Iowa's defensive coordinator addresses the safety position, the linebackers and more during an interview 11 days out from the season opener. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central
IOWA CITY, Ia. — You’ll have to wait a little longer to know which true freshmen are going to suit up for the 2019 Iowa football team.
But we do know there could be a lot of them playing, according to the Hawkeyes’ offensive and defensive coordinators.
“I’ll let the head coach hit that,” third-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said to a question about one of his true freshmen, a common default throughout his 18-minute interview with reporters following Tuesday’s practice. “But I’ll say this for the whole freshmen class. We’re very pleased.”
Kirk Ferentz will next address the media Aug. 27, four days in advance of the season opener against Miami of Ohio. And although we might hear specific names then about which freshmen are playing — always a buzzy topic at this time of year — we still won’t know the full picture.
Still, the comments about the 2019 class three weeks deep into fall camp have to be seen as encouraging. Brian Ferentz said the group has acclimated quickly “to the college football lifestyle.” He and defensive coordinator Phil Parker see several play-right-away candidates on both sides of the ball.
“I think there’s going to be some good players in this class. We’ll find out,” Brian Ferentz said. “(But) all indications say we recruited the right people. And, man, that’s a good start. The results typically follow. If you don’t have that box checked, those results get a little bit iffy.”
Some freshmen might be unleashed for the whole season, as just three were a year ago (defensive backs Julius Brents, Riley Moss and Kaevon Merriweather). Many others played four games or fewer, which preserved their four years of eligibility. Among the names that took advantage of that new-in-2018 NCAA rule were Tyler Linderbaum (now the starting center), possible backup quarterback Spencer Petras, wide receivers Nico Ragaini and Tyrone Tracy Jr. (both ticketed for heavy playing time this fall) and middle linebacker Dillon Doyle.
Speaking 11 days out from the season opener vs. Miami of Ohio, Iowa's offensive coordinator gave glowing answers about his quarterback and a receiver. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central
So, who might be in the mix this year? We can’t say for sure — truly, the coaches won’t decide that for at least several days — but reading some tea leaves, here are some likely options:
DB Dane Belton (6-foot-1, 190 pounds): Parker said Belton’s settled in at strong safety and is probably a four-game guy.
LB Jack Campbell (6-4, 218): The Cedar Falls product has been working mostly on the weak side and pushing for the rotation.
RBs Shadrick Byrd (5-10, 202) and Tyler Goodson (5-10, 190): Brian Ferentz indicated one or both will be in the plans. "Boy, they’ve shown some things that are pretty impressive," he said.
WR Desmond Hutson (6-3, 200): “Has a chance to make an impact this season,” Big Ten Network’s Dave Revsine tweeted during Tuesday’s practice, citing Kirk Ferentz.
LB Jestin Jacobs (6-4, 220): The early-enrollee and class jewel from Ohio is now healthy and could help on the outside and on special teams, per position coach Seth Wallace on media day.
LB Yahweh Jeudy (6-0, 201): As with Jacobs, Wallace said Jeudy could play special teams “at the very least.”
DB Jermari Harris (6-1, 177): Has opened eyes in camp. “Very smart kid. Very athletic,” Parker said.
TEs Sam LaPorta (6-4, 242) and Josiah Miamen (6-4, 235): Brian Ferentz knows he needs to build tight-end depth, with two of his top three (Nate Wieting, Drew Cook) being seniors.
There could be others. But those names are a possible starting point.
“It was easy last year. I don’t know if it’s going to be so easy this year,” Parker said of the coming-soon freshman conversation. “I think there’s more guys that can add value to our special teams.”
Is it a good thing that Iowa might play a bunch of true freshmen?
In the big picture, it’s not a bad thing. It shows these guys are on the path to being recruiting hits, not misses. And none of these freshmen is competing for a starting job. If Iowa sees potential in a rookie player, it likes to get him acclimated in Year 1 so he’s more prepared to make a bigger impact in Year 2.
“If they can help us win,” Parker said, “we’re going to put them on the field.”