By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – It doesn’t take long to figure out that Iowa redshirt freshman defensive lineman Yahya Black is a man of few words, and those words he does not mince.
Though he was in an uncomfortable situation surrounded by reporters with the sun beating down on him on Friday during Iowa’s annual media day event, Black said what he needed to say while downplaying the hype surrounding him heading into the season.
“Just coming here and working with the defensive line,” Black said. “There’s great coaches, great mentors that have been with me through the whole process, so I can’t really say there’s much else I could get from a great program.”
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Black missed Iowa’s first three games in 2020 due to injury, but played in the next four games before redshirting.
The 6-foot-5, 287-pound Black recorded three tackles in limited action against Minnesota, Penn State, Nebraska and Illinois.
Black also missed time during spring practice this year due to injury.
Black, a native of Marshall, Minnesota, had the luxury of sitting behind and learning from Daviyon Nixon and Chauncey Golston, both of whom were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Learning from future pros helps, but Black’s willingness to learn was crucial, according to defensive line coach Kelvin Bell.
“He soaked up everything he could from Daviyon Nixon,” Bell said. “Everything he could from Chauncey Golston and Jack Heflin. I think those older guys saw the potential in him. First off, they see that he’s a big guy and he’s not afraid of contact. That’s the first thing they saw. He plays with great energy, and I think they connected with him. He soaked up as much as he could last year, and it’s really helping him now.
“Even though he spent some time out with an injury, we got him back here the past few days. He’s picked up where he left off, let’s put it that way.”
There has been a lot of talk about Black’s potential, whether it be on message boards or social media, but Black, frankly, couldn’t care less.
When asked Friday if he paid attention to the talk about him, Black was characteristically reserved.
“Don’t need to,” Black said.
While he might not say much to the media, Black was described by junior defensive end John Waggoner of having a dry sense of humor.
“He’s actually a funny dude once you crack his shell a little bit. He’s actually in my locker pod, he’s a couple lockers away so we get along real well. He’s a great kid. Big, athletic kid.”
Black was listed as a defensive end during the 2020 season, but made the switch to defensive tackle during the offseason, at least according to the depth chart.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker said Friday that depending on the situation, Black could move around a bit.
“I think he does a good job in there,” Parker said. “I think he’s a guy who could play both positions. On third downs it might be different, we might put him inside or outside, we don’t know that right now. But I think inside is his spot. He really does a good job of separating and getting off blocks. We’re excited to see how much he can grow.”
Whether you talk to Black, Bell, Parker or any of Black’s teammates, one thing is clear – Black is less reserved on the field than he is off of it.
“It’s uncommon for young people in general because they don’t know,” Bell said. “They don’t know what hard work is. They don’t know what hard is. They just don’t know. I think with Yahya, I think his upbringing, being lightly recruited and having this opportunity. He came here because of the environment. He wanted to be pushed, he wanted to be coached hard and I think he’s relishing it.”
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Schott foot: Head coach Kirk Ferentz announced Friday that senior offensive lineman Kyler Schott will miss at least Iowa’s season opener against Indiana on Sept. 4 due to a right foot injury sustained while bailing hay on his family farm.
Schott, a native of Coggan, said Friday that jumped off a roughly six-foot tall pile of hay bales and knew that he had injured it right away.
Schott said it’s the same injury he sustained in his left foot in 2019 that caused him to miss five games.
“I’d say I’ve done it maybe even 1,000 times,” Schott said. “It just happened to be this time that I didn’t land it right. Not the best event, but I’m going to bounce back as fast as I can and hopefully get back out there soon.”
Schott has started eight games during his Hawkeye career and was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season.
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Vaccine update: Ferentz said at Big Ten media day in July that his team was around 70% vaccinated against COVID-19.
On Friday, Ferentz said that number has since risen and he expects the team to be around 90% vaccinated by the time the season opener comes around.
“We continue to educate — that’s our No. 1 priority, to educate our players about what the protocols are going to be and just what we all feel is probably in their best interest,” Ferentz said. “A lot of guys have responded real favorably, and I think when September 1st rolls around, we still have guys that are in the process of getting vaccinated. We have at least a handful, if not two, tomorrow that are going to get vaccinated.
“So when September rolls around, we expect to be in a pretty good position. But that remains our players’ choice what they choose to do. We’re not going to mandate, but we are going to continue to educate, and I’d encourage all of our fans to consider doing the same thing. There’s nothing any of us want more than to have a full house in Kinnick each and every week, and hopefully everybody will do their part to be part of that. So feel good about the direction we’re going there.”