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What we learned: Kirk Ferentz focusing past Iowa football QB battle, impressed with freshmen class

Chris Cuellar
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — After an offseason of training and talk at Iowa, it’s time for action.

The Hawkeyes host Mountain West Conference contender Wyoming at 11 a.m. on Saturday, with television coverage coming from the Big Ten Network.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and selected players met with members of the media Tuesday to discuss the matchup and the aftermath of offseason storylines.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz looks ahead at the upcoming season during media day on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017.

Sticking with Stanley: Iowa announced the winner of its offseason quarterback contest on Monday, with sophomore Nate Stanley from Menomonie, Wis., edging out redshirt junior Tyler Wiegers for the starting job. Stanley was last season’s backup to C.J. Beathard, but had to battle for the right to bump up on the depth chart.

“As the timing of the decision would indicate, it’s been close all along,” Ferentz said at his Tuesday afternoon press conference. “Both Tyler and Nate have really competed well. They’re both first-class guys. The whole staff chipped in. We all saw that it was a close, competitive race and, right now, we’re all onboard with the direction that we’re going in.”

Complimenting the Cowboys’ star: Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen has been a darling of college football’s offseason, projected to rise from a lightly recruited high school prospect to a potential No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft. The 6-foot-5, 233-pound standout certainly has the attention of Iowa’s defense and coaching staff.

“They’ve got one of the nation’s top players,” Ferentz said of Allen in his opening remarks. “Not only one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, but one of the nation’s top players in Josh Allen — but they’re much more than that. They’re a well-balanced football team, they’re well-coached, and they threaten you in a lot of different ways.”

Putting freshmen on the field: Iowa listed seven true freshmen on its complete depth chart Monday. Ferentz didn’t parcel out their playing time Tuesday, but confirmed each of them had chances to make early contributions.

Receiver Brandon Smith and tackle Tristan Wirfs were offensive representatives on the lineup, with defensive end A.J. Epenesa, cornerback Matt Hankins and safety Geno Stone stepping in on defense. Punter Ryan Gersonde and returner Ivory Kelly-Martin made appearances on the special teams listing.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Ferentz said. “They may not be all in this coming Saturday, but we’ll assess that every week. We’ll approach it with an open mind.

“Those guys have done well in camp and look as if they could come out and perform. That being said, any new player — whether it’s a first-year guy or a fourth-year guy — will have some ups and downs. That’s just how it goes.”

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Kinnick Stadium’s small updates: Hawkeye fans have known about the addition of a Tigerhawk emblem to midfield for awhile. Ferentz finally commented on the change Tuesday.

“I think it looks good!” Ferentz said with a laugh, “I’ll give you an opinion  —every now and then, I will.

“The first time I saw it, I was up in the children’s hospital — we were up there in July; I think we were visiting somebody up there — I think it looks great now.”

Fans inside the stadium may also notice the addition of a timeout clock to run during TV and whistled breaks.

Iowa athletics communications director Steve Roe indicated before Ferentz took the podium that around 5,500 seats were still available for Saturday’s game. Season tickets and seats for students were sold out.