Ferentz Welcomes Versatile Class of 21
Feb. 3, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Versatility.
It's not that the signatures from those three were any more significant than the 18 others who officially became Hawkeyes today, but in Derby (quarterback), Morris (linebacker) and Vier (quarterback), UI head coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff see multipurpose performers.
"We've known James for a long time; he's been at camp and in this building," Ferentz said at a gathering with media Wednesday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. "We're awfully excited about his potential with us. (Former UI running backs coach) Carl Jackson passed through the other day and told me he thinks (Morris) can be a running back for us. That kind of versatility is a good thing."
"There is no question in our minds he is a tremendous football player, a tremendous athlete," Ferentz said. "I think we're getting a tremendous football player; tremendous person. He's a winner and on top of that we think he has a lot of upside at the quarterback position. If that doesn't work out down the road, there's probably a lot of things he could do. That's our intent for him to play quarterback right now. We're eager to see how he can progress and improve; if that means changing our style a little bit, that's fine. Down the road we think he's a guy that can win and lead the football team."
"He wants to start at quarterback, we're all for that, we'll let him have that opportunity," Ferentz said. "If he can project there, that's great. If not, then we'll probably try another position, we're thinking about tight end possibly. There's not a great hurry right there or a sense of urgency. We liked what we saw of him. "
Ferentz echoed the statement that this was an abnormal recruiting season for the UI since 18 of the 21 potential signees were known before the team's regular season ended.
"I'm very happy with the way the recruiting season turned out," Ferentz said. "Eric Johnson's our recruiting coordinator and he gave us great direction. It was a little bit of an unusual year for us in that we really knew about all but three of our commitments prior to the end of our season, so that's a little bit unusual."
The Hawkeye program is on solid footing and that base became a little more stable on Wednesday. Iowa compiled a record of 11-2 a year ago and won the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl, 24-14, against Georgia Tech on Jan. 5. Fifteen players that started that game return next fall. In other words, there is no hurry to rush the progress of the 2010 recruiting class.
"There aren't too many guys we're counting on to save our team next year, but they're really going to be important in our future," Ferentz said. "We're going to have a lot of vacancies a year from now, I know that. It's about how their entire careers go, not the impact they make right off the bat."
Derby (Iowa City), Morris (Solon) and Tanner Miller (Kalona) all live within a short and easy commute of Kinnick Stadium. They have undoubtedly heard the expression "bleeding black and gold" while growing up, and they know what it means to be a Hawkeye. Ferentz is looking for hard-workers who buy into the Iowa way.
"There's certain things we think are important in football players," Ferentz said. "It's a tough tour of duty to go to a Big Ten school and get a diploma. That's not easy in itself to play in a program that wants to compete at a high level. There's nothing easy about that. Our players are very, very visible in the community, which I think is a great thing, but with that comes a lot of responsibility. We're looking for guys that are going to welcome those three challenges."
Of the 21 signees, the largest number are projected to play on the defensive side. The Hawkeyes inked five defensive linemen (Carl Davis, Anthony Ferguson, Jr., Mike Hardy, Donavan Johnson and Louis Trinca-Pasat), four linebackers (Austin Gray, Christian Kirksey, Morris and Jim Poggi) and four defensive backs (Anthony Hitchens, B.J. Lowery, Tanner Miller and Don Shumpert).
"This year we went a little heavier on defense with three of our four defensive linemen next year being seniors, the next two guys being juniors, it was important to us to get some guys in we felt could be involved right away," Ferentz said. "Same thing with our linebacker position -- we have a heavy group of seniors next year, we just graduated two outstanding players, so those are two positions we felt were really important to fortify and you could include the defensive backfield also."
Two sets of teammates are included in the recruiting class -- Ferguson (Baltimore, Md.), and Poggi (Towson, Md.) of the Gilman School and Kirksey and Shumpert from Hazelwood East High School in St. Louis.
"Players sell players and I think there's a lot of truth in that," Ferentz said. "The fact that guys came out here and had a good quality experience is important."
Ferentz will take a well-deserved respite before returning for his next media conference on Wednesday, March 24, marking the beginning of spring practice.