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Kirk Ferentz is entering his 20th year on the I-Club circuit as Iowa's head coach. He talks about the importance of first-round NFL Draft picks.

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Kirk Ferentz was in West Des Moines on Tuesday night to kick off his 20th year on the I-Club banquet circuit as Iowa’s head football coach.

On Thursday, he'll hop on a plane headed for Dallas, Texas, for one of the football world's biggest annual spectacles.

Ferentz and Hawkeye defensive coordinator Phil Parker were given two tickets by all-American cornerback Josh Jackson for Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft. They’ll join Jackson in the “green room,” where prospects and their families wait for their names to get called as a national TV audience tunes in.

Ferentz was still mulling what to wear for the red-carpet event (he was taking fashion tips Tuesday night). In seriousness, he’s honored to be included in one of college football’s best stories of 2017.

Jackson had only started one game before exploding onto the scene as a redshirt junior, a season in which he led the nation with 26 passes defended and eight interceptions.

“Josh is a unique story and a great story,” Ferentz said. “To think about him being a one-game starter coming into this year, and (becoming) a consensus all-American … that just doesn’t happen very often. We all thought he’d play well, but none of us envisioned him playing at the level he played at.

“It’s a real credit to Josh, all the hard work he’s invested.”

Jackson and outgoing offensive lineman James Daniels — two juniors who declared early for the draft — are considered first- or second-round draft prospects. Iowa hasn’t had two first-rounders since Tom Knight and Ross Verba in 1997.

Other tidbits from Ferentz at the Sheraton Hotel in West Des Moines…

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Iowa linebacker Aaron Mends enters his fifth and final football season with a chance to finally be a starter. He's been on the No. 1 line many times before, but has just 13 career tackles and zero career starts.

Aaron Mends indeed has a torn ACL.

Ferentz confirmed that his potential starter at weak-side linebacker would have surgery next week. Mend suffered what Ferentz on Friday had termed a “serious” knee injury in Iowa's April 18 practice.

Ferentz said Tuesday there had been no discussion about whether Mends would apply for a sixth year of eligibility. Recovery from ACL surgery typically ranges from six to nine months, so he's likely done for the 2018 season.

“The worst thing about coaching is when guys get injured,” Ferentz said. “It’s just a tough thing, a tough break.”

There's no movement in basketball player Ahmad Wagner joining the Hawkeye football program.

Ferentz did confirm that the Hawkeyes have shown interest in the 6-foot-7, 235-pound native of Yellow Springs, Ohio, but they haven’t worked him out for football. Wagner played three years for Fran McCaffery’s basketball program but recently decided he would be giving football a try. He projects as a wide receiver or tight end.

If Wagner stays at Iowa, he would have two years of football eligibility. If he transfers to another FBS school, he would have one after a redshirt year. Wagner was set to visit Kentucky this past weekend and, according to Rivals.com, is also getting interest from Louisville, Cincinnati and Akron.

“We’ve had conversations with him,” Ferentz said. “My sense is he wants to sit back a little bit and just think things out. We’ll give him time. The ball’s in his court.”

Sam Brincks and Chauncey Golston are in Iowa's 'top six' on the defensive line.

One of the spring’s big experiments was moving both Brincks and Golston back and forth between defensive end (their natural position) and defensive tackle. Brincks (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) joined Cedrick Lattimore as the No. 1 pairing at tackle in Friday’s scrimmage.

Golston (6-5, 265) played end Friday, but had worked at tackle earlier this spring.

Ferentz likes the added flexibility their versatility provides.

“At least one of those guys will play inside and outside; it just gives us a little more depth,” Ferentz said. “Those guys are both good players. It gives us one more way to get them on the field.

“They both showed some level of comfort with (tackle). They’re two guys that with each year have kind of impressed us. They’re certainly in our top six right now, and it’s a good thing.”

Good news on the attrition front, it seems.

Ferentz said that other than Mends’ ACL and a few other known surgeries, the Hawkeyes came out of Friday’s open practice at Kinnick Stadium with only minor injuries. No surprises, come June, when players report for summer conditioning.

He also said he hasn’t had anyone approach him since spring practice ended about transferring. Typically, at least a handful of players move on following the spring semester. Don't be shocked if there are a few, come May.

But Ferentz noted Tuesday, “I’m not really anticipating any big news” regarding offseason departures.

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