IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa could be without a key weapon on offense when it travels to Iowa State on Saturday. On the flip side, the Hawkeyes could also have a one return to the field.
Injured running back Derrick Mitchell Jr. looks like he could see the first action of the season. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz tabbed the sophomore as the team’s No. 3 at the position and someone who could help in the passing game.
"He’s looking better. We’re hoping he’s there," Ferentz said.
No. 2 tight end George Kittle (knee) missed most of the second half in Saturday’s 31-14 win against Illinois State. His status for the game in Ames was up in the air.
"We’re hoping he can play. We’ll just have to see. He’s working his way back right now and we’re hoping he can play. He’s got a chance," Ferentz said. "He had a strain there, but we wanted to keep him out just for precautionary reasons."
The absence of Kittle would result in another hit to an already depleted tight end group. Projected starter Jake Duzey still is working his way back from off-season knee surgery. He’s making progress, Ferentz said.
"Significantly more work this week, but to put a number on it right now wouldn’t be fair, but we’re getting closer," the coach said. "He had shoulder pads on and did some things, some football activities this week. Very limited, but that’s the first step to getting a guy back, so that’s a positive step."
Also on the injury front, defensive tackle Darian Cooper’s advancements from knee surgery in August of ’14 have been slow. He missed all of last season with the injury.
"He’s a little bit behind that curve right now. We’re just going to keep pushing," Ferentz said.
It would seem that Cooper might be in line for a sixth year of eligibility if he were to miss another entire campaign. But from what Ferentz said Tuesday, it appears to be 2015 or never for the senior.
"I really don’t know if that’s realistic. I think the biggest thing is we’re just going to try to push as hard as we can within limits and be smart about it and then hope that he gets an opportunity to play this year," the coach said.
A PRO IN THE FAMILY: The Ferentz family received bad news on Friday when they learned middle son, James Ferentz, would be cut by the Houston Texans. Spirits were lifted when the Denver Broncos added the Iowa alumnus (’08-12) to its 53-man roster on Sunday.
"He stuck it out and he chased his dream, which is great," Kirk Ferentz said. "But in reality, he experienced highs and lows this past week. He got cut on Friday; you can imagine how he felt that day. And then just the way the world works in the NFL, boom, something else happened on Sunday and he’s on a different plane.
"Unfortunately, it’s kind of the reality of that profession and life in general, I guess, but that profession especially. I’m just happy he’s got the opportunity, and then after that it’s whatever he makes of it. Not many players get to retire, unfortunately, NFL players. Just enjoy every day while you can."
After not sticking with a team last year, Kirk revealed on Wednesday that James was preparing for another shot this season by working out in the facility and at a local carpet store.
"I’m not making light of that at all, but that’s what he was doing, and then he continued to train here," Kirk said. "There are a lot of times where I thought he might just say, hey, enough of that."
James Ferentz started his final 38 games at center for Iowa. He earned second-team all-Big Ten honors as a senior in ’12.
SECURITY ISSUE: Akrum Wadley, who lost playing time last season due to fumbling problems, coughed it up on his third carry against Illinois State. The sophomore running back was visibly upset coming off the field.
"I’m not a big doghouse guy," Ferentz said. "I think it was (former Baltimore Orioles Manager) Earl Weaver, I think, said he didn’t have a doghouse. And it’s not the pros, we don’t cut guys, ship them out and bring new guys in.
"This is college football. We’re trying to develop our guys as best we can. He wasn’t ready to secure the ball Saturday unfortunately, but hopefully next time out he’ll do a better job."
When he has hung onto the ball, Wadley has produced. He carried 33 times for 186 yards and a touchdown a year ago. Saturday, he picked up 17 on three totes.
"Somewhere in there, there’s a good player," Ferentz said. "We’ve just got to get it out of him and get him really concentrating the way he really needs to to protect the football."
LEAD BLOCKER: Senior receiver Tevaun Smith is known mostly for making key reception for the Hawkeyes.
But there is more to his role, including blocking.
Smith made several key blocks in the victory over Illinois State, earning praise from Ferentz on Wednesday.
“It’s critical. If our team is going to be a good team this year, we have to get our best play from our older guys and the guys that have been out there playing,” Ferentz said. “Tevaun has played an awful lot. If he’s not helping lead the way, we’re going to have some problems, and that’s true at every position; our older guys have to do a good job.
“But really happy and proud of what he did out there. That didn’t just happen Saturday, he’s been working hard at it.”
PREP REWIND: To say that Iowa defensive back recruit Amani Hooker had a big game this past Friday would be an understatement. The Minnesota native scored four touchdowns and intercepted three passes, including two that he returned for touchdowns. His first pick six came right before halftime and covered 100 yards. He also returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Offensively, Hooker scored on a 67-yard run and a 15-yard reception.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson continued his torrid pace by catching eight passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns in Chariton’s 44-8 victory over Davis County on Friday. Hockenson has 19 receptions for 269 yards and six touchdowns in two games.
Wisconsin running back Toren Young was held to fewer than 100 yards for the first time in three games this season, rushing 21 times for 72 yards in Monona Grove’s 21-0 loss to Oregon last Friday.
Wisconsin quarterback Nathan Stanley completed 5-of-12 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns, leading Menomonie’s 43-0 victory over Eau Claire last Friday. In three games, Stanley has completed 17-of-35 passes for 436 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception.
Detriot native Cedric Lattimore caught a 26-yard touchdown in East Village’s 40-7 victory over Renaissance. Latimore is expected to play defensive end for Iowa. Lattimore also was promoted from a 3-star recruit to a 4-star by Scout.com this week.
Brownsburg, Ind., running back Toks Akrinibade rushed 12 times for 62 yards and two touchdowns in his team 68-7 victory over Franklin.
Chicago linebacker recruit Amani Jones scored on a 1-yard run and led a Phillips defense that held Mount Carmel in check during a 41-7 victory.
Omaha South tight end Noah Fant had seven catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns during his team’s 56-49 double-overtime loss to Omaha Northwest.