Big Ten Media Days: On curbing fake injuries, Hawkeye updates, Rutgers' amazing punter

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

INDIANAPOLIS — Kirk Ferentz won a lot of points with his Iowa football fan base after doubling down on the narrative that Penn State players were asked to take a dive to slow down the game on a hot night last October at Kinnick Stadium.

You remember what happened. Many of the 69,250 strong at Kinnick Stadium booed. They thought some Nittany Lions players would go down on purpose after Iowa got a first down. Ferentz piped up the following Tuesday saying "Our fans aren't stupid. They're watching, they know what's going on,” and that “they smelled a rat, I guess.” Ferentz went on to suggest he knew of code words like “scuba” or “turtle” that had been used to trigger the idea of a coach having a player go down, so the defense could get a breather and substitute.

Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie awaits injury attention during last year's game in Iowa City. A new procedure with the NCAA has been installed to try to dissuade teams from faking injuries.

Penn State coach James Franklin fired back the next day and said he’s never coached a player to fake an injury and scoffed that he would teach that against a huddle-up team like Iowa.

Anyway, that game became a flashpoint in the NCAA revisiting what to do about teams that fake injuries. This week at Big Ten Media Days, Bill Carollo — the league’s director of officials — outlined a new procedure that will take place to try to curb the practice.

“I mean, it’s coached. We’re not kidding each other. And officials know it. But we’re not doctors,” Carollo said. “We’ve been on this for three years.”

Carollo is also part of the rules committee and said he’s not a proponent of instituting penalties or charging timeouts for teams that have an injured player taken off the field. What will happen now is that if a team (say, Iowa last year) submits a complaint to the conference, Carollo will review it for validity.

"If there’s some merit there and maybe some history there with a coach, I’ll send it to the NCAA," Carollo said. 

If a three-member committee at the NCAA concludes a player went down intentionally, there could be a public reprimand or fine to the head coach.

“The 20-year-old kid is just doing what his coach is telling him to do. I hate to take something away from the kid. Now you can’t play the rest of the quarter? That’s not fair,” Carollo said. “You give a coach a $10,000 fine, that might get his attention and they won’t be taking dives. That simple.”

Of note: For the first time since 2015, Iowa and Penn State aren’t scheduled to meet on the regular-season schedule. So we won’t have a Ferentz-Franklin rematch unless both teams make the Big Ten Championship Game.

Now for some other things overheard at Big Ten Media Days …

Some injury updates for Iowa and the centers of attention

Sophomore Logan Jones was listed as the No. 1 center for Kirk Ferentz on Tuesday, the first time someone other than Tyler Linderbaum has been the first-team center on a preseason depth chart since 2019. But Ferentz said there are three candidates for that ultra-important position on Iowa’s offensive line.

One of those is sophomore Michael Myslinski, who Ferentz said was definitely in the mix despite missing spring ball with an injury.

“All of us were impressed and pleased with what we saw in December. There’s no question he’s going to be in the competition of our top eight, top nine,” Ferentz said. “It’s just a matter of how much he can pick things up, how fluidly he can play.”

Tyler Elsbury, currently the No. 1 left guard, is also a possibility. But Jones, a converted defensive lineman with brute strength (much like Linderbaum), would be the best solution. He has immense upside. It would be ideal to leave Elsbury at guard, as Iowa lost some depth there this summer with the news that Justin Britt would be out for the season. (More complications with the knee injury that has bothered him since high school is the reason, Ferentz said.)

Also out for the season is wide receiver Jackson Ritter, who was in the top six a year ago. That opened the door for Iowa City Regina walk-on Alec Wick to jump into the depth chart this week. He’s now the fourth receiver in the pecking order, behind Keagan Johnson, Nico Ragaini and Arland Bruce IV.

“He shows up every day. Works hard,” Ferentz said. “He kind of has a knack of doing some good things.”

Wisconsin doesn’t say much about Jon Budmayr’s move to Iowa

Budmayr, the former Wisconsin quarterbacks coach who was let go after one year as Colorado State’s offensive coordinator, has been a headliner in the Hawkeye building this offseason. Budmayr, 31, was a volunteer assistant in the spring and is now on the payroll as an analyst.

It’s certainly an interesting dynamic as Budmayr comes from the school he played at and coached at to help a fierce Big Ten West rival. Two Wisconsin representatives, head coach Paul Chryst and quarterback Graham Mertz, kept their answers brief but complimentary when it came to Budmayer.

“I think the world of Jon,” Chryst said. “He's talented in a number of ways.”

Budmayr recruited Mertz and coached him in 2019 and 2020. Asked about specifics to what Budmayr offers as a coach, Mertz kept it pretty basic.

“He brings passion. He brings drive. He’ll do a great job,” Mertz said. “He taught me the entire offense. He was my man.”

Wisconsin has had the upper hand against the Hawkeyes in recent years, having won five of six meetings since 2016 and eight of the last 10.

“Doesn’t feel like it,” Chryst said. “I think it’s known I’ve got a ton of respect for coach Ferentz. They’ve got good players; really good players. Well-coached. I think we’re different but in some ways we try to approach the game (similarly). It feels like every game, you’ve got to be on. They’re fun games to play that way. And I know our kids get excited about it. It’s always a challenge.”

The best punter hair in the Big Ten goes to ...

No disrespect to Iowa's Tory Taylor, but Rutgers' Adam Korsak goes into the season as the Big Ten's most popular and decorated punter. Hawkeye fans may remember Korsak's remarkable punting exhibition in a 30-0 Iowa win over Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium in 2019 — a clinic of downed balls inside the 5-yard line and a 47.6-yard average on 10 punts.

This past season, Korsak's remarkable leg led to Rutgers setting an NCAA record for net punting average, at 45.34 yards per attempt. He has gone an amazing 129 straight punts without a touchback. Like Taylor, Korsak grew up in Australia kicking balls to friends because that's how you pass and score in Australian rules football — by kicking. That's where the amazing control on punts comes from.

"So how you might have grown up throwing a baseball or football, we grow up punting the ball 20 yards back and forth with our friends or our dad or whoever," Korsak said. "So it's built into us, it's very natural."

Korsak and Taylor are good friends. They met at Prokick, an Australian academy that trains American punters. Taylor sent a question through a reporter to ask Korsak who has the second-best hair among Big Ten punters.

"So Jesse Mirco (of Ohio State) is first and Tory's third then," Korsak said with an Aussie accent and a winning smile. "What I would say, Tory. I wake up and this is my hair. I hide the grays, but I don't go out and get a perm. You can tell him that."

Jokes aside, Korsak and Taylor respect each other greatly and will see each other this year when Iowa travels to Rutgers on Sept. 24. Taylor is no slouch himself, of course — first-team all-Big Ten punter in 2020 and averaged 46.1 yards per punt last season.

"He's awesome. He's such a tremendous player. You're in awe watching him sometimes," Korsak said. "In pressure situations for Iowa, he can put them in good spots. Even more than that, he's such a great dude. You root for that guy."

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 27 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.