Aug. 29, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Riley McMinn entered his first football camp at the University of Iowa with 219 pounds clinging to his 6-foot-7 frame. He knows that won't cut it against the competition the Hawkeyes face on fall Saturdays.
"A 230-pound defensive end in the Big Ten? I don't know how well that would work out right now," McMinn said. "(UI defensive tackle Karl) Klug came in at 205 pounds and he's 290 now. It comes. Keep working hard and eating and I'm sure it will happen. I have a lot of improvement to make size-wise and skill-wise, but with coach K (UI defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski) and the older guys I'm with, I'm sure it will come."
As head of Iowa's strength and conditioning program, Chris Doyle has helped the Hawkeyes become bowl-eligible in each of the last 10 seasons. McMinn relishes the opportunity to work with and (literally) grow under the direction of Doyle and his assistants Raimond Braithwaite, Dustyn Baethke and Chad Kraklio.
"They consider (Doyle) one of the best in the nation and from my experience, he truly is," McMinn said.
"A 230-pound defensive end in the Big Ten? I don't know how well that would work out right now. (UI defensive tackle Karl) Klug came in at 205 pounds and he's 290 now. It comes. Keep working hard and eating and I'm sure it will happen. I have a lot of improvement to make size-wise and skill-wise, but with coach K (UI defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski) and the older guys I'm with, I'm sure it will come."
UI defensive lineman
McMinn wears No. 94 for the Hawkeyes, the same number donned by consensus All-American Adrian Clayborn from 2006-10. McMinn chuckles about the jersey coincidence, and even though he is 192 tackles, 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles behind Clayborn on the all-time lists, he remains confident.
"Those are big shoes to fill, but I have size 17s, so I think I've filled those shoes already," McMinn joked.
The Iowa program has produced more active NFL defensive linemen than any school in the country. Even though the Hawkeyes lost Clayborn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Klug (Tennessee Titans) and Christian Ballard (Minnesota Vikings) from last year's Insight Bowl championship team, there are still plenty of veterans to learn from. McMinn called it a motivating factor to see so many of his former Hawkeye role models playing professionally; in part because of that, he is spending his first preseason overhauling most of his high school habits.
"Everything is broken down so technical, from your steps to how you get off the ball," McMinn said. "I've pretty-much had to relearn everything since high school. You know it's difficult, but with good leaders like Broderick Binns, Dom Alvis and Steve Bigach -- a couple of those older guys -- it's coming along pretty well."
In the classroom, McMinn finished high school with a 4.0 GPA; on the field, the three-year varsity starter was named first team all-state by the Chicago Tribune. None of that matters now to the 19-year old.
"It's like coach (Kirk) Ferentz said when we all got in here: it doesn't matter how many offers we had or how many sacks we had or how good we were -- our slate's wiped clean," McMinn said. "We're just another player in their system and they're going to teach us how to do it the right way."
McMinn chose the UI because he liked the camaraderie among the players and the "family feeling" instilled by Ferentz and the rest of the coaching staff.
"It was a perfect fit for me," McMinn said.
When his playing days have passed, McMinn might find himself interviewing the next generation of Hawkeye: he is majoring in journalism with an emphasis in broadcasting. What is almost certain is that when he starts his first job after college -- whether it is in football or at ESPN -- he will weigh more than 219 pounds.