will be at home in Indiana for the bowl game.
Beyer singled out for praise
Ferentz said the sole focus of his team’s practices is preparing to face Boston College. But December is also a time when younger, little-used players can work their way into the conversation for next season’s playing time.
An early contender for that has been redshirt freshman tight end Shaun Beyer, Ferentz said. The Cedar Rapids Kennedy product has played sparingly and has yet to catch a pass.
“The last three weeks have been really good for him,” Ferentz said.
“Those are the stories that are going to be unfolding after we get back.”
Winding road to California
Ferentz spent much of Wednesday’s news conference talking about the team’s 2018 recruits on the first Signing Day. Among those was strong-armed quarterback Spencer Petras of Northern California, who chose the Hawkeyes after originally committing to Oregon State.
Ferentz said quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe spent months trying to locate a strong prospect in the 2018 class and was constantly finding fault with the young athletes. Finally, he landed on Petras and traveled to the West Coast to see him, a rarity for Hawkeye recruiting. Petras’ Marin Catholic team was still in the high school playoffs, making it difficult for him to schedule a visit to Iowa.
“Spencer got knocked out I believe on a Saturday night, should have been Friday, but the game got pushed because of the fires. They came here, were sleep-deprived Sunday afternoon. Had a very brief visit, he and his mom did,” Ferentz said. “We just really felt good about the way he projected with us. Fortunately for us, mom and dad and Spencer were comfortable with what they saw here, what they learned.
“We feel good about how that all came together.”
A familiar name signs up
Chris Doyle has been Ferentz’s trusted strength and conditioning coach for all of his 19 seasons at the Hawkeye helm. That means Ferentz has known one of his new linebacker recruits since birth.
Dillon Doyle, of Iowa City West, was among the earliest Iowa commits Wednesday. He is considered the third-best recruit in Iowa.
“He's part of the family,” Ferentz said of Doyle. “I think I know him pretty well, who he is, what he stands for, how he operates. … Eighteen years ago nobody knew he would be a Division I prospect. Neat how that all worked. Feel glad that he likes our program.”
The next Ed Hinkel?
Samson Evans is a two-time state champion quarterback from Illinois who will be searching for a new position at Iowa. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder was known for his running, not his passing, at Prairie Ridge High School.
Ferentz compared him to another converted quarterback from a decade back, Ed Hinkel of Pennsylvania. Hinkel ended up at wide receiver with the Hawkeyes and caught 135 passes for 1,588 yards and 15 touchdowns from 2002-05.
“Probably not a quarterback, but he's a good football player. His team seems to always win,” Ferentz said of Evans. “I think Hinkel could have been — our initial intent was free safety. We were down on receivers, so we flipped him over that one day and never came back.
“I think in Samson's case, too, he probably could play running back. We'll figure that all out when he gets here. We're happy he's on our team.”