By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The much-talked-about wait continues on Oliver Martin’s playing status for this season, but Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz expressed optimism that a decision will be made this week.
Iowa will open the 2019 season against Miami of Ohio on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
“There is no announcement on Oliver Martin,” Ferentz said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “We do hope to hear something this week. That would be great, and obviously timely, good, bad or indifferent.
“That will be nice to hear something. I think that's realistic, and when we do, we'll make an announcement on that, but at this point there is no decision.”
Martin, a 2017 graduate from Iowa City West, transferred to Iowa in June after having played his first two seasons for Michigan.
His family has hired an attorney and submitted a waiver with the NCAA in hopes that Martin will be allowed to play this season.
“I appreciate that every case is different, too, but just talking as a sports fan now, reading what you read and hearing what you hear,” Ferentz said. “It seems like there's a lot of inconsistencies — or different scenarios is probably a better way to put it. But the one thing for sure to try to predict what's going to happen in any case, it sounds like that might be impossible, and we learned that a couple years ago firsthand.”
Ferentz said Martin would play in Saturday’s game if the NCAA grants his waiver.
“Yeah, he's definitely in our plan to play him, and he would be on the travel team if we were traveling,” Ferentz said. “Yeah, if we get the green light, he'll be in there playing at some point, absolutely.”
Spencer Petras on the rise: Ferentz said Tuesday that redshirt freshman Spencer Petras is currently leading the competition for the backup quarterback spot behind senior Nate Stanley.
At least for now.
Petras has been battling sophomore Peyton Mansell for the backup spot since spring practice.
“Needless to say, Nate Stanley is our quarterback,” Ferentz said. “If we were playing tomorrow, which we're not, Petras would be the next guy in the game with Mansell third. But we'll play the week out and see how that goes, too.
“In that competition as you can read between the lines, it has been pretty close all the way through. We'll wait and see on that one. But right now Spencer would be the first guy in the game.”
Petras is a 6-foot-5, 230-pound native of San Rafael, Calif., who passed for over 4,100 yards as a high school senior.
Injury report: Junior offensive guard Cole Banwart is doubtful for Saturday’s season opener due to an undisclosed injury.
But other than his injury, Iowa made it through preseason practice relatively unscathed, according to Ferentz.
Junior tight end Shaun Beyer missed a week of practice due to an injury, but has since returned and is competing with senior Drew Cook for the backup spot behind senior Nate Wieting.
“Shaun lost some time back in the spring, and same thing in camp, he missed, I don't know, probably about a week plus, which seems like three weeks in camp because it's all so condensed,” Ferentz said. “So that's the only reason.
“But he's back practicing. Actually a little bit before I anticipated. Got back, I think, on Saturday or Friday, so he's back in the mix. He'll be playing Saturday. It's pretty close with both those players.”
Still too close to call: Ferentz said the competition between junior kickers Caleb Shudak and Keith Duncan still is too close to call.
The only certainty heading into Saturday's season opener is that Shudak will handle the kickoff duties.
"We're probably going to talk about that in about three hours here," Ferentz said. "They're both really doing a good job. They both competed. It's been neck and neck. And I looked at the stats the other day, you can almost flip a coin. So it might be fair to say we'll let both guys play and see what happens. And they both did a good job this morning in practice, which is certainly encouraging. Caleb will be kicking off, though, I will go out on a limb and say that one."
Shudak and Duncan are competing to replace Miguel Recinos, who used up his eligibility last season after having started for two seasons.
Freshmen of influence: Ferentz spoke highly of true freshmen running backs Shadrick Byrd and Tyler Goodson on Tuesday, saying they both could contribute this season, including on special teams.
Ferentz didn’t volunteer any names of true freshmen who could play this season, but he was asked about the status of Byrd and Goodson, who are from Alabama and Georgia, respectively.
“Really been pleased,” Ferentz said of two freshmen running backs. “Shadrick got here in January and came a long way from home, so a little bit of concern there. He may have had some bumps. You never witnessed them at all. He really did a good job and proved he was tough. Because when you're running behind the second line, especially in the spring, it's a little bit like running behind a 99, you know a little bit like that. He proved that he was a tough kid, and he just kept coming back, and he just had a really nice demeanor to himself. He's been great.
“And Tyler, obviously, we learned a lot more about him in August here when we started practicing. Really pleased with both guys, and I think they both have opportunities. They're guys that we're definitely considering playing, both offensively and special teams. We'll keep talking about when we do or don't do that, but they're both in the picture right now.”
Ferentz also said it is unlikely at this stage that any true freshmen will play on defense, but that could change as the season progresses, especially since true freshmen are allowed to play in four games without losing a year of eligibility.
Eight is enough: Iowa is one of 15 teams to win at least eight games in every season since 2015. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 9-4 season and are 37-16 since 2015.
The other teams to win at least eight games in every season since 2015 are Alabama, Appalachian State, Boise State, Clemson, Georgia, Louisiana State, Memphis, Michigan, Ohio, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Washington and Wisconsin.
Iowa’s 2004 Big Ten champion team honored at Fryfest: In honor of its 15th anniversary, Fryfest will feature members of Iowa’s 2004 Big Ten champion team as featured guests.
The festivities will include a panel discussion with former players Warren Holloway, Chad Greenway and Matt Roth among others.
Iowa capped the 2004 season by defeating Louisiana State 30-25 in the Capital One Bowl as Holloway caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from Drew Tate as time expired. It was Holloway’s only touchdown as a Hawkeye and it now ranks as arguably the greatest catch in program history.
This marks the 11th year of Fryfest, which is named after legendary Iowa head coach Hayden Fry.
The event will be held on Friday at Coralville’s Iowa River Landing and includes the world’s largest Hawkeye tradeshow, a panel discussion and an autograph session with the 2019 Athletic Hall of Fame class that includes former Iowa All-America defensive end Leroy Smith and fullback Jeremy Allen.