Like every college football coach — and college football fan — in America, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is eager to get things rolling this fall.
Ferentz’s Hawkeyes open the season Saturday against FCS representative Tennessee Tech. Kickoff is set for 11:01 a.m. at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
“We are eager to get on the field, and we are eager to see how things are going and how we have progressed as a team,” Ferentz said during Tuesday’s Big Ten Coaches Teleconference. “We expect to play well every week. And I am eager to see how our young guys have developed.”
The Hawkeyes will take on a Tennessee Tech program that went 5-6 last season and 4-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Golden Eagles are 9-7 during the past two seasons in the OVC.
“(Tennessee Tech) is a very veteran team, and we’ll have our work cut out for us on Saturday,” Ferentz said.
This will be the first time Iowa has faced Tennessee Tech in its long history. The Hawkeyes did play OVC representative Eastern Illinois last season and won that opener 37-7. Tennessee Tech beat Eastern Illinois last season 34-20 later in the year.
Iowa is a 40-point favorite in the game and is seeking its 11th straight victory in a season-opening game. The Hawks are 21-1 in their last 22 nonconference home games, with the lone loss coming in disappointing fashion to Western Michigan.
“We had a very physical preseason because we know how physical Iowa is,” Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown said today on the Ohio Valley Conference Coaches Teleconference. “Iowa does not beat themselves. You have to beat them.”
To beat the Hawkeyes, Brown will need big games from a few returning starters. Quarterback Tre Lamb passed for 974 yards and 11 touchdowns last season while splitting time with the now departed Cass Barnes.
The team’s best offensive player is wide receiver Tim Benford, a three-year starter who had 50 catches for 812 yards and 10 scores last season. No other player had more than 18 catches in 2010.
The Golden Eagles also return running back Dontey Gay, who rushed for 415 yards and three scores last season as the team’s No. 2 tailback. The top tailback from last year — Jocques Crawford — was lost due to graduation.
“The offense features multiple sets with a little option,” Brown said. “We can go slow or we can go fast. We will lean more to the run but we like to be 50-50 or 60-40.”
The Golden Eagle defense is led by safety Marty Jones, Richmond Tooley and cornerback Caleb Mitchell. Jones had four interceptions and a touchdown last season, while Tooley had three picks and Mitchell had two picks and one score.
“One of our big strengths this season will be depth and experience,” Brown said. “We have the advantage in our league because of our depth. But I am not sure that depth will help us against Iowa.”
The Hawkeyes return 37 letterwinners from last year’s 8-5 team. Five starters return on both offense and defense, and as many as eight players could be making their first career starts on Saturday.
Ferentz begins his 13th season as Iowa head coach and is 89-60 in his first 12 years in Iowa City. He is the sixth longest tenured coach in the FBS and is seeking his 150th victory at Iowa on Saturday.
Other notes from Tuesday’s Teleconference
— Ferentz said if the team was playing today, redshirt freshman A.J. Derby would be the second quarterback to enter the game. That is good news for Iowa fans as it shows how much Derby has progressed in his first year and a couple months in the program.
— Ferentz said Marcus Coker has a lot of build off of from last year, but the running back position as a whole is very young.
“We like what we have seen, and the backup positions are working themselves out, but we are very young in the backfield,” Ferentz said.
He said right now the backup is junior Jason White with redshirt freshman DeAndre Johnson closely behind. Ferentz said after that, it is all true freshman players. He did not mention names but the true freshman are Mika’il McCall and Jordan Canzeri. Torrey Campbell may be in that mix but there were rumors that he was going to play in the secondary at Iowa.
— As expected, Ferentz continues to say that as many as 6-8 players will rotate on the defensive line this season. He also said that was not just for Saturday’s game, it is in the plans for the entire season. Iowa has just rotated about five guys through in the past three or four seasons.
— Ferentz said new quarterback James Vandenberg continues to do a good job under center.
“He has very good leadership, and he is eager to get his opportunity,” Ferentz said. “He was just playing behind a really good quarterback in Ricky Stanzi the past few seasons.”