powered by the Iowa City Press-Citizen & The Des Moines Register
Subscribe via RSS Feed

Iowa notebook: Derby makes switch, McCall could return

[ 2 ] October 22, 2011 |

by Ryan Suchomel and Pat Harty

A month ago A.J. Derby was Iowa’s back-up quarterback. On Saturday, the 6-foot-4, 232-pound redshirt freshman was a heat-seeking missle.

On Tuesday, Derby accepted Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz’s offer to switch to linebacker. Derby got his first tackle of the season subbing in on the kickoff team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” junior quarterback James Vandenberg said. “But everyone knows he’s a great athlete, and he can do about anything on the field.

“I was giving him some flack about that head down tackle on kickoff.”

Forgive Derby if he didn’t have his technique down just yet. He hasn’t played on defense since high school.

“It was good to get out there and make a tackle,” Derby said. “I haven’t hit anybody since I’ve been here. It was weird, and kind of fun.”

Derby was recruited as both an athlete and a quarterback out of City High. He came to Iowa, in part, because the Hawkeyes were willing to give him a shot at playing under center.

This fall he moved into the back-up role behind Vandenberg, but lost the job following a two-game suspension for public intoxication.

On Tuesday, Ferentz offered him the chance to help an injury-plagued linebacking unit.

“I wanted to do what’s best for the team,” Derby said. “Coach told me that’s what’s best.”

After talking to his family, he made the decision, and joined the linebackers during Tuesday afternoon meetings.

“I laughted at him when he first came into the linebacker meeting room,” sophomore Christian Kirksey said. “He already has the size to be a linebacker. He’s bigger than me. I just looked at him and said, ‘I know you’re going to be a good player.’”

Sophomore linebacker James Morris missed last week’s game, and limped off the field Saturday at one point. Senior Tyler Nielsen sat out Saturday with a hand injury.

“He could play a couple spots as well,” Ferentz said. “But right now linebacker seems to be what we’re focused on. I think he’s excited about it.”

Derby indicated the change is intended to be permanent. He was unsure how long before he’d get a chance to play defense.

“Technique,” Derby said. “It’s hard to go from quarterback to linebacker.”

McCALL TO RETURN? Iowa fans hoping to see true freshman running back Mika’il McCall play again this season could soon get their wish.

McCall dressed for Saturday’s game against Indiana and Ferentz said afterwards that McCall might be ready to play against Minnesota on Saturday in Minneapolis.

McCall broke a bone in his lower leg in the season opener against Tennessee Tech and hasn’t played since. He had rushed for 61 yards when he was injured in the second quarter.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Ferentz said when asked if McCall would be ready for the Minnesota game. “But we’ll see how the week goes.

“We’ll travel him and dress him as soon as we can.”

McCall, a 6-foot, 215-pound native of Dolton, Ill., began the season as Iowa’s backup running back behind sophomore Marcus Coker.

Coker, who ran for 139 yards Saturday, mostly has been a solo act.

On Saturday redshirt freshman D’Andre Johnson was the first player to replace Coker early in the fourth quarter. Johnson rushed for a career-high 26 yards on five carries.

True freshman Jordan Canzeri ran for 26 yards on four carries against the Hooisers, who entered Saturday’s game ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing 227.4 yards per game.

Iowa finished with 203 rushing yards Saturday, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt.

“I was really happy those other guys (Johnson and Canzeri) had nine carries,” Ferentz said. “Boy, that’s invaluable because we’re going to need them.”

Johnson said he didn’t know for sure going into Saturday’s game that he would be the first substitution at running back.

“All this week I was taking No. 2 reps, so I had an idea,” said Johnson, a 5-foot-8, 200-pound native of Miami, Fla.

Asked what he did to rise up the depth chart, Johnson said: “I’ve been going hard in these practices, so I guess it kind of paid off in the long run.”

Johnson now is Iowa’s second leading rusher on the season with 76 yards on 16 attempts.

McCall had been Iowa’s second leading rusher until Saturday despite playing in less than one half of a game this season.

Coker leads the team with 717 yards and eight touchdowns.

Another true freshman, Damon Bullock, also has played at running back, but didn’t see action Saturday.

INJURY REPORT: Junior receiver Keenan Davis limped off the field in the fourth quarter. Senior defensive tackle Mike Daniels missed a series back in the locker room.

“I don’t think we came out of it, at least at this point, with anything bad,” Ferentz said.

Senior linebacker Tyler Nielsen missed the game with a hand injury. Senior defensive tackle Thomas Nardo missed his second straight game.

“Tyler Nielsen tried to go, but he couldn’t grip anything,” Ferentz said. “We’ll hopefully get Tyler back midweek here and hopefully start adding some guys.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Hawk Central: Hawk Central is a joint operation of the Iowa City Press-Citizen and The Des Moines Register, with offices in Iowa City. Contact us at online@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

Comments closed