April 23, 2014

Iowa football coaches talk about staff and red zone offense

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz says he will wait until spring practice has concluded to begin a search for a new assistant coach. Long time recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson is leaving the staff to enter the restaurant business in Tennessee. “We were all surprised a little bit on one hand, but also understand totally, he’s got a young family,” Ferentz says.  He says he appreciates all that Johnson has done as someone who has been with him all 15 years.

Ferentz says there’s no big hurry to find a new coach at this point and they will try to do what is best for the program. Ferentz says it is likely the new coach will fill a similar role of recruiting coordinator, but they all want to discuss how the role overall will change.

Iowa’s offense played at a faster tempo during last year’s 8-5 season and offensive coordinator Greg Davis expects that trend to continue. “We jumped last year about 8 plays a ballgame or somewhere in that area. We can function totally without a huddle now, even though we can huddle if we chose to,  and we’ve picked the tempo up,” Davis says.

Davis says it’s a process because they play with several different groups of personnel and that makes it harder to make things move faster.  He says they also don’t want to get away with allowing time for the quarterback to make changes in plays. Davis says moving too fast keeps you from making audibles and that can have you running a play you don’t want to run against a particular defensive front.

Davis says a big emphasis this spring has been “red zone” offense. “We had 9 first and goals at the 3 or less and we scored 9 touchdowns. We had 9 first and goals at the 7 to the 9 and we scored 5 touchdowns. That’s not good enough,” Davis says. He says they worked a lot this spring on the best possible way to score in that 7 to 9 yard range.

The Hawkeyes close out spring drills with a scrimmage on Saturday.

Grand View enters final 6 softball games with conference lead

Grand View has the lead in the Midwest Collegiate Conference race heading into the final weekend. The Vikings are 15-3 and have six games remaining with St. Ambrose, William Penn and Mount Mercy, the three teams immediately behind them in the standings. “It’s kind of new for us to be in this spot, leading the conference at this time of year. Usually we’re down and really trying to climb our way back into,” Grand View coach Lou Yacanich says. He says it is exciting to have the “ultimate prize” right in their hands as one of their pre-season goals was to win the regular season title.

The regular season winner hosts the final four of the conference tournament which determines the bid to the national tournament. Grand View has displayed an unusual combination on offense. They lead the league in home runs and stolen bases. Yacanich says they try to be an aggressive offensive team that hits the ball hard and then put pressure on the other team’s defense.

Yacanich says the players are looking forward to this weekend and not just because of softball. “They are in semester final tests, so on Thursday they are done with their tests and it’s all about softball,” Yacanich says.  “We certainly want and plan to be on top when this weekend finishes.”

Grand View hosts St. Ambrose on Saturday before visiting William Penn on Sunday.

Hawkeyes in final week of spring football practice

As the Iowa football team enters the final week of spring drills the situation at quarterback is much different than it was a year ago. Last spring, Jake Rudock and C.J. Beatherd were part of a three way battle for the job. Coming off last season they are a solid one and two for the Hawkeyes.

“Jake has more experience right now, but it’s still a situation where both guys have to be at their best,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says. He says they are bringing Nate Shimonek along to and he says they are all good guys and they tell all the players that their positions are always open and it’s a matter of how they perform on the field.

Ferentz who says Rudock and Beatherd will be even better next season. He says they expect everyone to improve and the guys who have played are expected to use that experience to their advantage to get better.

Iowa closes out spring drills with a scrimmage on Saturday.

Drake Relays opens with the high jump at Hy-Vee

Workers at a Hy-Vee in Waukee spent last night moving the store’s produce section to make room for the opening event of the 105th Drake Relays.

Darin Hirl, director of Hy-Vee event marketing, says a high jump exhibition will take place just inside the main entrance to the store beginning tonight at 6. “You know, initially, you can say ‘that sounds kind of crazy,’ but the success they’ve had taking events out of Drake Stadium and into the community is phenomenal,” Hirl said. “In the past, they’ve had the high jump downtown, the pole vault at the mall, and the shot put at Simon Estes (Amphitheater). When they did present this idea to us, we jumped on board right away.”

Officials moved all the fresh fruits and vegetables to make room for the runway, the pole and landing mat, and 200 chairs for spectators. Hirl expects 500 to 700 people could be in the store to watch some of the world’s top high jumpers.

A number of the competitors visited the store last night and for some, it marked the first time they’d been in a Hy-Vee. “Not only were there to check out how the high jump was going to work in the produce isle, they also spent some money buying bananas, water, and Gatorade in prep for their training throughout the week,” Hirl said.

The women’s field for the exhibition event includes Olympic and World silver medalist Brigetta Barrett. The men’s field includes Olympic and World bronze medalist Derek Drouin and Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard. The same athletes will compete at Drake Stadium in Des Moines on Friday and Saturday. The event is free to the public.

Iowa faces Minnesota to start second half of baseball season

The Iowa Hawkeye baseball team opens the second half of the Big Ten race on today in a three game series against Minnesota in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes are 5-7 in the league race and coach Rick Heller says they need a more consistent effort out of their bullpen. “That’s where we’ve had some games go the other way, where we’ve had leads and let them slip through our hands. And that’s one of the areas that we have to do a better job if we are gonna make a run in the Big 10,” Heller says.

The Hawks surrendered a ten run lead in a loss at Northwestern last Friday but bounced back to win the final two games of that series. Heller says sometimes when you lose a game that way you go into a slump. But he says they bounced back and played some good ball.

Minnesota is also 5-7 in league play and the teams are tied for seventh right now. The top eight qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. “They will be fighting hard because they lost 3 close games to Nebraska last week,” Heller says. He says they play 7 of their next 8 games at home and they hope to capitalize on the homestand.

The teams will also play single games on Saturday and Sunday.

Drake wraps up spring football practice with game

The Drake football team will close out spring drills on Saturday with an intrasquad game. Bulldog coach Rick Fox says the format will match the offense against the defense as opposed to separate squads. “We always keep score,” Fox says. He says they have a scoring system for first downs or stops or turnovers and they will keep that score on the board because they want the players to be competing every chance they get.

Fox says one side of the ball will be happier than the other with the score, but overall he says the coaches look at how the defense and the offense executed and reacted during the game.

Fox wants a competitive situation to cap off drills as he says the coaches will determine how successful the spring was by the development they see in the game.

Loras, Wartburg and Buena Vista all in conference baseball title race

It Is a three team sprint to the finish in the Iowa Conference baseball race. Buena Vista and Wartburg are tied at the top with 12-4 records while Loras is a game back at 11-5. After opening the season 3-8 the Duhawks have won 10 of their last 12 in conference play and coach Carl Tebon says his team is winning the close games it lost early on. He says they have 10 seniors who have been through a lot of 1-run loses and learned from the experience to fight to the end.

Tebon says the outcomes of one run games will make or break a season. “The momentum that you gain from a win or loss is so important — especially in our conference. The games are so tight,” Tebon says.

Loras visits Wartburg in a four game series this weekend and will close out the season with a series against Buena Vista.