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Iowa football: New facilities, polished plays, refurbished mentality

[ 0 ] August 18, 2012 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Traffic-snarling construction outside Iowa’s football facility proved more than a summer detour for recruits and others visiting the state’s most visible program.

The hustle-and-bustle of demolition, followed by deafening sounds that accompany major building were metaphors for the Hawkeyes’ vision of the future – outside the program and within.

Pick up this weekend’s Des Moines Sunday Register to find a special section devoted to the Iowa football team, which includes this article. (Mark Marturello / Register illustration)

Beyond 83-year old Kinnick Stadium’s wall sits a new indoor practice facility, a new practice field, and new parking areas, all expected to be completed by the Sept. 8 home-opener against Iowa State.

Within the oft-refurbished fortress will be results of reconstruction at running back and along the defensive line – blueprints drawn up coincidentally by the team’s newest project managers.

Phil Parker runs the defense. Greg Davis heads the offense. They’ve sketched and resketched old play designs – with hard hats, not hard heads.

“I think with the change there’s a heightened awareness,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s not the same old thing on two.”

Look around if you’re one of 70,000-plus attending the Iowa State game, a year after the three-overtime thriller the Cyclones won in Ames. There will be more to the time warp than throw-back 1920s uniforms Iowa will wear.

The “bubble” is history after 27 years providing protection against inclement weather. A large building that ate up prime parking spots glistens. Heavy equipment will be long gone when the Cyclones arrive – at least that’s the hope.

“What a difference from the last time I was around here,” said new offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, who played for his father’s team between 2002-05. “Just look around.”

He said that while standing in the shadow of the still-shiny indoor practice facility on a hot afternoon.

“What’s gone on around here – it’s amazing all the differences since the last time I was here,” he said. “Whatever inconveniences anyone had this summer getting around the construction have been worth it.”

The most significant change, at least for fans whose private donations helped fund new structural projects, will be on the field – primarily in the backfield.

That will be a work-in-progress throughout the 12-game regular season at a position with more recent remodelings than your typical neighborhood fixer-upper.

Marcus Coker and Mika’il McCall, both expected to play major roles this season, have transferred. The player expected to be their heir, Jordan Canzeri, says he’s 85 percent healthy after April ACL surgery. However, he’s unlikely to play until at least mid-season.

So who’s No. 1, Damon Bullock or Brad Rogers or Greg Garmon or Barkley Hill, when Iowa opens the season Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois at Chicago’s Soldier Field?

“We had a depth chart that’s been distributed,” Ferentz, the head coach, said. “It really is something you’ll probably be able to throw out the window, because I think this is the kind of football team that’s going to look different in the weeks ahead, and that certainly may go through September and even into October.”

Whichever player takes James Vandenberg’s first handoff will follow a rendering drawn by Davis, whose vision includes more diversity and less predictability.

“Our fans will see some no-huddle, zone and the stretch,” Davis said. “They’ll see great play action. We’ll probably play from the shot gun a little more. We’ll probably play with (up) tempo a little more.”

To Iowa players, that’s music amid the sounds of football facilities construction.

“It’s a very versatile offense,” Bullock said. “I love it. We all love it.”

Replacing practice facilities and coaches is one thing. Who replaces Marvin McNutt as Iowa’s big-play, go-to receiver?

“We all do,” Keenan Davis said. “That’s the kind of mindset we have to have. Everyone should want to be the go-to receiver.”

New facilities. New players. New coaches.

“You know,” Kirk Ferentz said, “if you do something for 13 years, there’s a good chance something is going to change, and based on the national average, I think we certainly outlived what the norms are, no pun intended.”

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HAWKEYES’ KEY STRETCH

Sept. 29 vs. Minnesota

You’re crazy if you think someone won’t bring up last season’s Minnesota 22, Iowa 21 that many felt was a Hawkeye debacle, although the game was on the road. It’s in Iowa City this time, against a team most preseason mags pick for the Legends basement.

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Oct. 13 at Michigan State

And let’s just say the Hawkeyes have at least four wins by now, possibly five-for-five, heading into this game. It follows their off week, and it’s the Spartans’ warmup to Oct. 20 at Michigan in a battle of teams picked 1-2 in the Legends. It’s ripe in the lookahead department.

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Oct. 20 vs. Penn State

Iowa hasn’t lost against the Nits at home since 1999, but those were Joe Paterno’s Nits. This will be coach Bill O’Brien’s first venture into Kinnick, and he brings what could be the shell of a team picked for the middle of the Leaders. It’s a team with a new staff, but missing several key players.

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BEST ROAD TRIP

GAME: Nov. 17 at Michigan

DESTINATION: Ann Arbor

DISTANCE: 450 miles

If you haven’t been to The Big House, aka Michigan Stadium and home of the 2013 NHL Winter Classic, here’s your chance to be among 109,900 of your closest friends.

That’s the enormity of the largest college football stadium in the nation at 109,901 fans; the only one that’s close is Penn State’s 107,282-seat Beaver Stadium — another bucket-list must for rabid Hawkeye football fans.

Iowa has won two of the past four games at this stadium, including 38-28 in 2010. The stadium, part of the Wolverines’ campus, is about a 45-minute drive from Detroit. And if you’re really into entertainment, this is your kind of trip:

Madonna performs at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena the preceding Thursday. And by the way, the Lions host the Packers that Sunday.

 

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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