The Register's Chad Leistikow previews Iowa's trip to the Rose Bowl, including preparation and injury updates.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Making 58 career receptions in three years, then having none as a senior hasn’t been an easy situation to swallow for Iowa tight end Jake Duzey.
But the senior who had torn meniscus surgery on his right knee still has kept a smile on his face.
“It’s been pretty disappointing, but our team’s been playing great,” Duzey said. “So it’s been a great season for all of us. It’s been fun to be a part of it. Just going to take it one day at a time still, but just trying to come back and get some time in the Rose Bowl.”
The Iowa tight end had 58 career catches before this season, but had zero in nine games after knee surgery.
Duzey injured his knee on the next-to-last practice of spring ball. After surgery, the target became late September or early October. But even though he got back for a few snaps Sept. 26 against North Texas, he never felt right.
He played sparingly in nine game, usually as the third tight end in heavy formations.
“I don’t know if I was ready when I first came back. … I’m guessing it was a little ambitious,” Duzey said. “But it was my senior year, so I definitely wanted to try to get back out there as soon as I can. It didn’t happen like how I planned it out, but we’ll see what happens going forward.”
Could Duzey’s first catch of the season come in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl vs. Stanford?
“The good news is the last week he has looked better,” coach Kirk Ferentz said, “looked a little bit more like the old Jake Duzey. We hope that will continue the next 10 days. It would be great if he was able to get involved in a positive way (in) his last game as a Hawkeye.”
King, Ott's futures addressed
The hot December question has been whether Jim Thorpe Award winner Desmond King (a junior) or top pass rusher Drew Ott (a senior) would return to the Hawkeyes in 2016. There was no hard news on that front Tuesday.
Ferentz on Ott, who is applying for a fifth season after having this one cut short by Tommy John surgery and a torn ACL: “We're going to appeal it right to the end, and hopefully we'll get that opportunity. If we don't, we don't. The good news for him, he's got a great future (in football).”
Ferentz on King, who hasn’t made a decision on whether to enter the NFL draft: “The big thing I want any player to do is make a well-informed decision, not one based on voodoo, those Magic 8 balls, or the guy down the street, or Uncle Tim.”
Ferentz said the NFL advisory board, a group of professional scouts who provide impressions on NFL-readiness for college underclassmen, usually delivers news around the holidays. King was on a request list supplied to the UI, but was not one of 17 players made available for interviews Tuesday.
Ferentz’s strong playoff opinion
Even though Iowa finished No. 5 in the College Football Playoff committee’s four-qualifier list, Ferentz strongly advocates that the right format (four teams, not eight) is in place.
He sides with the student-athletes on this one, saying they give enough of their time and already miss a lot of class. He noted that there would no chance Iowa could ever compete in a Dec. 19 bowl game — as many teams did Saturday — because of finals week.
“At some point you have to think about the players, too, and what's good for them,” Ferentz said. “To me, the only answer is to push it (deeper) into January. Most colleges go to school in January, too. So I'm not sure how you'd pull it off, I guess.
“And this still is college football, it's about the players. It's not pro football, where it's their jobs.
“I don't know why we need more, and we're the fifth team, according to the rankings. We had our opportunity; we came up three points short. And hopefully next year, we can push over that wall. We're not looking back."
Second trip to California
Cole Fisher has never been to Disneyland, a site the team will see Saturday in advance of the Rose Bowl. But he has been to California once — for an unofficial recruiting visit to Stanford. He smiled at that irony — that Iowa will be facing the Cardinal in Pasadena.
“I’ve thought about it, but I’ve had an amazing career here,” said Fisher, a civil engineering major from Omaha, Neb., who racked up 112 tackles this season as a senior. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
One thing on the docket this week is a Rose Bowl tradition: an informal prime-rib-eating contest at Lawry’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills for players.
“I’m too slow of an eater,” he said. “It takes me an hour to eat a full meal.”
Bowl benefits to young guys
Anyone who talks about “15 bowl practices” is perpetuating a myth — bowl preparation is like any other week during the regular season, where teams are capped at 20 hours of football activity by NCAA rule. That equates to fewer than 15 for some teams, more than 15 for others.
But bowl prep has its wrinkles. At Iowa, the early portion is the best chance outside of the spring for the coaching staff to see how its below-the-depth-chart players are progressing. The third- and fourth-stringers get some time usually reserved for the 1s and 2s.
“It's really important to us, and always has been, and probably more important to us than other programs,” Ferentz said. “We're a developmental team, and we're proud of that. It gives us an opportunity to work the guys more than we would in other periods.”