IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa’s long-standing "Next Man In" mantra will be tested Saturday at Northwestern. The injury bug has hit the Hawkeyes flush.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed on Tuesday here at the football performance center that defensive end Drew Ott tore his ACL in the second half of a 29-20 win against Illinois on Saturday. The senior from Nebraska will have surgery soon and miss the remainder of the season.
Ferentz also ruled out first-game starters Tevaun Smith, LeShun Daniels, Boone Myers and Ike Boettger for the contest against the No. 20 Wildcats (4-1 overall, 1-1 Big Ten). Smith, Daniels and Myers sat out the Illinois game and Boettger left for good in the third quarter after injuring his ankle.
"It’s a tough deal for Drew, certainly. He’s a tremendous young guy," Ferentz said. "He’s done everything he possibly can, and especially tough because he just fought back from that elbow injury, he’s been playing less than 100 percent, pretty close last week and now this happened. As good as it was on Saturday, to get the victory, I think probably all of us had a little tough feeling on Saturday night just in expectation that this may not turn out well. That’s where it’s at.
"Drew will have that addressed here in the near future. He’s going to obviously stay with us and I’m counting on him to be a strong team leader. I know he will. But it’s a tough thing and it’s just part of the game, unfortunately."
Ott has played in all six games this season, which disqualifies him from a chance to gain an extra year of eligibility through a medical hardship waiver. He played as a true freshman in 2012 and became a starter the following fall.
Ott’s recovery from surgery will knock him out of playing in January’s Senior Bowl and likely the combine Feb. 23-29 and Iowa’s pro day in March. The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 28-30.
NFLDraftScout.com ranks Ott as the 8th best defensive end in the country.
"There were a couple scouts at practice today that are veteran guys. The one thing I’ve told them about Drew, all year long, is he’s better than you think he is. There are some players I can describe that way," Ferentz said.
When talking about Ott, Ferentz referenced Aaron Kampman, who wasn’t invited to the combine after his senior season as a starting Iowa defensive end. Green Bay took him in the 5th round of the ’02 draft and he went on to play in two Pro Bowls. He recorded 58 sacks in his 10-year professional career.
"It’s a big pothole. It’s unfortunate. The thing that’s unfortunate is it’s the senior year, that’s what amplifies it from my vantage point. It’s not going to derail him. He’ll get an (NFL) opportunity and he’ll do very well. I’ll be shocked if he’s not on somebody’s roster a year from now," Ferentz said.
Redshirt freshman Parker Hesse is the next man in for Ott. He has experience from this season during which he spelled Ott or stepped in when he was hurt.
"(Former Hawkeye) Colin Cole came back last week and talked about us being one eleventh of the team (defense). Everyone on the field has a job to do and you have to do your one eleventh," Hesse said. "Obviously Drew is a tremendous player and he goes above and beyond his one eleventh very often. But my job is to just play my role, just to be that one of 11 guys out on the field."
True freshman James Daniels is expected to replace Boettger at right tackle as he did against Illinois. Cole Croston will be opening his third game in a row at left tackle in place of Myers.
"Honestly, I looked to my right and there was James. I was like "let’s go James,"" said Jordan Walsh, who lined up at right guard. "I gave him a slap on the back and he went out there and did his job. He was pretty calm. If you ever meet James, he’s a pretty mellow and calm guy and it showed up on the field."
Smith has missed the last two games after sustaining a knee injury at the end of the North Texas contest on Sept. 26. True freshman Jerminic Smith has started in his place at receiver and was expected to do so again in Evanston.
LeShun Daniels (James’ older brother) injured his ankle against Iowa State on Sept. 12 and tried to play through it the next three games. When things didn’t improve, he sat out last week.
Jordan Canzeri rushed a record 43 times against Illinois. Ferentz was asked Tuesday if his load would be lightened this week by Akrum Wadley and/or Derrick Mitchell Jr., who are listed as co-back-ups on the newest depth chart.
"Both those guys are fully healthy now, so I imagine we’ll see at least one of them on Saturday. That would be my guess," Ferentz said.
Tight End Jake Duzey sat out the team’s first three games following off-season knee surgery. He then played a limited role in the next two contests before not seeing any action against Illinois.
"He’s climbing the ladder. That’s good news. He looks better every day, and one day may not look as good as the next, but he’s climbing the ladder," Ferentz said.
FEELING FINE: At a listed 5-foot-9, 192 pounds, Canzeri doesn’t pass the eye test of a guy who could handle 43 carries and not feel the effects. He’ll have you believe that he walked away from the performance unscathed.
"Not bad at all," he said when asked Tuesday how he felt Sunday morning. "Obviously it’s another blessing that you can go through a game that was tough like that and not have a serious injury. It doesn’t matter if you feel really sore or not sore at all, you just want to get in that training room and make sure you get the little things in and recover in all areas just so your body can be at it’s optimal potential."
Through six games, the Troy (NY) High product has carried the ball 132 times (30 more times than he had in any previous season) for 697 yards (5.3 YPC) and nine touchdowns. The senior has caught 16 passes (second on the team) for 174 yards and a score. He’s tied with Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott for conference lead in total touchdowns (10).
TAKING TO THE AIR: Opponents are finding the sledding against Iowa’s defense to be tough. Unable to get anything going on the ground, they’re throwing the ball around.
Illinois Quarterback Wes Lunt attempted 42 passes a week after Wisconsin signal caller Joel Stave squeezed off 38 attempts against the Hawkeyes. North Texas’ Andrew McNulty slung 36 balls against Iowa in the non-conference finale. That’s 116 tries in the last three weeks.
"I guess you can take that as a compliment," Senior Linebacker Cole Fisher said. "That means you’re doing you job right. The linebacker’s initial job is to stop the run."
Iowa ranks second in the conference allowing just 78.0 rushing yards per game.
FAMILY FUN ZONE: It’s been a productive season for Iowa cousins Henry Krieger Coble and George Kittle, the team’s top two tight ends on the depth chart.
Krieger Coble ranks third on squad with 15 receptions (137 yards). Kittle leads the team with three touchdown receptions, including one in each of the last three games.
Despite not finding the end zone this season, Krieger Coble said he’s not lobbying for some of the targets his cousin gets in that area.
"I’m just going out there trying to do my job and that’s just what he’s doing," Krieger Coble said. "It’s awesome. He’s earned everything he’s got. He’s going out there and playing as hard as he can every single week and that’s all you can ask. Stuff like that kind of comes when you keep working like that."
QUICK-HITTERS: Iowa Sports Information said on Tuesday that tickets remain for the final three home games. There were 14,000 left for Maryland on Oct. 31, 6,000 for Minnesota on Nov. 14 and 20,000 for Purdue on Nov. 21…Northwestern is the least penalized team in the Big Ten…The Hawkeyes rank fourth in the league in rushing offense (201.2 YPG) while Northwestern rates eighth in rushing defense (131.3 YPG)…The Wildcats sit second in rushing offense (213.7) while Iowa is second in run defense (78.0)…Iowa has dropped three of the last four games its played in Evanston.