(Some linebacker stuff from the Outback Bowl. There will be one on the secondary and one on special teams before spring practice starts March 25. I’ll round up all the links on these when they’re finished.)
One of the best images from the Hawkeyes’ Outback Bowl celebration was linebacker A.J. Edds running into the tunnel wearing a women’s pink cowboy hat he found blowing around the Raymond James Field after the game.
He put it on, stuck his tongue out and run into the tunnel. It was something Don Meredith might’ve done.
“I thought that hey, now is as good of time as any to put a pink cowboy hat on,” Edds said after the game. “I took advantage of that.”
He took it home, where, not long after the Outback, the senior outside linebacker had some minor shoulder surgery. He didn’t know if he’d miss spring practice, but he said the surgery was something he put off as long as he could.
“They’re going to go in there and fix some stuff up, some little stuff,” Edds said. “Quick rehab time, so I shouldn’t miss too much. But they’re going to go in and fix some stuff that’s been nagging a little bit. No big deal and I should be back pretty quick.
On spring, “I don’t know. It depends how quick the body reacts and everything. I think we’ll just take it a day at a time.”
Sophomore Tyler Nielsen will likely be the guy at OLB this spring. He fits the mold for what coordinator Norm Parker likes out of his strongside guy, 6-foot-4, 228 and rangy.
The Hawkeyes should be good everywhere linebacker this season.
Pat Angerer is a returning starter in the middle. The 6-1, 232-pounder went from co-starter in the early fall to starter to Iowa’s leading tackler (107) and co-leader in interceptions (five) to all-Big Ten. The 2008 season was a rebirth of sorts for Angerer, who rebounded mightily after an injury-riddled 2007.
“Pat is like a lot of college guys,” Parker said. “He doesn’t mind me saying it. He was a little bit immature in the way that he approached it in his early years. All of a sudden, he decided that he wanted to be a football player and he wanted to be a student. It was time for him to grow up and he grew up and did the job. I think his improvement was probably from the shoulders up. He grew up. He was a young kid. That happens with a lot of guys. They’re not ready for that yet. It hasn’t clicked in that this is what I have to do to succeed at this level.”
Will junior Jacody Coleman (6-2, 240) be the No. 2 here or will he give D-end a shot? That rumor is out there.
Junior Jeremiha Hunter, who finished second on the team with 80 tackles, wasn’t even a co-starter until junior Jeff Tarpinian suffered a hamstring injury at the beginning of camp last year and wasn’t available until midway through the Big Ten season. Hunter grew into the position and probably isn’t looking to give it up. This might be one of the more interesting position battles, outside of anything offensive line.
Junior Troy Johnson might also fit in here, but the 6-2, 230-pounder might be able to fill in at all three spots.
Is junior Lance Tillison transferring? Coach Kirk Ferentz was asked this on signing day. He said the staff would know more in March.
This unit is one of Iowa’s deepest (two starter-quality players at all three positions) and most experienced, so it’s going to need a young talent infusion in the coming recruiting classes. True freshman Jake Reisen might be ready to help on the inside after bulking up to 230. Is new recruit Marty Hopkins, a 6-3, 230-pounder, a linebacker or a future D-lineman? Probably D-lineman. Tight end recruit Dakota Getz has an OLB body type at 6-4, 210. Linebacker will be on the shopping list for the 2010 class, with Solon’s James Morris (6-2, 200) a darned good start.
Depth chart here, in my opinion, goes:
MLB — Angerer, Coleman
WLB — Hunter, Tarpinian
OLB — Edds, Nielsen
Johnson and Reisen will be depth. Tillison saw time in 3-4 packages against Wisconsin and in a few other games. If he got up to a 220-225 weight, what could he do? Definitely a hybrid, but could he bulk up to be a steadier force against the run? This unit needs some young numbers and that has already started with Morris in the 2010 recruiting class.
Watch Edds’ shoulder, but really watch his pink cowboy hat.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz offered a scholarship in December. Morris, a lifelong Iowa fan, jumped.
Morris won’t sign his national letter of intent today. He won’t sign it next February. The Solon sophomore will officially become a Hawkeye in February 2010.
“I think anytime a kid my age gets interest from any type of school, big or small, it’s a surprise,” said Morris, who helped the Spartans to the Class 2A title last fall. “I’ve tried to handle it graciously. It’s also humbling.”
If you don’t count sons Brian and James Ferentz, Morris is the earliest commitment Ferentz has received at Iowa. Former Iowa City West star Alex Kanellis committed to the Hawkeyes in April of his sophomore year.
“It’s been a dream of mine,” Morris said. “I couldn’t be any happier.”
James Morris has an “in.” His dad, Greg, is Iowa’s longtime equipment manager. But don’t think the scholarship offer wasn’t based on merit. James Morris was one of the best players on Solon’s title team. He rushed for 1,877 yards and 28 touchdowns on 229 carries. He caught 14 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He had two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
At linebacker, Morris, 6-foot, 200 pounds, was fourth on the team in tackles.
His future at Iowa is probably on defense, either safety or linebacker, but there’s no hurry to slot Morris into a position.
“Right now, they’re just going to let me go and see what happens physically, let me grow and then worry about where I play in college,” said Morris, who’ll be wrestling for a spot in the state tournament in this weekend’s 2A district tournament at West Liberty.
“I want to preach to everyone else how great the Hawkeyes are,” Morris said. “If that’s recruiting, then I guess that’s recruiting. I’m not bashful about the Hawks.”
“For a lot of guys it [recruiting] ends up being a hassle. I didn’t want it to be that for me, so I figured I’d just get it out of the way early and not really have to worry about it. Just worry about being a high school kid.”
“I talked with coach Ferentz and he said, ‘We’ve been following you since our camp here last year. We’ve been impressed with the way you’ve handled yourself on and off the field, we’d like to extend you a scholarship offer.’ That was basically it. I said, ‘I’ve wanted to be a Hawkeye my whole life. I’d love to accept and commit right now.’ ”
Also, Morris had a few “recruiting aides” come his way. Basically, these are folks who, for a fee, will help kids through the recruiting process, stuff like exposure, highlight reels and what-not. For a fee, remember.
“That’s my word for it (recruiting aides). Guys, that say, ‘Hey, we’ll market your son or daughter to a college.’ We’ve been approached by some of those kinds of people. They try to give you tips. I didn’t have a whole lot of involvement with them. It’s almost like an agent for a high school kid. My whole philosophy is, if you’re good enough, they’ll find you. They (schools) want athletes with good grades and people who aren’t liabilities.”
James had two As and two A-minuses last semester (or quarter). He’s preparing to take the ACT this summer. (I think that’s about a year earlier than most, but things might’ve changed in my 20-plus years since the ACTs.) No worries here. And from what I’ve been told by our prep guy, Jeff Dahn, who covered Solon quite a few times last fall, Morris’ football is just as good.