Dec. 19, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa football team leaves for Arizona on Monday and the Hawkeyes completed a productive day of practice Sunday in the Bubble. The Hawkeyes will go through a walk-through in Iowa City in the morning before boarding planes in Cedar Rapids.
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz answered several questions during a gathering of media Friday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
Because of finals, a slow week practice-wise kicked into high gear Friday as the Hawkeyes put the final touches on their preparation in the state of Iowa. Ferentz said hard-hitting linebacker Jeff Tarpinian "has a shot to play" in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 against Missouri. In seven games, Tarpinian compiled 44 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
There are plenty of viable options that could join wide receiver Marvin McNutt (51 receptions, 798 yards, eight touchdowns)in Tempe, including Colin Sandeman (17-183-2), Keenan Davis (10-126-1), Paul Chaney, Jr. (1-15-0) and Don Nordmann (1-14-0).
"We've got a void," Ferentz said. "Everybody will get a chance to compete. That's a good opportunity for those guys and I'm eager to see how they respond. I think most of the guys we're talking about are fairly flexible; Keenan is, Colin is. Donny has been more of a split end, if you will. Paul has been more of a flanker-type guy. Marvin, Colin and Keenan all have the flexibility to move around and I think they will handle that pretty well."
Davis and Chaney are the frontrunners as deep men on kickoff returns. Chaney returned one for 26 yards this season and Davis had eight returns for an average of 18.6 yards and a long of 22.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi has exceled in pre-Insight Bowl practices. He looks to add to an already impressive body of work in 2010 where he completed 64.8-percent of his passes for 2,804 yards and 25 touchdowns.
"I think he's had a great year," Ferentz said. "He's had a great career. Rick is a tremendous individual that works very hard. His statistics are impressive because he's played pretty impressively."
"The biggest thing is to get outside. We are limited with our throwing and kicking when we're practicing indoors. It will be important next week when we get down there to have a chance to throw the ball down the field a little bit and kick and punt. Punting is a little tough in the Bubble. It will be good to be outdoors again; we haven't been outdoors in quite a while."
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
The Insight Bowl is a chance for the Hawkeyes to wash out the bad taste of an uncharacteristic month of November, where, despite playing well during a 20-17 loss to Ohio State, finished with a 1-3 record including consecutive setbacks to Northwestern, the Buckeyes and Minnesota.
"None of us are really thrilled about the performance in the last game (a 27-24 loss at Minnesota)," Ferentz said. "That's probably the most-recent thing that we're thinking about. This is a chance to get back on the field, hopefully play a better game. No question, our last time out we didn't play well. If we don't play better (in the Insight Bowl), we'll lose by 40. It won't be pretty."
Iowa's practice and event schedule in Arizona will be "pretty-much the same routine for us" Ferentz said.
"The biggest thing is to get outside," he said. "We are limited with our throwing and kicking when we're practicing indoors. It will be important next week when we get down there to have a chance to throw the ball down the field a little bit and kick and punt. Punting is a little tough in the Bubble. It will be good to be outdoors again; we haven't been outdoors in quite a while."
The Hawkeyes resume practice Tuesday at Corona Del Sol High School. An advance team that included Paul Federici, director of football operations, and John Streif, travel coordinator, has already visited the site.
"They said it shaped out very well," Ferentz said. "They were really happy about things. We've had great accommodations it seems like every trip. Paul thought this was as good a setup as we've had; plenty of space and that's great. It's a great opportunity for us."
When conversation switches to the Tigers, the first name to be discussed is junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Gabbert has a one-inch size advantage on Stanzi, but he threw for 52 fewer yards and 10 fewer touchdowns. He did gain 239 rushing yards (405 before negative yardage).
"He's big and he throws the ball extremely well," Ferentz said. "The other hidden dynamic that doesn't show up statistically is that he's an effective and dangerous runner; it's not like he's a big, plodding guy at all. He's a guy that can run and is very athletic."
Missouri has won 40 games in the past four seasons and Ferentz credits the Tiger defense for much of that success. This season Missouri averages 15.2 points a game.
"That's not a fluke that they've given up 15 a game," Ferentz said. "If you get it down in there, they do a great job in the red zone. I think they've got to be the top of the country as far as red zone production."
The Tigers lead all NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams in red zone defense, allowing 17 scores on 31 drives (54.8 percent). The Hawkeyes? They are 24th at 76.5 percent.