Ferentz talks QB competition, Wadley/Butler, inexperienced secondary at Iowa's media day

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Kirk Ferentz kicked off Iowa football's media day Saturday afternoon with a 30-minute press conference in the Feller Club Room at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He touched on just about every buzzing topic surrounding his Hawkeyes as they enter 2017-18.

Here are some highlights:

Quarterback competition

Ferentz addressed the quarterback competition first. He gave no clues as to a front-runner, but he said both Nathan Stanley and Tyler Wiegers have taken first-team reps during the team’s first six days of practice.

“The good news right there is both Nate and Tyler are doing a good job competing,” Ferentz said. “They’re making good strides. They’ve made strides since the spring and improved; I’d say in the last couple days, as well. Happy about that.

“I hate to talk for other people, but I think all of us as players and coaches feel good about both guys and feel like they can both lead us to good results. So happy with what we’re seeing so far.

"We'll keep observing, we'll watch, we'll pool information and at some point we'll have to probably make some decisions and go from there. It'll be a group effort, but (quarterbacks coach) Ken (O'Keefe) is the primary contact; just like if we were talking about the right guard position, Tim Polasek would be the authority on that."

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Young/inexperienced secondary

Ferentz said a lot has been written about his young receiver corps, but with the effect of Brandon Snyder's ACL tear, he said his secondary is just as young. He'll probably wind up playing "two first-year guys" at cornerback, although he said he doesn't know which two yet.

In terms of older guys, Ferentz said he's been particularly impressed with sophomore Manny Rugamba and junior Joshua Jackson.

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On Rugamba: "He made some really big plays in a big game at critical times (last year vs. Michigan), maybe as big a play as we had in the season, quite frankly. So that'll be good for him, as long as he keeps his feet on the ground. ... He's obviously going to be bigger; he was thin as a rail last year. There's a lot of upside for him right now."

On Jackson, whose work ethic he compared to Riley McCarron's: "I got to watch (Jackson) in his last summer workouts and I told (strength and conditioning coach) Chris Doyle, 'Josh is laughing at you. This program is like elementary school for him.' He really had a good summer."

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Running back depth

After six days of practice, Ferentz is already happy with Nevada transfer running back James Butler.

“I think all of have been really enjoying that and really pleased,” Ferentz said. “Any time you can add a good person and a high-caliber guy to your roster, that’s a positive.”

MORE: Inside James Butler's long road to Iowa's backfield

How might Butler fit in with Akrum Wadley, Iowa’s emotional and physical leader on offense?

“That’s a really good dilemma,” Ferentz said. “First of all, Akrum is one of our best football players. We’ve seen him, we've witnessed him and boy, he’s right on task right now. His weight’s good, his attitude’s been tremendous. He’s practicing really well. … He’s looked like a senior player, and a good senior player.

“Like last year, we were better when we had two guys that could help us there. And if we have three, that’d be great, too. It’s going to give everybody a chance to play better, and that’ll be easy to have those guys complement each other. We’ve just got to make sure all three of those guys are ready to go.”

Likely candidates for that third running back spot, should it exist: sophomore Toks Akinribade and redshirt freshman Toren Young.

Filling holes at defensive line

The Hawkeyes boast an interesting mix of youth and experience among its defensive line. We'll likely see a blend of those groups working to fill the voids left by Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie.

“I think we’re moving along," Ferentz said in regards to his defensive line's development. "Cedrick (Lattimore) is doing a really good job up there with Brady Reiff missing some time. He had an injury, but he’s been back at it this summer. This work is going to be really important for him. It’s really kind of an open book right now. Garret Jansen’s in the mix. We’ve got a bunch of guys competing.

"My guess is Nathan (Bazata) is going to play as much as he can play but we’ll rotate through. I think that was really an effective force last year, to rotate. We basically played six defensive linemen on a pretty consistent basis."

Questions at wide receiver

Other than quarterback, wide receiver has been the biggest position of interest for the Hawkeyes this offseason. Matt VandeBerg is the only guy to return with any significant game experience and he'll play alongside a bevy of newcomers.

Ferentz's thoughts on his wide receivers: "(We have) concerns, yes. But I think all of us have been impressed with what we're seeing. They're better than they were in the spring, and we're better with the new guys in there. Now the question is: How fast can we get to where we've got to get? Can we do it before Sept. 2? The good news is that's a group that ought to continue to improve. I think they're off to a good start so far, but we've got a lot of work ahead."

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.