Ferentz contract not finalized, ‘no decision’ on son’s status

May 13, 2009
University of Iowa Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz talks about the design of the brace that quarterback Drew Tate has been fitted with to protect his injured left hand at his weekly press conference Tuesday, October 31, 2006 in Iowa City. Ferentz said expected Tate to start Saturday's game unless something unexpected developed in practice this week.

University of Iowa Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz talks about the design of the brace that quarterback Drew Tate has been fitted with to protect his injured left hand at his weekly press conference, October 31, 2006 in Iowa City.

Iowa and football coach Kirk Ferentz have yet to finalize the seven-year contract extension that was announced three months ago.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said he and Ferentz have spoken about the contract recently, and there’s no concern that the deal might fall through.

“The honest answer is when he was going through recruiting, we really just set it aside,” Barta said. “We talked about it a couple of times over the last several weeks. It’s one of those things, we already know we’re going to do it, we’ve already agreed in principle on what we’re going to do, we just haven’t committed it to a contract.

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The Iowa FB video you’ve got to see

May 4, 2009

I confess my artificial buildup is for this video I built with some of The Gazette’s best photos of the 2008 Iowa football season accompanied to “Hell Awaits” by Slayer.

Let me know what you think.


Ferentz, Derby plead in alcohol case

May 4, 2009

Iowa football players James Ferentz and Zachary Derby pleaded guilty Friday to public intoxication charges stemming from an April 6 incident in downtown Iowa City.

Ferentz, son of head coach Kirk Ferentz,  and Derby, son of former Iowa linebacker John Derby, were scheduled to go to trial on Friday. Both filed written guilty pleas in the case after initially paying $300 in bonds.

Derby, Ferentz and Tyler Christensen — all age 19 — were arrested by the University of Iowa Public Safety for public intoxication around 2 a.m. April 6 near Old Capitol Mall. All three were suspended from team activities immediately following the incident.

According to UI police complaints, Christensen, a red-shirt freshman fullback from Belmond, approached an off-duty officer wanting to fight. When on-duty officers arrived, Christensen had slurred speech, red bloodshot eyes and admitted drinking at a downtown bar but refused to take a blood-alcohol test. Christensen then admitted to UI police he had broken the arms off of a parking gate at the mall’s entrance. UI police then called Iowa City Police, who arrested Christensen for fifth-degree criminal mischief.

Ferentz, 19, was heard yelling and observed stumbling upon contact with a police officer, according to the complaint. His blood-alcohol level was .16, more than twice the legal limit for a impaired driver.

It’s Ferentz’s second alcohol-related arrest or citation. Last fall he pleaded guilty to underage possession of alcohol in University Heights. He was fined $314. Ferentz was expected to compete for the starting center position this fall.

Derby, a 19-year-old red-shirt freshman tight end from Iowa City, joined Christensen in wanting to fight an off-duty police officer, according to the complaint. Derby’s blood-alcohol level was .211 before the arrest.

Christensen, 19, pleaded guilty this morning to public intoxication and fifth-degree criminal mischief. His fines and court costs totaled $489.


Stanzi sports different look this spring

April 28, 2009
Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe gives instructions to quarterback Ricky Stanzi during the third quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1, 2009, in Tampa, Fla. Iowa beat South Carolina, 31-10. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe gives instructions to quarterback Ricky Stanzi during the third quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1, 2009, in Tampa, Fla. Iowa beat South Carolina, 31-10. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Within seconds of his team’s final spring football practice, Iowa quarterback Rick Stanzi showed a new side of himself.

Yes, like most veteran Iowa football players, he spouted coached-up cliches about working hard every day, competition and trying to get better. But he had a new look to him as well.

Gone is the flopping hair that Stanzi wore throughout the 2008 season. Stanzi, a current sophomore, now features a trim haircut.

“I think it’s more of a comfort thing,” Stanzi said. “I was saying I was going to grow my hair out for the season. And the next thing you know you flip a switch in your head and you say, ‘Ah, I’ll just cut it. It’s just better this way.’”

In the Hawkeyes’ final spring scrimmage, Stanzi was fairly sharp. Unofficially, he completed 6 of 12 passes during team competition for 91 yards. Stanzi — whether it was intentional or he was smooth through his reads — appeared to throw toward his primary option in all but one of passes.

“Rick certainly improved this spring,” Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe said. “From his leadership ability to making decisions at the line of scrimmage to getting us in to the right types of plays and getting the ball where it’s supposed to go, most importantly as well. So he took advantage of each and every one of the 15 workouts that we had and took his job seriously and really came away a better player.”

Stanzi started 11 games last year. He completed 150 of 254 passes for 1,956 yards and 14 touchdowns. He threw nine interceptions but finished fourth in the Big Ten in passer efficiency.

In the offseason he’s watched tape on multiple NFL quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Cassel and tried to emulate some of their performances. But more importantly, Stanzi has tried to refine his game entering his junior season.

Stanzi ran 56 times last year for a net of 20 yards, which also was his longest run. He often scattered from the pocket if his primary receiver was covered.

“If there’s one thing that I really tried to work on it was probably be comfortable in the pocket,” Stanzi said. “It’s kind of hard to not practice that when you don’t have the line in front of you, and you’re in 7-on-7 drills. You try to soak up each rep that you get when you’ve got a full rush coming on and it’s not always easy. But it’s something, watching film and practicing as much as you can in the offseason, I hope to fix and so I can sit in the pocket and make better decisions and be more sure with my feet.”

When addressing the media, Stanzi now seems more confident when talking about his role. He sticks to the successful concepts of hard work, improvement and consistency. But, according to Coach Kirk Ferentz, he’s added one more successful trait this offseason.

The most growth I’ve seen from him, and this started before we started spring practice, is just in the leadership realm,” Ferentz said. “But that’s what you expect again from a guy who has played and has got the confidence of actually playing on the field and has had some success. So the next step for me, especially at that position, is grow to a leadership role, and I think he’s done that. The players really respect what he does, how he works and his toughness.”

James Vandenberg

James Vandenberg

Stanzi clearly is the starter, but he faces competition from incoming red-shirt freshmen James Vandenberg and John Wienke. Unofficially, Vandenberg completed 8 of 10 passes in the scrimmage for 132 yards.

Vandenberg clearly completed four of five passes to primary receivers, but had the same ratio to second- and third-option receivers as well. Wienke struggled a bit, completing three of seven passes for 34 yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Stanzi is no stranger to competition at Iowa. About 14 months ago he was locked in with three other quarterbacks, including incumbent Jake Christensen, entering spring practice. Since then, Christensen and Arvell Nelson either have transferred or will transfer and Marvin McNutt was shifted to wide receiver.

“You’re always competing,” Stanzi said. “That’s the only way anyone can get better.”

Iowa quarterbacks Ricky Stanzi (12) and John Wienke (14) workout during the team's practice March 25, 2009 at the Kenyon Football Practice Facility in Iowa City.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa quarterbacks Ricky Stanzi (12) and John Wienke (14) workout during the team's practice March 25, 2009 at the Kenyon Football Practice Facility in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)


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.”


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.


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