Greene has detractors, but he’s confident

April 23, 2009
Iowa's Shonn Greene flips into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009.   (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

Iowa's Shonn Greene flips into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009. (Jonathan D. Woods/ The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Shonn Greene unanimously was declared the nation’s best running back last fall.

He won the Doak Walker Award, which annually is given to college football’s best running back. He was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He was a consensus All-American.

Greene, 23, finished with 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns, both school records at Iowa. He ran for at least 100 yards in all 13 Iowa games last season and combined both speed and power rarely found in collegiate running backs.

“He’s fast, and he’s big, and he’s a pro,” said former Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack, who now is the head coach at Illinois State. “He’s the best back in this conference — bar none. There’s no contest.”

Greene’s college accolades have failed to vault him into the NFL first-round draft discussion. Whether it’s his size (5 feet, 9 inches, 227 pounds), a year of academic ineligibility, only one proven collegiate season or difficulty catching the ball out of the backfield, someone always has something negative to say about Greene.

“I like his running skills. I wish he were a better receiver,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Catching the football out of the backfield is something he needs to work. If he was a little more complete, he’d be guaranteed a second-round pick.”

Kiper lists Greene anywhere from the NFL draft’s second through fourth rounds. Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Service, LLC., lists Greene as the fourth-best running back entering the draft.

Like Kiper, Shonka is concerned about Greene’s pass-catching skills. But Greene’s downhill running style and experience of running the ball in a zone-blocking scheme could elevate him into the second round.

“A lot of teams run a zone-blocking scheme, and Shonn is perfect because that’s what they teach at Iowa,” Shonka said. “The offensive line is taught pro techniques at Iowa. Shonn is a downhill one-cut runner, so he’s going to fit in a lot of different schemes.

“Obviously, I think the thing that concerns people about Shonn is his ability to block and to catch ball out of the backfield. But they just didn’t throw it to him a lot. And when they did, he kind of fumbled it or double caught it, or he wasn’t smooth catching the ball.”

Greene caught eight passes for 49 yards last season.

In February, Greene struggled in measurable categories at the NFL Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds, but then cut that time to anywhere from 4.59 to 4.50 seconds at Iowa’s pro day, depending on the stopwatches. He also increased his 225-pound bench press repetitions from 19 at the NFL Combine to 23 at Iowa’s pro day.

“I feel like I had a very good day,” Greene said after his pro day workout. “I did everything better than I did at the combine. I ran faster, lifted more reps with the bench, did pro agility faster. I think I did pretty good, caught the ball well.”

Iowa running back Shonn Greene removes athletic wrap from his feet after practice at the University of Tampa on Dec. 26, 2008, in Tampa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa running back Shonn Greene removes athletic wrap from his feet after practice at the University of Tampa on Dec. 26, 2008, in Tampa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Shonka slotted Greene as a second-round pick to Houston and provide a 1-2 punch with second-year running back Steve Slaton. Kiper raved about Greene’s intangibles when running the football.

“Greene, I think, is a running back,” Kiper said. “You like his determination. I like the low center of gravity, the way he ran with power between the tackles, good balance as well. I like his running skills; I wish he were a better receiver.”

Greene, a junior last season, was ruled academically ineligible for the 2007 season and went to Kirkwood Community College to regain his eligibility. He was on pace to graduate before he declared to enter the NFL draft.

Greene shrugs off the experts’ criticism and instead points to his production last year.

“If you look at the stats and all that, it will tell you that I’m the top back,” Greene said. “You look at some of those guys that I went head-to-head with and some of them I faced the same defense, and I did much better. I’m not worried about that. Whoever takes me is going to get a good running back.”


King’s relentless personality will make an NFL team very happy

April 23, 2009

All right, I’m going to step out of my journalism shell for a second. I’ve caught some junk from friends of mine from my hometown of Burlington about not mentioning Mitch King’s hometown, which happens to be … Burlington.

OK, here it goes for just a paragraph. I played for Burlington’s only team to win a playoff game back in the early 1990s (Oct. 29, 1991). I coached there for a season. Burlington is as much a part of me as my family and the state of Iowa. I’m happy that a former Grayhound like Mitch King is going to the NFL. Anyone who shed his blood at Bracewell Stadium for the purple and gray can feel proud this weekend for King. That includes myself.

Now, back to journalism and a story on King that will appear in Saturday’s Gazette.

Purdue quarterback Justin Siller (5) looks to throw a pass as he is pressured by Iowa's Mitch King, right, during the first half Nov. 15, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Purdue quarterback Justin Siller (5) looks to throw a pass as he is pressured by Iowa's Mitch King, right, during the first half Nov. 15, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

IOWA CITY — Some consider Mitch King too small for defensive tackle, too short for defensive end and too big for linebacker. But he seems just right for the NFL.

King, a former Iowa defensive tackle from Burlington, has the drive and tenacity that draft analysts love. He’s a vocal leader in the huddle and his passion for football shows up on every down.

“He’s loved by every defensive line coach out there because of his relentless play,” said Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC. “(King is) a high-motor, great-effort guy that had good Senior Bowl week. He’s very physical when he hits people. I think there’s a section in the Senior Bowl game where he made three or four tackles in a row, where he just dominated in there.”

King, 22, didn’t start in the Senior Bowl, but he registered four tackles, including three tackles in a four-play series. He also recorded a quarterback hurry.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. calls King “a hustler.”

“Every team is not going to look at Mitch King and say he’s going to be way up there,” Kiper said. “But he’s a guy who’s very, very productive, good technique, never quits on a play. (King is) a rotation guy and as a guy who can give you some versatility inside and a kid who spills his guts every play.”

King earned the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year award from league coaches. He had 15.5 tackles for loss last year, including four sacks. He had 54 tackles, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. He was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and first-team All-American by ESPN. He also was Iowa’s co-MVP and named a permanent team captain.

King’s tweener size seems to stump his high-round potential. He stands 6 feet, 1 and weighs 280 pounds. Most teams prefer defensive tackles in the 300-pound range and slightly taller. King’s frame also keeps him from shifting fully to defensive end, where the preference is a little leaner and a little taller.

Iowa's Mitch King puts his helmet on before playing Penn State, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa's Mitch King puts his helmet on before playing Penn State, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“He’s going to have to go in the right scheme,” Shonka said. “I think he’s going to probably be used as an undertackle in a four-man line. He’s going to be a one-gap penetrator where he can shoot up the field and only worry about one gap. He obviously won’t be a two-gap guy because he’s not big enough, but he’s got the explosive first-step quickness.”

Shonka said King reminds him of St. Louis Rams defensive tackle La’Roi Glover, who has earned six Pro Bowl bids. King and Glover are comparable in size.

“He might not be quite as fluid as La’Roi, but his relentless is very similar,” Shonka said.

King’s ability have others considering him for different positions. He came to Iowa as an all-state linebacker and played running back at Burlington. Shonka said King could move to linebacker or fullback as well.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if some ballclub tried to make a linebacker out of him, either inside or outside,” Shonka said. “We just kind of see him as that undertackle right now. He’ll play special teams. He can run well enough when he can go down and cover kicks.

“I wouldn’t worry about being 280 pounds and playing fullback, because there’s lots of teams sticking guys there as a lead blocker on the goal line, and he could do that, too. I’m sure with his explosiveness, his savvy for contact, he’d fit right in.”

King caught some passes during Iowa’s pro day in March, which induced a chuckle from Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz said King compares to former Hawkeye Jonathan Babineaux, who weighs 284 pounds but started all 16 games last year for the Atlanta Falcons.

“I think Mitch is a similar-type player,” Ferentz said. “He’s never going to be a 320-pound guy, but he’s an awfully good football player. People have acknowledged that, and for certain teams, that’s going to be really attractive. It’s just a matter of him finding the right niche.”


Brands talks Sanderson, Iowa State vacancy; Lickliter talks potential recruits

April 22, 2009

Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands met with reporters for a few minutes before the annual Linn County I-Club banquet Wednesday night. He admitted he knew more about the vacant Iowa State opening than he would tell reporters, but he talked about the impact of former Iowa State Coach Cael Sanderson taking over at Penn State.

 “He’s doing what he feels he needs to do to win championships for his family,” Brands said. “Whether it makes sense to other people, it doesn’t matter. He’s making the call, and Penn State is certainly a program to be worthy of pursuing. No doubt.Here’s the video:

“Specifically Penn State, the last time it was open was 11 years ago. They (jobs) don’t come around very often. He looked at it, analyzed it and made the call. I’m speaking for him.”

Brands said he won’t change his approach of facing Penn State just because of Sanderson.

 “I think the challenge is always great,” Brands said. “(Sanderson) certainly boosts their program, but we have to get ready for them just the same. Now they’ve got a new coach at Penn State, and we’ll be prepared like we always are for everything.”

There have been no discussions, but count on the Iowa-Penn State dual in Iowa City next winter costing fans a few more bucks as the school’s designated premium wrestling meet.

 

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter left the event early to attend an open gym on the final night he could see prospects. Iowa officially signed Vincennes junior-college forward Devon Archie on Wednesday and can offer up to three more scholarships for the fall, but only “if it’s the right guy,” Lickliter said.

“We’ve looked at both the post players, and we’ve also looked at combo guard-perimeters and somebody that can complement,” Lickliter said. “I really believe we have positions filled right now. But we need is some added depth. And I’m not talking about added depth as far as positions and how many minutes you play or if you start or whatever. I’m talking about matching skills.

“We’ve got skills that complement one another, and we could use another guy that could fit in well. We’ve seen a few, and we’re comfortable with more than one guy that I’ve seen. It’s still a process, and we just have to make sure that it’s the right move.”

Lickliter said the school has no visits scheduled with potential recruits. He’d like to add walk-on players this fall as well. Iowa now has added four new scholarship players to this fall’s team.


Archie finally a Hawk

April 22, 2009

Everything has cleared up for Vincennes (Ind.) forward Devon Archie, who officially will join the Iowa men’s basketball program next fall.

Here’s the release from Iowa:

IOWA CITY, IA – Junior college forward Devon Archie has signed a national letters of intent to join the University of Iowa basketball program next fall.  Hawkeye men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter made the announcement Wednesday.

 

Archie (6-9, 220) attended Vincennes University in Vincennes, IN the past two seasons.  As a sophomore he averaged 6.8 points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game under Coach David Ragland.  He shot 54.5% from the field while starting 19 of 30 games.  As a freshman, he started seven games, averaging 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 54% from the field.  Archie helped Vincennes post a two-year record of 50-15.

 

“Both his high school coach and his junior college coach speak highly of Devon’s work ethic, his growth as a player and his potential,” said Lickliter.  “Devon is a high energy player.  He has the ability to defend inside and on the perimeter, and offensively he has the ability to finish inside.  We’re very excited about his potential and upside as he continues to gain experience.”

 

Archie is a native of Indianapolis, IN, where he attended Ben Davis HS.  As a senior he helped Ben Davis post a 10-14 overall record.  “Devon really came into his own as a senior as far as understanding the game,” said Ben Davis Coach Curtis Wright.  “Our area had some outstanding individual players and teams.  Devon continued his progression at Vincennes.  He’s a hard worker and very coachable.”

 

Archie is the fourth recruit to commit to the Hawkeye program for next season, joining three high school seniors who have previously signed letters of intent.  Those players include guard Eric May (6-5, 220) from Wahlert HS in Dubuque, IA, forward/center Brennan Cougill (6-9, 260) from Bishop Heelan HS in Sioux City, IA and guard Cully Payne (6-1, 180) from Schaumberg HS in Schaumberg, IL. 

 

Cougill, May and Payne each earned first team all-state honors.  Cougill was named “Mr. Basketball” in the state of Iowa after leading Bishop Heelan to the Class 3-A state title.  May led Wahlert to the Class 3-A state title as a junior.  Payne led his team to a 14-0 start as a senior before missing the remainder of the season due to injury.

 

“We feel the four players who will join our program for next year are very solid,” added Lickliter.  “With the additional players and our returning group, we are excited about the potential for this team.”


Iowa gets familiar opponent in ACC challenge

April 22, 2009

The pairings were released today for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge next fall. Iowa will host Virginia Tech on Dec. 1.

Thus, it appears Iowa will play only four non-Big Ten opponents on the road next season. Those include Northern Iowa, Iowa State and two undetermined opponents (Texas, Pittsburgh or Wichita State) in Kansas City’s CBE Classic. All of those are bus trips.

Iowa played at Virginia Tech in the 2006 ACC-Big Ten Challenge and lost 69-65.

Here’s the complete list of the challenge. The ACC won last year’s challenge 6-5. Iowa lost 57-55 at Boston College.

Monday, Nov. 30

Penn State at Virginia

Tuesday, Dec. 1

Maryland at Indiana

 

Michigan State at North Carolina

 

Northwestern at N.C. State

 

Virginia Tech at Iowa

 

Wake Forest at Purdue

Wednesday, Dec. 2

Boston College at Michigan

 

Duke at Wisconsin

 

Florida State at Ohio State

 

Illinois at Clemson

 

Minnesota at Miami


Combine snub motivates Kroul toward NFL

April 21, 2009
Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes' win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won 38-16. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes' win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won 38-16. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — It’s hard to overlook Matt Kroul’s impact to the Iowa football program.

The Mount Vernon native started a school-record 50 straight games. That’s every game for Iowa’s last four seasons, including three bowls. He has an award roll in Iowa’s spring prospectus that includes the Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award, permanent team captain status and second-team all-Big Ten honors by the league’s media outlets.

However, lost in his long list of accolades, was his name from the NFL Combine in February.

“After some of the stuff I had done, it was disappointing,” Kroul said. “But at the same time, it opened my eyes to keep working, and keep on … I figure, hopefully, for the next few years of my life to just keep competing every day, I took it heart, too, I guess.”

Kroul thought about the slight when he met with Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Getting left out stung Kroul.

“I used it as motivation and make the most of things on my pro day,” Kroul said. “Hopefully I put good enough numbers up there that there’s more interest.

“Yeah, it hurt a little bit, but at the same time, you just kind of roll with things and go on.”

Kroul, 23, finished his Iowa career with 238 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He’s forever linked with fellow defensive tackle Mitch King, with whom he paired in the starting lineup for 45 games. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz often references “King and Kroul” when talking about leadership and work ethic, whether it’s in a spring practice or a game.

“From my vantage point, he’s a guy that’s going to make someone’s team better and help them win football games,” Ferentz said.

“I’ve had several people say they were really impressed with him,” Ferentz said. “It’s going to be him finding the right spot, right place, right time.”

Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC., graded Kroul as a seventh-round pick despite Kroul not receiving a combine invitation. Shonka said Kroul has several intangibles teams are looking for, including his physical skills.

“He’s an excellent technique player,” Shonka said. “He can run those guards back; he can drive them back,. He uses his hands really well, he keeps a low pad level, he’s instinctive. …”

“If you study Iowa’s tapes, he’s one of those guys that’s always in the picture frame, He’s always around the ball. I think that he does so many good things.”

Kroul has improved his stature with a strong showing at Iowa’s pro day in March. He’s up to 291 pounds and stands nearly 6 feet, 1.5 inches. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times.

“If Matt Kroul gets signed as a free agent, he’s going to be a steal for somebody,” Shonka said. “Because, again, there’s not a lot of true 4-3 tackles out there because there’s so many of the nose tackle types. Matt would fit right in that 4-3 scheme.”

The Sporting News listed Kroul as a priority free agent for teams. The magazine touted Kroul as a punishing tackler who “wants to be in on every play … a hard-nosed player who shows intelligence and toughness.” The magazine’s assessment of Kroul is “he’s limited at the next level, (but) he’ll make it tough for a team to cut him.”

Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul takes down Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 27, 2007. (JONATHAN D. WOODS/THE GAZETTE)

Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul takes down Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 27, 2007. (JONATHAN D. WOODS/THE GAZETTE)

Kroul has heard from several teams interested in either drafting him or signing him to a free-agent contract after the draft. Kroul is confident he’ll get a chance to play in the NFL either way.

“I don’t want to be arrogant or anything, but I’ve done enough the last four years that I should be able to compete with these guys,” Kroul said. “It’s definitely going to be enjoyable. I’ll be looking forward to doing that.”

This weekend, Kroul plans to enjoy the time with his family when he shifts from college to pro player. His thoughts range from “stressful” to “exciting” to “satisfying” when thinking about his journey from Mount Vernon all-stater to Iowa four-year starter to the NFL. He also said the gathering won’t be “too flamboyant.”

“All it takes is one team,” he said.


Fletch a rising star on NFL draft charts

April 21, 2009
Purdue's Greg Orton, left, looks to make a reception over Iowa defender Bradley Fletcher (29) during the first half on their game Nov. 15, 2008 in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Purdue's Greg Orton, left, looks to make a reception over Iowa defender Bradley Fletcher (29) during the first half on their game Nov. 15, 2008 in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

IOWA CITY — Bradley Fletcher keeps a low profile, doesn’t say much but does so in an articulate manner.

In many ways, Fletcher’s play at cornerback reflect his outward impression. He’s confident, assertive and talented. His personal drive, combined with physical skills and a solid work ethic have parlayed Fletcher into one of the fastest risers in this year’s NFL draft. It also could land the former Iowa defensive back a spot in the first three rounds this weekend.

“He’s a guy that we kind of call one of the sleepers in this draft,” said Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Service, LLC. “He’s got loose hips, he’s smooth in transition. We’re going to give a third- or fourth-round grade at the very worst. We think he should be a third-round guy.”

Fletcher, 22, has been one of Iowa’s most traveled players in recent weeks and has met with multiple NFL teams, including the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. He said he’s worked on his speed and quickness since the end of Iowa’s football season, and the results are proven.

Fletcher ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the NFL Combine in February. He shaved off a little more time at Iowa’s pro day last month, running it in 4.44 seconds. He’s a good-sized cornerback at slightly taller than 6 feet and weighing nearly 200 pounds.

Shonka grades Fletcher 14th among cornerbacks, but he’s the second-tallest among those players. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. lists Fletcher ninth among cornerbacks and has Jacksonville selecting him in the third round.

Fletcher’s draft stock soared with East-West Shrine Bowl in January. He recorded six tackles — including three solo — and he broke up one pass. His play and athletic ability launched him into the discussion as a potential man-to-man NFL cornerback.

“He was at least one of the best corners, if not the best corner there,” Shonka said. “He played really fast, he was impressive when he drives on the ball. The thing that was impressive about him at the combine was his ability to turn and run. That is supposed to correlate with your 40 time. A lot of guys didn’t run the drill real well, and Fletcher, his times were like 4.47, which obviously correlated with his 40 time.

“His back peddle turn and run was 4.46 and 4.46 which is outstanding. Plus he’s got long arms and can leap. His runs were real smooth in his turns. He’s very athletic.”

Fletcher started 17 games for Iowa, including all 13 his senior season. He recorded 152 tackles, including 60 last year. He had three interceptions last season and 10 pass breakups. He totaled five interceptions and 17 breakups in his Iowa career.

Minnesota's Tray Herndon, left, is upended by Iowa's Bradley Fletcher after making a reception during the first half, Nov. 10, 2007, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 21-16. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Minnesota's Tray Herndon, left, is upended by Iowa's Bradley Fletcher after making a reception during the first half, Nov. 10, 2007, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 21-16. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“You get a sense there’s a lot of interest in him,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Fletcher spent most of his off-season speed training to prepare for the combine. As the draft approaches this weekend, his focus is on conditioning.

As for any indications where the Youngstown, Ohio native might go, Fletcher is taking it in stride.

“I have no idea right now,” Fletcher said. “I’m just going into it open minded and see what happens.”

Along with speed and size, Fletcher’s athletic ability is a plus. He recorded a vertical jump of 38.5 inches, third-best among the top 14 corners on Shonka’s board.

“As Deion Sanders used to say, ‘I don’t need that playbook, I’ve got that guy right there,’” Shonka said. “That’s what Fletcher can do. I think he’s a third- or fourth-round guy. And if he goes later, somebody got a steal.”


And now, the waiting game for Bruggeman

April 20, 2009
Rob Bruggeman runs to the fan section to sing the Iowa fight song after their 31-10 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009.   (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

Rob Bruggeman runs to the fan section to sing the Iowa fight song after their 31-10 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009. (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Rob Bruggeman views his transition from college football to the NFL in the same vein he once did when he entered the University of Iowa five years ago.

“Coming in here nobody thought I could play D-I football at the time,” Bruggeman said. “I’m sure plenty of people think I’m too small, too whatever to play NFL football. You just go in with the mentality that you’re good enough, and you’re ready to play.”

Bruggeman, 23, originally walked on at Iowa and paid his way for three years before earning a scholarship in spring practice before his junior season. He built himself into a team leader by his senior year, earning permanent captain status for the offense. Bruggeman, who graduated last December with a degree in finance, ended the season with second-team all-Big Ten status at center by the league’s coaches and media.

But none of those honors matter to him now. Bruggeman, like all NFL prospects, is playing the waiting game. Until he sees his name announced as a draft pick this weekend, he’s keeping busy to avoid the typical anxiety that captures football players before the draft.

“Everything is done that I can do as of this point,” Bruggeman said. “I just keep working out, trying to stay in shape. And what happens, happens; there’s not a lot I can do from here on out. The film is set, I’ve done the interviews … I’m just trying to not think about it too much.”

Bruggeman’s journey the NFL began at Cedar Rapids Washington, where he was an all-state player his final two years. He received little attention from colleges and decided to walk on at Iowa.

Rob Bruggeman (at center) leads Cedar Rapids Washington out of the locker room of the UNI-Dome prior to the Class 4A Championship game against West Des Moines Valley in Cedar Falls on Nov. 21, 2003.

Rob Bruggeman (at center) leads Cedar Rapids Washington out of the locker room of the UNI-Dome prior to the Class 4A Championship game against West Des Moines Valley in Cedar Falls on Nov. 21, 2003.

“I was surprised he didn’t get a shot out of high school,” said Chuck Bruggeman, Rob’s father. “I knew if he got a chance to play there that he would deliver.

“It was never the goal to earn a scholarship. It was never to make the team. His goal was to get the starting position.”

Bruggeman’s opportunity came last season. He delivered for Iowa, starting every game and becoming the unit’s vocal leader. He started every game and impressed his coaches. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Bruggeman surprised him with his durability and even with some of his mistakes.

“He’s only been a one-year starter; we had to remind ourselves of that,” Ferentz said. “He’s a highly intelligent guy, very competitive. He played well on film.”

Bruggeman is projected as a possible seventh-round draft pick or priority free agent by many scouting services. As for accolades, NFLDraftScout.com describes Bruggeman as an “ascending player with good overall technique.” The Sporting News touted Bruggeman’s “flexibility, body control and balance.”

Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC., listed Bruggeman as a priority free agent. Shonka said the depth at center makes Bruggeman’s draft chances difficult.

“Obviously, he’s a hard worker,” Shonka said. “All of his intangibles are excellent. He’s well thought of … he’s going to go to a camp. He may be taken late, and he’s certainly going to be signed as a free agent, but which is not bad either because you pick your team where you might fit, where you have a chance of making a ballclub.”

Bruggeman stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 293 pounds, a little light for many NFL clubs. But he ran the 40-yard dash at Iowa’s pro day in 4.97 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 32 times. Bruggeman also could play guard if necessarily.

To Ferentz, Bruggeman is a leader, a value NFL teams will accept once he dons their helmet next week.

“I can think of three guys that I had association with during my time in the NFL that he’s better than, and all those guys played nine or 10 years,” said Ferentz, a former NFL offensive line coach with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. “He belongs, he’ll find a spot. I don’t know how he’s going to get there, but once he gets on a team, I just can’t see him getting cut.”

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, right, hugs center Rob Bruggeman after the Hawkeyes beat South Carolina 31-10 in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, right, hugs center Rob Bruggeman after the Hawkeyes beat South Carolina 31-10 in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


Slight adds motivation for Brandon Myers

April 19, 2009
Iowa's Brandon Myers misses a pass during the fourth quarter against Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on September 27,  2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Iowa's Brandon Myers misses a pass during the fourth quarter against Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on September 27, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Brandon Myers thought he had played himself into the draft discussion.

Good statistics. Started every game for a team that won nine games. Converted three third-down catches into first downs in a bowl game. All-Big Ten selection by the league’s coaches.

But Myers, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end from Prairie City, wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine in February. Initially, it hit him hard that NFL scouts didn’t think he was one of the nation’s top 20 tight end prospects.

“I thought I had good film from this year,” Myers said. “I thought with our success we had and having Shonn (Greene) and Mitch (King) and everyone was watching, getting first-team all-Big Ten, I thought for sure I’d definitely get a shot.

“I was happy for my teammates that got to go but at same thing, I wanted to go. It definitely made me realize I had to work that much more harder and I have that much more to improve. I wasn’t selected in the top 20 tight ends; obviously I have to pick up my game and get better.

Myers, 23, hauled in 34 passes for 441 yards and four touchdowns last year. He earned the Iowa offense’s Coaches Appreciation Award. But neither those statistics or that praise earned him a spot at the NFL Combine.

But that’s not all bad, either. Former Iowa defensive end Aaron Kampman didn’t make the NFL Combine, but he was a fifth-round draft pick. Kampman has played in two Pro Bowls for Green Bay.

“Yeah, that was the first thing Coach (Kirk) Ferentz mentioned to me, which definitely made me feel better,” Myers said. “But obviously I was still disappointed. If things turn out like Aaron Kampman, I’ll be all right with that.”

Myers has gotten some play from NFL scouts and teams within the last month. Scouts from 29 teams watched him and other Hawkeyes compete during pro day in late March. He ran a 4.74 40-yard dash time and had 17 bench press repetitions of 225 pounds.

Myers also has been one of the most active Hawkeyes in taking visits before this weekend’s draft. He’s met with several teams, whose officials conduct interviews similar to those at the combine.

Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC, doesn’t have Myers ranked as a drafted player. But Shonka said Myers has skills that will help get him into a camp and possibly stick with a team.

“He does catch the ball well,” Shonka said. “He screens off blockers. He’s not a big drive blocker for a tight end, which you don’t have to be. You just have to create a little seam where you have somebody run up inside you. He’s that kind of guy.”

Shonka said Myers has an advantage on other tight ends by playing in Iowa’s pro-style offense.

“A lot of them are more like slot guys than tight ends,” Shonka said. “(Myers is) used to blocking in Iowa’s system. That definitely helps him. If he was drafted late, it would not surprise us, but we think probably going to end up being more like a free-agent guy. He’ll have a chance to go to camp and show what he can do.”

That’s just what Myers wants. He and his agents have discussed potential destinations if he doesn’t get drafted. By early April he had visited four NFL teams and several others would like a closer look at a player the teams didn’t interview at the NFL Combine.

“Obviously I’d love to get drafted,” Myers said. “I think taking these visits, it definitely gets my name out there. It’s kind of like the domino effect where one team hears about other teams hear about it and bring me in. I have no idea if I get drafted or where I will be. I just want a shot, just want a chance. It doesn’t really matter where. I just want an opportunity to play.”


Snag keeps Archie from Hawks’ perch

April 19, 2009

Vincennes’ Devon Archie committed to the Iowa basketball program last month. Despite the spring national signing period beginning last Wednesday, Archie remains unsigned.

Archie, a 6-foot-9 forward, has yet to turn in his paperwork to Iowa, but there appears to be no change of heart, according to a couple of Iowa officials. Archie’s mother still has to sign his letter of intent, and the two have had a little difficulty getting together to ink the proper paperwork.

An Iowa official said Saturday that Archie’s paperwork likely will be sent back Monday. Archie averaged 6.8 points and six rebounds a game last season while starting 19 of 30 games. Iowa already has received a signed letter of intent from high school point guard Cully Payne.

Also, Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter spent Friday recruiting in Dallas, just hours after wining and dining boosters in Fort Dodge on Thursday night. Iowa still has three scholarships to offer, and Lickliter told me Wednesday he plans to offer at least one more for this fall. Iowa could bank the other two for the next school year.


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