News, Notes: Daviyon Nixon Back in Fold, Kelvin Bell Promoted
Pre-Spring Practice Depth Chart (please click on images to enlarge):
IOWA CITY, Iowa – There was much consternation in Hawkeye Nation about the status of sophomore defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon this offseason. Coach Kirk Ferentz put everyone at ease on Tuesday.
Kicking off spring practice, which starts Wednesday and ends on April 26, Ferentz announced that the highly-regarded Nixon was back with the team and ready for workouts. He was away from the squad and in the transfer portal back in January.
Iowa graduated starting defensive tackles Matt Nelson and Sam Brincks. Nixon, who red shirted last season for academic reasons, was expected to work into the rotation with returnees Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff this coming fall.
The Hawkeyes signed Nixon (6-3, 306) out of Kenosha (Wisc.) Indiana Trail High in February of 2017. He ended up at Iowa Western Community College for that season after his academic acceptance into Iowa was delayed.
Nixon earned second-team all-conference honors during his campaign at Iowa Western. He recorded 44 tackles (nine for loss) and five sacks in helping the team post an 11-1 record.
Following that year, national power Alabama and others offered him scholarships. He stuck with Iowa.
Last season, Nixon worked on the Hawkeye scout team. He impressed the coaching staff.
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“The good news is we’ve been through quite a road right here with Daviyon, I can tell you this, my interfaces with him, and I think it’s true with all of us, has been nothing but positive,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I was super impressed with him last year. The guy just likes football. He likes his teammates. He likes being out there.
“He’s got a good enthusiasm to him, a good vibe. That’s not always the case when guys are on the scout team. That’s not the most enjoyable place to be for a lot of guys but it’s important. The way he was on the field was great. I’m really excited to get him back with us.”
STAFF CHANGES: Ferentz announced that Kelvin Bell has been promoted to defensive line coach. He spent the last three seasons assisting at that position and coordinating recruiting. Prior to that, he directed on-campus recruiting and served two-years as a graduate assistant here at his alma mater.
Bell replaces Reese Morgan, who announced his retirement earlier this month.
“Kelvin has done a great job in his six years with the program. He’s helped out in a lot of different capacities,” Ferentz said. “He’s got a unique perspective on our program. It’s been fun to watch him grow. I think he’ll do a tremendous job with this opportunity.”
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Iowa will hire another assistant on the defensive side of the ball. The new coach would not coordinate recruiting.
“We’ll shift some responsibilities around and diffuse them a little bit more,” Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes will likely hand recruiting coordinator duties to a non-on-field coach like they did years ago with Eric Johnson. They can add to the that staff, perhaps moving current director of recruiting, Tyler Barnes, to coordinator and then finding a replacement to cover his current duties.
INTERIOR O-LINE: Iowa returns starting offensive tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. It must replace graduating center Keegan Render and left guard Ross Reynolds, who are working to get into an NFL camp.
It’s a wide open competition right now. Cole Banwart, who started at right guard last season, is listed as the No. 1 center on the first spring depth chart. Twin brothers Landan and Levi Paulsen show up as the starting guards.
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Redshirt freshman Tyler Linderbaum could be the wild card after moving from defensive tackle to center for December bowl prep. He is listed as the backup center on the newest two-deep.
“He did a nice job in December but we’ve got to get him up to speed where he can play in a game. If he can do that, then he’s got a chance to compete for a starting job. Luckily we have a lot of time between now and then,” Ferentz said.
“We have a lot of confidence in Cole that he can (play center). He has position flexibility. So if we can get those two guys really wired in, snapped in…”
Redshirt freshman Jeff Jenkins would be third man at center right now.
“He seems to have a real knack in there, too, and is actually doing a little bit better picking up things than maybe I would have expected for a young player. That’s encouraging. It’d be nice to have three guys you feel you could go into a game and play,” Ferentz said.
EXTRA POINTS: Nick Easley’s graduation means Iowa needs to fill the slot receiver spot. Ferentz said Nico Ragaini heads into spring ball No. 1 with Tyrone Tracy and Max Cooper, who will miss spring ball with an injury, also competing there…incoming freshman linebacker Jestin Jacobs, who enrolled during January, had a surgery and will be sidelined until the summer…Iowa announced Tuesday that there won’t be a spring game/practice in front of the public because the field turf is being replaced in Kinnick Stadium. Plans are being made for a meet-and-greet football players signing autographs. They’ll do that at at an Iowa baseball game on April 20…it could take a week or two before tight end Shaun Beyer and running back Ivory Kelly-Martin are practicing full speed. They’re working back from injury…Ferentz is hoping to get production from the three-man, running-back rotation that contributed last season. He believes Kelly-Martin, Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young can chip in…With inexperience at tight end and veterans like Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette at receiver, Ferentz said we could see more passes being thrown to the outside this season…It’s safe to say Ferentz is a little miffed by some players around the country, like young quarterbacks Tate Martell and Justin Fields, transferring and being given immediate eligibility by the NCAA. There’s a rule that athletes must sit out a season unless they are dropping down a level.
Watch what he had to say about it here: