Injuries piling up for the Hawkeyes


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Kirk Ferentz has lost track.

Well, maybe he hasn't lost track, but as Iowa's injury list continues to lengthen, it becomes a blur of diagnoses, recovery time, and possible treatments. And as has become customary this season, Ferentz spent much of his Tuesday meeting with the media discussing the ailments facing his team.

When asked if this was his most injury-plagued team in a few seasons, Ferentz avoided the question entirely, saying, "I think the two areas it [has] hurt us the most — or affected us the most — are our [offensive] line … and then, more significantly, the linebackers. I think. I think I'm right in saying that."

OK, maybe he has lost track.

This much is assured: Adam Robinson returned to practice Tuesday and will play Saturday at Northwestern, though Ferentz refused to confirm if it was a concussion that kept the running back out of the Nov. 6 matchup with Indiana.

Linebacker Jeff Tarpinian (stinger) continues to progress toward reclaiming a starting role, the 12-year head coach said. Tarpinian has played in limited passing situations the past two weeks. In the meantime, true freshman James Morris has claimed Tarpinian's middle linebacker spot.

Ferentz said Tuesday when Tarpinian is fully healthy, he'll likely move to the outside linebacker slot — a position vacated by yet another injury, Tyler Nielsen's season-ending neck ailment.

"Tyler was really playing well," the head coach said. "So that was a big loss for us a week ago. So maybe there's a little bit of a blessing there, maybe it's working out OK."

Perhaps one of Ferentz's biggest concerns is the health of his offensive line. Nolan MacMillan has missed the last three games with neck soreness. Adam Gettis filled in for two of those games before hurting his ankle against Michigan State.

Josh Koeppel — the player who suffered minor injuries earlier this season after getting struck by a truck while riding his moped — started at right guard against Indiana on Nov. 6.

Ferentz said MacMillan is "close" to full strength: "That would help us a lot because we're getting a little thin there. We're razor-thin in the line right now."

Cornerback Shaun Prater and quarterback Ricky Stanzi both emphasized the team tries to remain as unaffected by injuries as possible. This philosophy, Stanzi said, is born in the off-season, when Ferentz warns the team injuries will be a common occurrence during a 12-game season.

Still, the plethora of ailments affecting the Hawkeyes have affected nearly every phase of Iowa's attack. As Ferentz said, "James Morris would be a great kickoff coverage guy by this time of year. The only problem [is that] he's starting at middle linebacker."

And so the shuffling will continue this week, when the 13th-ranked Hawkeyes travel to Northwestern for an 11 a.m. kickoff. The only certainty — well, near-certainty — is Robinson's return to the starting lineup.

The rest, it seems, remains unknown.

"That's college football. That's why the best team wins because the team is everyone collectively," offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said. "If your backups — your second- and third-team guys — aren't up to speed, then the team as a whole will fall apart."

Norm Parker back in the office on 'limited basis'

Perhaps there has been no more-publicized injury this season than Norm Parker's foot amputation, which caused him to miss nearly two months of work. But Parker returned to the office Sunday "on a very limited basis right now," Ferentz said.

The head coach is unsure whether Parker will travel with the team to Evanston, Ill., this weekend, but Ferentz called this "a great first step" for the 69-year-old defensive coordinator.

"I think like anybody in that situation; he's got a lot of ground to cover right now from endurance and strength, that type of thing," Ferentz said. "But it's a huge step for him. It's just good to have him. I know he feels good about being home."

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