Hawks not in top 3 at Big Ten Media Days


CHICAGO — Even with the late-season success demonstrated by the Iowa Hawkeyes last season, the team’s 2009 version might be flying under the radar again.

Injuries, regarding inexperience, and a daunting road schedule this fall contributed to the Hawkeyes failing to make the preseason top three at the first day of the 2009 Big Ten football media days.

Kirk Ferentz, who is entering his 11th season as Iowa’s head coach, cleared up a few issues that have circulated around his team this summer. Talking about injuries, he said junior offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde, who had surgery in June for an undisclosed injury, will be held out of the early parts of fall camp, and his status for Iowa’s season-opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 5 is not known.

“It’s probably not realistic to think he’ll be ready, but you know, everyone heals differently,” Ferentz said. “I can assure you it’s like every injury. We’re going to go kind of conservative on the comeback.”

Ferentz also said that senior right tackle Kyle Calloway will serve a one-game suspension because of his OWI arrest in June, meaning he will return for Iowa’s first road contest of the season, at Iowa State on Sept. 12.

As for the status of sophomore running back Jewel Hampton, Ferentz said the knee injury suffered by the Indianapolis native earlier in the month won’t need surgery. Hampton, the likely successor in the Hawkeye backfield to Shonn Greene, was hurt during a noncontact drill.

“We expect him to be full speed,” he said. “Nobody fell on him, nobody tripped him or anything like that. It was just one of those things like a lot of knee injuries are.”

Ferentz also noted two key competitions for starting positions.

One is at center, where there is a three-man race among senior Rafael Eubanks, junior Josh Koeppel, and redshirt freshman James Ferentz.

Ferentz also said the left cornerback opposite junior cornerback Amari Spievey was open. At the moment, it appears junior Jordan Bernstine is in good position to lock that spot up.

“Jordan had a good spring, and one of the challenges with Jordan is keeping him healthy and keeping him out there where he can practice and practice and practice,” Kirk Ferentz said. “I think if he can do that, he’ll be fine. He’s got a great attitude. But there will be other guys competing with him.”

For all the success Iowa has had in Kinnick Stadium, perhaps no Big Ten team has a more brutal road schedule. The Hawkeyes have the lone distinction of playing Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State away.

The Buckeyes were picked as the league’s preseason selection to win the conference, with the Nittany Lions second and the Spartans third.

Former Penn State linebacker Matt Millen — now a college football analyst for ESPN working at Media Days Monday — called Iowa’s Big Ten opener in prime time at Penn State as “a monster.”

“If things go well, they should both be unbeaten, they should be ranked, both of them pretty highly, and it’s going to be a great venue,” the former general manager of the Detroit Lions said. “It will be a ‘White-Out’ game at Penn State, it will be a nationally televised game … it will have all the ingredients you need for great college football.”

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