The bulk of Iowa’s on-field preparation was done Wednesday morning. Thursday’s off day will be followed by Friday’s light practice, and then it’s game time at 3 p.m. Saturday for the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes at Iowa State.
Routine is a staple for any college football program, but it’s even more of a focal point in Iowa City. That’s why Hawkeye wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland, who joined our Hawk Central radio show Wednesday night, expressed confidence that his players wouldn’t be swayed by all the Cy-Hawk distractions.
“It’s always the same recipe, always the same gameplan,” said Copeland, in his third year at Iowa. “We keep our guys focused by focusing on the little things. Talking about executing, talking about preparation, talking about practicing the details, paying attention in meetings.”
As much as some Hawkeye supporters would love to see more emphasis placed on this game (Kirk Ferentz is 11-9 vs. the Cyclones), that’s not how the 21st-year Iowa head coach rolls.
“We don’t talk any different. Coach doesn’t go out and make any grand speeches before any opponent,” Copeland said. “It’s always the same approach. As long as that message is always the same, our guys kind of fall in place. They realize real quick, it’s not about who we’re playing. It’s about how we’re prepared.”
Some insight into Oliver Martin’s usage
Copeland’s position group has been one of the many bright spots in Iowa’s 2-0 start. His top five receivers each have at least four receptions, and they’ve accounted for all six of Nate Stanley’s touchdown passes. Historically a position of weakness, wide receiver now looks like a Hawkeye strength.
Copeland, who deserves a lot of credit for turning that room around, said he wasn’t surprised at the production of Ihmir Smith-Marsette (a team-high eight catches for 148 yards and three touchdowns), Brandon Smith (5-48-1), Nico Ragaini (4-66-0), Tyrone Tracy Jr. (4-64-1) and Martin (4-24-1).
“It’s a typical coach’s answer,” he said. “but I’m not satisfied. We can do better in a lot of different areas.”
On the topic of Martin, the Michigan transfer and Iowa City West product, we asked Copeland about why his snap count is in the low 30s (against an average of 76.5 for the other four) in the early going.
“That’s a really fair question,” Copeland said. “The thing that people don’t realize, when a young man comes into a program … it takes time to learn the system. I explain to people who don’t follow college football and who aren’t in our building every day, when you learn a system it’s literally like learning a new language. Different words mean different things in the playbook. Just that in of itself, it takes time. You’re not going to learn a new language overnight.”
Iowa is teaching Martin all three receiver positions, which adds to the redshirt sophomore’s learning curve. We haven't seen a ton of Martin so far, but that doesn't mean we won't see him play an increasingly important role as his season (and career) progresses.
“He’s doing a really good job. He really is. That’s why you have seen him have plays and productivity and touches with the football,” Copeland said. “The last thing you’ve got to realize is we’ve got some really good players already in the receiver room.
“And there’s only one football on each play.”
A non-update on Matt Hankins
Later Wednesday, Ferentz on his own radio show said that Iowa would play it by ear whether the junior starting cornerback would play at Iowa State. That was consistently vague with his Tuesday answer about whether Hankins, a 12-game starter who played terrific against Iowa State a year ago, could go.
If he cannot play, either redshirt freshman D.J. Johnson (who started the opener at Iowa’s cash position but played only seven snaps) or Terry Roberts would start opposite Michael Ojemudia.