IOWA CITY, Iowa – At this rate, Iowa might have the services two top players on Saturday.
Sunday, Hawkeye Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said Drew Ott and LeShun Daniels suffered significant injuries against Iowa State and they were long-shots to be in uniform this weekend against Pittsburgh (7 p.m. CT, BTN). A day later, he upgraded their status. At his weekly press conference Tuesday, things sounded even better.
"Both guys are rehabbing right now. They didn’t practice (Tuesday) but they are making good progress, and it would be premature to make any predictions how it’s going to go. But they are making progress and we’ll see how the week plays out on that one," Ferentz said.
The coach likely will offer another injury update on Ott and Daniels Wednesday night on his weekly radio show. That’s his last media availability for the week.
Ott left last Saturday’s game in the first quarter and did not return. He was walking around here at the football complex Tuesday with his left elbow wrapped in ice.
Daniels exited the ISU contest for good in the second quarter. Trainers worked on his ankle and he tested it out on the sideline before calling it a night.
"We’ll have a chance to know more Thursday or Friday. I think it’s realistic. If they can’t make it Saturday, hopefully the week after," Ferentz said.
Daniels, a junior, carried eight times for 56 yards before leaving the game in Ames. For the season, he’s picked up 179 yards on 24 attempts to lead the squad.
Ott, a senior, is tied for tops of the team with two sacks. He also has produced a quarterback hurry and forced a fumble.
"All that stuff comes down to a medical decision," Ferentz said. "Then it goes to us afterwards once the doctors say there’s no risk here, then you still have to judge a player effectively and do him justice. That’s a separate decision and discussion."
RUNNING BACK DEPTH: Ferentz announced Tuesday that he reinstated ball carrier Derrick Mitchell Jr. The coach had named him the third-team running back behind Daniels and Jordan Canzeri heading into the season. He missed the season-opener against Illinois State two weeks ago with an undisclosed injury.
Mitchell’s availability could prove significant if Daniels remains sidelined. The No. 3 against Iowa State, Akrum Wadley, still is earning back the trust of the coaches after following up last season’s fumbling issues by coughing it up on his third carry of this campaign.
"He’s done a lot of really good things, too," Ferentz said. "The real challenge is to minimize those mistakes that are costly; just a responsibility that comes with being that guy; or in blitz pickup, too. A lot of times that’s a problem younger players have.
"But I think he’s doing a good job there. It’s just that ball security. To me it’s all concentration. But he’s working hard at it and he’s committed to getting better."
Ferentz said Marcel Joly also was in the mix for carries. True freshman Eric Graham is not in the picture and running with the scout team, the coach added.
EXTRA ATTENTION: Senior Tevaun Smith came into the season expected to be Iowa’s No. 1 receiver after starting the last two years. That word reached opponents, who have paid the Toronto native extra attention.
Defenses scheming to stop Smith has come at a cost. It’s opened things up for Matt Vandeberg, who has caught 15 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
"I know Tevaun being as good as he is on the other side he’s going to draw attention because he deserves it, which means I’m going to get one-on-one match-ups. I need to win when my number is called," Vandeberg said.
Smith caught two passes for 23 yards Saturday at Iowa State, including a tremendous 14-yard touchdown grab. For the season, he has five receptions for 47 yards and one score.
"I know my chance is going to come," Smith said. "I’m being patient. I know if I’m not getting the ball, I’m going to try to make the key blocks so our running backs can score. I’m not being selfish at all. I’m just happy we’re winning. As long as we’re winning, I don’t have a problem with anything."
TEAM AWARD: Quarterback C.J. Beathard was named Co Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance at Iowa State. He threw for 215 yards and three scores and ran 10 times for another 77 yards in the 31-17 victory.
Beathard became the first Hawkeye to win the award since Marvin McNutt in 2011. James Vandeberg was the last quarterback to claim it that same year.
Beathard said Tuesday that appreciated the honor but shared it with his teammates. He found out when Ferentz told the team after practice on Monday.
"He was happy but he’s a really humble guy and I think all his teammates were really happy for him, too," the coach said. "And you know, it’s a team award. That’s how I look at it and C.J. would be the first guy to tell you. In fact, he may have told you earlier. Not that he did; I’ll just make a prediction there."
CATCHING UP: Freshman receiver Jay Scheel and Jon Wisnieski, a sophomore tight end, enjoyed a strong spring and entered August camp with a chance to impact the team out of the gate. Then, injuries struck.
The health issues put the in-state duo behind teammates who continued to practice. Riley McCarron emerged at receiver and Jameer Outsey has advanced at tight end.
"Some other guys have gone ahead of them. That’s competition," Ferentz said.
Scheel and Wisnieski, who both missed last season with injuries, still have most of their college careers ahead of them.
"They are very young players and they are working hard. They are going to factor in at some given point. I think both those guys are going to be really good football players for us in the future," Ferentz said.