Hawkeye linebacker Nick Niemann will miss time with leg injury
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa will be without starting linebacker Nick Niemann for “a couple of weeks” after he suffered a leg injury late in Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin, Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday on a teleconference.
Niemann, a sophomore, had started Iowa’s first four games at outside linebacker and recorded 10 tackles in Saturday’s 28-17 loss. He is a valuable player because of his ability to defend both the run and pass in Iowa’s 4-3 defensive scheme.
Barrington Wade has been listed as Niemann’s backup on the depth chart, but Kristian Welch is also an option to move from his weakside spot, Ferentz said. Welch started Saturday’s game but was replaced by Djimon Colbert in the second half.
Iowa (3-1) has a bye this week before heading to Minnesota for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff Oct. 6.
“We’ll take this week and just kind of fool around with that, see what it looks like,” Ferentz said of the plan to replace Niemann.
Starting cornerback Matt Hankins also left Saturday’s game with an injury. He was replaced by Julius Brents.
“Matt’s got a couple issues right now,” Ferentz said. “We’ll see how that goes this week.”
Epenesa continues to be part of ‘luxury’ rotation at defensive end
Sophomore defensive end A.J. Epenesa leads the Hawkeyes with four sacks despite playing 30 to 40 percent of the team’s snaps while rotating with starters Parker Hesse and Anthony Nelson. Ferentz said he is pleased with the production of that trio.
“We think we have a good, healthy rotation,” he said. “Parker Hesse has been a captain every week and is probably one of our best football players, period. … And Anthony Nelson’s pretty good, too. It’s one of those rare situations where we have three good players.
“It’s certainly not a knock or a commentary on A.J., anything he’s doing wrong. It’s just that he’s at a position where he’s got two of the better guys on our team. We’re really pleased with what he’s doing, really pleased with his progress. We consider it kind of a luxury item to have three guys that you can play at two spots.”
Ferentz still a strong proponent of new redshirt rule, may use it in November
Ferentz said he’s “seen headlines” about seniors on other football teams who are taking advantage of a new redshirt rule to transfer before their team’s fifth game in order to retain that year of eligibility. That has been an unintended consequence of the rule that allows any player to appear in up to four games in a season without losing one of their four years of college eligibility.
“I guess I didn’t think that deeply into it or thought of it in those terms,” Ferentz said of the transfers. “But I think it’s a great rule. Me personally, I wish everybody just had five years of eligibility to make it a lot cleaner and simpler.
“If a guy’s going to transfer, he’s going to transfer. I don’t know if that’s relative to playing time or whatever. Our transfers have tended to be more quarterbacks where we have a clearly established No. 1 and then a guy leaves.”
Last offseason, Hawkeye quarterbacks Tyler Wiegers and Ryan Boyle left the program in search of playing time after Nate Stanley won the starting job.
As far as how Iowa is approaching the new redshirt rule with underclassmen, Ferentz again held out the possibility that some true freshmen who haven’t played yet could be called on late in the season.
“We have no way to predict where we’ll be in November,” he said. “There might be some guys that have improved enough where we could throw them in, use them maybe in November maybe to finish the season out.”