Iowa takeaways: Recruiting revelation, Wadley's knee, future schedules
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Next opponent North Dakota State is getting Iowa’s attention this week, of course, but for more than one reason.
As Kirk Ferentz’s 11th-ranked, FBS Hawkeyes prepare for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against the five-time defending FCS national champions, the 18th-year head coach had a bit of a revelation.
He noticed 12 players on the Bison two-deep are from North Dakota, including three-fifths of the starting offensive line.
Not to mention the rookie quarterback who on Sunday won his debut with the Philadelphia Eagles. Recent No. 2 NFL Draft pick Carson Wentz, who starred for the Bison, is from Bismarck, N.D.
“We might have to start recruiting North Dakota,” Ferentz said, “because they have a lot of guys in-state that play well for them.”
He's right. There’s not a single FBS program in either North Dakota or South Dakota, so it’s a potentially untapped area worth exploring.
Sounds like a new challenge for the incredible recruiting exploits of longtime Hawkeye assistant Reese Morgan, known for finding big-time prospects in hard-to-reach areas.
“We haven't ventured that far north,” Ferentz said. “May have to get Reese a new car or dogsled to help him out.”
Wadley and other injuries
Akrum Wadley sat outside the Iowa Football Performance Center on Tuesday with a large pack of ice wrapped around his right knee.
Anything to worry about with Iowa’s most electric player through two games?
“He’s OK. Backs get banged up. That's part of the deal,” Ferentz said in addressing his backup running back’s health.
Wadley is averaging 8.7 yards per touch and leads the 2-0 Hawkeyes with four touchdowns. His workload was managed against Iowa State (nine carries, 49 yards). You might see more of LeShun Daniels Jr. (7.5 yards per carry) Saturday.
Ferentz hasn’t ruled out center James Daniels (knee) from returning Saturday, but he’s not on the depth chart. Lucas LeGrand will likely start his second straight game there. Defensive end Parker Hesse (upper-leg strain) should return after missing the Iowa State game.
Ferentz said a few other important players were day-to-day.
“We'll see how they respond during the course of the week,” he said, without specifying who after a follow-up question. “Hopefully we'll be ready at kickoff. If not, we'll play with the guys we have.”
Iowa’s rule book experts are…?
Probably the biggest story in college football Saturday was Central Michigan’s amazing Hail-Mary finish to beat Oklahoma State, with officials later saying that play never should have been allowed to happen because of a no-longer-obscure rule about untimed downs after a change of possession.
What happened in Stillwater, Okla., brings more awareness to a team’s responsibility to know the rule book. Oklahoma State coaches could’ve disputed the official’s incorrect ruling, but they didn’t.
“I'm not going to stand here and say we would have caught that,” Ferentz conceded Tuesday.
So who are Iowa’s go-to guys on the rules? Ferentz didn’t specify, but noted he found out Saturday why punter Ron Coluzzi getting knocked to the ground against Iowa State only drew a five-yard, running-into-the-kicker penalty.
“We have people that are pretty well-versed,” Ferentz said. “We learned something the other night about the kick interference on the punter. Learned something there about planting foot vs. swing foot, which I thought the referee made that up. I didn't accuse him of that, but we questioned him. He was right.”
King clarifies comments
For all the ink spent on Desmond King vs. Allen Lazard last week, it was much ado about nothing. (Oops.)
King, Iowa’s Jim Thorpe Award-winning cornerback, said Tuesday that statements that he would cover Lazard, Iowa State’s star receiver, were taken too far.
“I don’t know if you all actually heard what I said. I said I was going to check him in certain personnel,” King said. “So, whenever he came out to my side, or if we were in a whole other package … if he was in the slot, I would check him.”
Anyway, Lazard ended up doing most of his damage (seven catches, 111 yards) against other defenders. Iowa State threw once to Lazard when King was on him, for an 11-yard gain in the third quarter with Iowa comfortably ahead, 28-3. (The Hawkeyes won, 42-3.)
King was complimentary of his Cyclone counterpart.
“One pass was thrown our way, and they completed it,” King said. “I felt like (Lazard) had a phenomenal game — had over 100 receiving yards. He made all the plays that he could.”
Get to know Manny
Five days before the season opener, Iowa starting cornerback Greg Mabin gave reporters a heads-up to watch out for true freshman Manny Rugamba.
“He’s been making a lot of good plays this camp,” Mabin said Aug. 30.
He’s been prophetic. Ferentz said Tuesday it’s “fair” to say that Rugamba, a 6-foot, 172-pound native of Naperville, Ill., has taken over as No. 3 cornerback — first man in after King or Mabin. Rugamba and sophomore Josh Jackson have been used in Iowa’s dime coverage package (with six defensive backs).
“He's done a good job so far,” Ferentz said of Rugamba. “Hopefully we can coach him up and work him along.”
Extra love for VandeBerg
Quarterback C.J. Beathard confessed to padding receiver Matt VandeBerg’s stats on Saturday before the receiver proposed to his girlfriend (now fiancée), Laura Bulanda.
Beathard knew of VandeBerg’s plan to pop the question on the sidelines after the game.
“I told him, ‘OK, I’ll throw you a few extra balls,’” Beathard said to a chorus of laughs.
He was kidding, right? VandeBerg had his best game as a Hawkeye, with a career-best 129 receiving yards on seven catches, plus a 25-yard run on a reverse.
Gene Taylor, Iowa’s deputy athletics director, took questions Tuesday about North Dakota State — where he spent 13 years as athletic director. Imagine the ticket requests he’s received.
“I did,” Taylor said, “and I told them to call the ticket office.”
Taylor also talked scheduling. Iowa’s general approach with nine-game Big Ten Conference schedules is to play two non-Power Five schools and Iowa State in the out-of-conference season.
Taylor wasn’t ruling adding a so-called neutral-site game like LSU and Wisconsin played in Week 1 (at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.). Iowa is contracted to play Iowa State through the 2021 season, making such a matchup trickier.
"You hear a lot of discussion about what happened with the first weekend with all of those big games," Taylor said. "Are we going to look at that? It’s going to be hard for us right now, just because of the nine games plus Iowa State, to find a hole for that. But as more and more of those game happen, maybe down the road, it raises opportunity.”
Taylor said his immediate priority is filling one opening on Iowa’s 2019 schedule.