What We Learned: Brian Ferentz Press Conference

August 20, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa’s coordinators met with the media Tuesday here at the football performance center. While defensive boss Phil Parker spoke openly about position battles and players standing out on his side of the ball, Brian Ferentz proved much more tight-lipped about the offense.

Ferentz indicated he was more comfortable letting his father, head coach Kirk Ferentz, talk about how the competition was going at certain spots and also about specific true freshmen emerging. That included receiver Desmond Huston, who BTN network voice Dave Revsine Tweeted about Tuesday.

“I think the head coach will hit more on who is going to play, who’s not going to play, who we’re expecting to play,” Brian Ferentz said when asked about Hutson. “I will say that we’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few of the (true) freshmen, some guys that are really showing a bit of maturity.”

Brian sees some of the true freshmen playing beyond the four-game limit that would protect their redshirts. He’s not naming them, though. He’s leaving that for the head coach to announce.

“It’s really his place to disclose some of those things as he sees fit. I don’t think we’re going to have a lot of secrets, but I think he’d rather do that than me,” Brian said.

Here are some news and note items from Brian Ferentz’s 20-minute news conference Tuesday:

-Perhaps the most interesting nugget revealed by Ferentz was that Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young have separated themselves from the running back pack. They’ve emerged as the top two players at the position and would be in line to see the vast majority of the game reps if the season started today.

“It’s not unexpected. It’s what we talked about going into camp. They’ve solidified that. They’ve done a nice job,” Ferentz said.

Sargent and Young boast skill sets that complement each other.

“Toren Young is running the ball as good as he ever has. He’s a tempo setter. Mekhi is kind of a jack of all trades, a little bit of a utility knife. So, what we have to do is do a good job of doing a balancing act there to try to make sure those…they’re certainly two of our best players. Let’s keep them involved in what we’re doing offensively,” Ferentz said.

The offensive coordinator talked about having both guys on the field at the same time.

Sargent and Young lost out on the starting job to start last season when Ivory Kelly-Martin emerged in training camp. He was slowed by injury in ’18, however, and has fallen to third on the depth chart.

“I think he’s done a nice job, but to me, when I look at it, there’s still a clear one and two. But when you have a guy like Ivory that’s pushing it in that mix…the first thing I would say is he’s been able to be out there the whole time (healthy). That’s been a big step for him,” Ferentz said.

True freshmen Shadrick Byrd and Tyler Goodson also are impressing the coach. That said, they’re all clearly behind Sargent and Young.

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-The program is still waiting on word from the NCAA about Oliver Martin’s petition for immediate eligibility after he transferred in from Michigan this summer. The coaches are preparing the former Iowa City West receiver like he will be available in ’19, and he’s solidly in the mix for playing time.

“There’s plenty of opportunity (to get him ready). It’s not like you’re stealing (practice) reps from somebody else. So, to me, the only thing you can do is operate under the premise that he’s going to play for you. You have to get him ready,” Ferentz said.

The offensive coordinator sees Martin (6-1, 200) as being capable of lining up at multiple receiver spots.

“He can play outside. He can play inside. He’s a good short-area, quickness guy. He does a real nice job on some vertical type routes and tracking the ball down the field. He’s more of a utility guy,” Ferentz said.

Other than Brandon Smith, who is locked in as an outside receiver, the Hawkeyes will move around players at the position looking to create mismatches. That includes guys like Nico Ragaini and Tyrone Tracy, who are listed as slots.

“It allows you to create depth without needing more guys,” Ferentz said.

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The coach raved about the progress made by junior receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who’s also the reigning Big Ten return man of the year. Kirk Ferentz got on him during the spring of ’18 because he wanted him to be more detailed.

“He’s been as impressive a guy as we have on our roster right now just when you talk about growth and maturity,” Brian Ferentz said. “Skill set? Not an issue. Good guy, good teammate, all those things, but developing that attitude of playing the next play and trying to build on things. I couldn’t be more pleased with the growth that he’s shown.”

The New Jersey native is leading some of the younger players at the position.

“That’s really encouraging to see.”

-The staff has not named a backup quarterback yet, Ferentz said. Third-year sophomore Peyton Mansell and redshirt freshman Spencer Petras have been competing for the spot behind starter Nate Stanley.

“We’re getting close. But I think that’s something else I will leave for the head coach,” Ferentz said.

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Training camp has served as a proving ground for the contenders.

“The picture becomes much clearer. You learn more about everybody’s capabilities, and I think it helps you establish a plan of what you want to be moving forward if you were playing without Nate,” Ferentz said.

-The intention is to play more than five offensive linemen this season. Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs are returning starters at tackle, and Cole Banwart comes back as the No. 1 right guard. Tyler Linderbaum is locked in as the top center.

“We’re not ready to make those final determinations on who those seven, eight, maybe nine guys are. We feel good about some of the depth that’s been developed there, the competition that’s happening. We feel a little better about that currently than maybe we did three weeks ago and certainly three months ago,” Ferentz said.

Senior twins Levi and Landan Paulsen, Mark Kallenberger and Cody Ince were mentioned by Ferentz as guys competing for time at guard.

“That gives you a pretty good mix, there. I’ve probably missed a guy or two, but there’s not a lot of clear separation there,” Ferentz said.

-The pecking order at tight end appears to have held to the depth chart entering camp. Nate Wieting remains the No. 1 with Shaun Beyer also in line for plenty of playing time. Drew Cook looks set as the No. 3 right now. Beyond that, things get murky.

“We’re going to have to find out where the rest of that depth’s coming from. But I think we have a better feel for that now then we did a couple of weeks ago. What I don’t think you’re going to see is us trying to feature three tight ends in the game at the same time,” Ferentz said.

Here’s Brian Ferentz’s Tuesday press conference in its entirety:

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