Notebook: Vandberg Recovering, Kittle Returning, Other Injuries
IOWA CITY, Iowa – As soon as Matt VandeBerg found out his injury would cost him the rest of the season, he planned to apply for a medical hardship waiver. The decision was easy.
“This organization is fantastic. I don’t know why anybody would want to leave it early,” the Iowa receiver said Tuesday.
VandeBerg, speaking publicly for the first time since breaking his foot on Sept. 26, played as a true freshman in 2013. He appeared on four games this season before going down and believes he meets the Big Ten and NCAA requirements to be awarded another year of eligibility.
“I’ve looked into it. Ultimately it’s up to the Big Ten or the NCAA, but as far as I know I meet all of the requirements. So I’m looking forward to, hopefully, being able to come back,” VandeBerg said.
When he went down, VandeBerg (6-1, 185) led the Hawkeyes in receptions (19), receiving yards (284) and touchdown catches (3). The South Dakota product paced the team with 65 grabs for 703 yards and three scores a year ago.
Iowa has struggled to get much going in the passing game since VandeBerg went down. He had built great chemistry with quarterback C.J. Beathard. Outside of Riley McCarron, the team was very inexperienced at the position.
VandeBerg has turned into a player-coach since being sidelined.
“I’m doing just as much film study, if not more, to try and help my guys, the receivers. When they come off the field, I can see everybody now. It’s not where I’m focused on who’s aligned over me,” he said.
VandeBerg said there wasn’t a chance he could get back on the field after his injury. He was slowed by other nagging pains before going down for good.
The final injury occurred during practice.
“After it happened, I actually jogged off the field. It didn’t feel good. I tried to put pressure on it. It was working. I was trying to go back in for the next play and that wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
After doctors x-rayed him, they found the fracture. The news hurt.
“You care so much. You put so much into this and being a true senior and not being to help your team is pretty tough,” he said.
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VandeBerg said he didn’t allow himself much time for self pity.
“That night, I went home to my fiance’ and kind of vented it out and got over it because that’s not going to help me get where I need to be. What I need to do now is start working out and getting back to watching film and helping my team,” he said.
VandeBerg said recovery is going slowly. He’s listening to the doctors and increasing movement incrementally.
“Bones take a while but then it’s also the muscles and soft tissue that you have to be able to get built back up. I’m just doing what I’m told,” he said.
KITTLE COMING BACK: While VandeBerg has been ruled out for Friday’s game against Nebraska (2:30 p.m. CT, ABC), Beathard was expected to get one of his other top receiving targets back. George Kittle said Tuesday he would return to the field for Senior Day after missing the last two games with a foot injury.
Kittle said he’s increased his tempo at practice this week after being very limited the last two weeks. The trainers were trying to prevent him from further damaging the foot.
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“I still was out there (on a limited basis) doing everything thing I could just to make sure I was up to date, getting my fits, just so I don’t lose everything this late in the season. But I got to do a lot more this week, which is nice,” he said.
Kittle (6-4, 250) has caught 19 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns in nine games. He’s also been Iowa’s best blocking tight end.
Kittle wouldn’t say how healthy he felt this week.
“I’m good to go,” he said with a smile.
OTHER INJURIES: Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that offensive lineman Ike Boettger also had returned to practice this week. It sounded like he had a realistic chance to play Friday.
“George Kittle and Ike Boettger did some work (Tuesday). How effective they can be Friday, we’ll have to wait and see. They’re certainly not 100 percent at this point, but they’ve got some work in, so we’ll see where that goes,” Ferentz said.
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Ferentz did not mention senior offensive lineman Cole Croston, who missed the three games with a lower leg injury.
Starting strong safety Miles Taylor left the Michigan game two weeks ago early and then sat out the contest at Illinois on Saturday. He was listed as a co-starter with Anthony Gair on this week’d depth chart.
“We’ll see how it goes in practice. But we suddenly have more depth than we knew we had. I guess that’s a good thing,” Ferentz said.
“The good news is Anthony has really played well, Miles seems to be healthy. So hopefully we’re deeper than we were a few weeks ago.”
Greg Mabin showed up for Tuesday’s press conference for the first time since being ruled out for the rest of the season with a foot injury. He’s missed the last two games.
“It’s pretty tough. Tough would be an understatement,” the senior cornerback said. “It hurts not being able to be out there competing with my brothers who I’ve been grinding with for five years.”
Mabin said he sustained the injury in practice stepping on a teammate’s foot. He said it wasn’t an injury that will keep him out long term but a return for a bowl game remained up in the air.
“That’s still to be determined depending on how fast my rehab goes. I’m always optimistic. It’s just something we’ll have to wait and see about,” Mabin said.
EXTRA POINTS: Ferentz said Iowa plans to give a private tribute to fallen Nebraska punter Sam Foltz in the locker room before Friday’s game…Iowa’s offensive line has been named one-of-18 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, which honors offensive line units that display a high level of toughness, effort, teamwork, consistency, technique, and finishing. The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon by The Foundation for Teamwork…