Some encouraging news for Drew Ott as NCAA decision looms

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Four months have passed since Iowa defensive end Drew Ott filed paperwork petitioning for a medical redshirt. His wait for a decision continues.

The ball remains in the court of the NCAA, where it’s been since late February when the Big Ten Conference passed it along for a verdict.

Kirk Ferentz remained hopeful Tuesday that Ott would be allowed to return to the Hawkeyes’ roster in 2016, but also held back in criticizing the length of the process.

“We’ll just kind of bite our tongue,” the 18th-year Iowa coach said in a news conference the day before spring practice begins. “Everybody’s working hard at it. I guess you have to get the right people together, the right time, that type of thing. Who knows?”

But to say there was no Ott news would be inaccurate. Ferentz was optimistic that, whatever the verdict, Ott would be ready in time for fall camp – either at Iowa or in the NFL.

Iowa's Drew Ott last played Oct. 10 against Illinois.

That’s a big deal. Ott had knee surgery Oct. 18, so that would mean he would have made a recovery in 9-10 months.

“I think he’ll be ready in camp, be ready this summer. He’s working at it really hard,” Ferentz said. “For him, the toughest part is just not knowing. It’s like anything in life, when you don’t know where you’re going, what the future is, it’s a tough thing to deal with.”

Though the case details have been outlined for months, it’s worth going over again to explain why it’s so unique. Ott exceeded the 30 percent of games allowed for a medical redshirt (he played in six of 14), but the reason that the case remains in limbo is that he tore ligaments in his left elbow in Week 2 (an injury that required Tommy John surgery), then continued to play through it for two weeks on a limited basis. Then after playing a full game against Wisconsin in Week 5, he tore the ACL in his right knee against Illinois in Week 6.

So, he played two full games out of 14 – and part-time in four others. Ferentz remained encouraged by other existing cases. He pointed to former Houston quarterback Case Keenum being granted a sixth year after a knee injury he suffered in the 2010 season. That situation was different, though – Keenum played only three of the Cougars’ 12 games, or 25 percent.

Regardless, Ott continues to press forward. At Iowa’s Pro Day on Monday, he measured for NFL scouts at 6-foot-4, 277 pounds but didn't take part in drills. (Iowa listed him at 6-4, 272 before the 2015 season, when he was named one of the Big Ten’s top 10 players to watch.)

Ferentz thought a decision would come in “a couple of weeks.”

“Saw him this morning, he’s in training. He’s doing more and more with each day,” Ferentz said. “The good news for him, he’s got a good future whichever direction it goes. Several of the (NFL) guys mentioned him yesterday. They’ve got him on their radar, certainly.

“The question they have, ‘Do we use a draft pick? Do we try to get him as a free agent?’ That type of thing. I just think he’s a great investment, he’s a heck of a football player. He’s a heck of a leader. If we could get him back, that would add to our leadership base, too, as well as a really good football player.”