Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz

A much anticipated season begins on Saturday for the Iowa Hawkeyes when they host Eastern Illinois. With several starters back from last year’s team that won the Orange Bowl the Hawks enter the season ranked ninth in the A.P. poll.

A year ago the Hawkeyes escaped an upset bid by U.N.I. in their opener and coach Kirk Ferentz is hoping for a better performance this weekend against Eastern Illinois.

Ferentz says they expect a well disciplined team that will play hard and give them a tough contest. He says they only have to look back to last year against U.N.I. to know what can happen. Ferentz on getting a better effort in the opener, as he says it’s good to get into the game week routine.

Ferentz says to this point the Hawkeyes have done a good job of handling the lofty expectations placed on the team. He says everything points to the players having the focus, and he says the older players who know how tough it is to win, so he hasn’t “seen anything overly alarming at this point” when it comes to being ready.

Ferentz says senior offensive lineman Josh Koeppel will not play in Saturday’s game. Koeppel was injured on Monday morning when his motorcycle was struck by a car. Ferentz says none of the injuries were serious. Ferentz says, “Not to make light of it, but it looks like he just walked out of our wrestling room, a little bit. He has a lot of scrapes and is pretty sore right now.” Ferentz says it’s not realistic to have Koepple play this week, but he should be back soon.

Ferentz says as many as four first-year players could see the field on Saturday, including freshman tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who has learned rapidly enough to be ready to have some success. Ricky Stanzi back returns at quarterback and has a group of experienced receivers but Ferentz expects the Hawks to have a solid ground game as well.

He says in a perfect world they would like to be very balanced, and they go in thinking that and then see how the game plays out. What started as a deep group at running back is much thinner right now. Brandon Wegher is still absent from practice and freshman Marcus Coker has been out with an injury.

Ferentz says all the backs have practiced well and he says with a couple out the deep pool of guys got more shallow, which made it harder in practice.