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DI Story of the Year: The year in Iowa Football

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | MAY 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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Wegher. Norm. DJK. Jewel. A-Rob. Rhabdo.

Despite a final record of 8-5 and no top-25 ranking — disappointing in the face of high preseason expectations, which included being slotted No. 9 nationally by the AP — the Iowa football team's biggest headlines of 2010 weren't made between the chalk at Kinnick Stadium.

They were just about everywhere else.

Two days into the team's preseason practices, running back Brandon Wegher left the team for "personal reasons."

At his press conferences, head coach Kirk Ferentz fielded what became the weekly "Wegher question." The man who broke Iowa's school record for rushing touchdowns by a freshman just one year earlier (8) became the team's biggest distraction.

"I've been trying to coach our team," Ferentz said Nov. 23 in response to a question regarding Wegher. "I've been kind of busy the last however many weeks … My thoughts have been on trying to coach the guys who are here working every day, and that's where it's at."

Wegher never came back. He was granted a release to transfer in December and eventually wound up at Oklahoma. The Dakota Dunes, S.D., native's stint in Norman was brief, though — Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said at a March press conference Wegher was no longer with the team.

Perhaps somewhat lost in the shuffle of player departures, Iowa also faced the temporarily loss of one of its most important coaches: Norm Parker, Ferentz's only defensive coordinator over his 12-year tenure.

Parker's absence was bigger than football, though. The 69-year-old had his right foot amputated in late September 2010 because of diabetes-related complications. Parker, who previously had toes from his left foot amputated for similar reasons, returned to coaching for December's Insight Bowl.

At an April 13 press conference, he said he was "continually improving" and reaffirmed his commitment to Iowa football. Parker will be back in 2011, likely coaching from the press box.

"[The time away] reconfirmed some thoughts that, hey, this is where I belong," Parker said. "This is what I like to do."

Before the Insight Bowl, though, December was marred by controversy and a trio of depatures.

Most notably, that of senior wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.

He was arrested Dec. 6 on seven drug-related charges. Iowa City police officers reportedly found marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs, and more than $3,000 in cash in his residence.

Johnson-Koulianos — who became Iowa's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards last fall — was dismissed from the team by Ferentz. Previously projected as a potential third- or fourth-round pick, DJK wasn't picked in last month's NFL draft.

"The guy just seems to keep finding ways to get his name in the paper for little, stupid, knick-knack type things," the National Football Post's director of college scouting, Wes Bunting, told The Daily Iowan in December. "At some point, maybe you just figure he's not that mature of a kid."

Two weeks before the Insight Bowl, Ferentz announced the transfer of running back Jewel Hampton — who is now at Southern Illinois — as well as the suspension of running back Adam Robinson from the team's bowl activities for "failing to comply with team expectations and policies." Robinson was then dismissed from the team on Jan. 3 after being arrested for possession of marijuana on Dec. 28.

Just like that, Iowa's No. 1, 2, and 3 backs entering 2010 were no longer on the roster.

For once, perhaps, the off-season was welcomed by the Hawkeye Nation.

Then there was rhabdomyolysis — known more simply as "rhabdo."

Fewer than four weeks after Robinson's dismissal, 13 players were hospitalized with the kidney-threatening condition that involves the breakdown of muscle tissue. Affected players suffered extreme muscle soreness after participating in a grueling off-season workout.

The incident prompted national attention and a root-cause analysis by a committee appointed by UI President Sally Mason. Two months later, though, the committee's report to the state Board of Regents said it was unable to pinpoint a specific cause.

"I keep getting asked that question over and over," cornerback Shaun Prater said March 30 when asked why it happened. He was one of the 13 hospitalized. "Honestly, I think possibly we all just took it too far. Maybe we had too much weight. I'm not really sure it what it was."

After the rocky season, the outlook for the Hawkeyes this fall — in terms of preseason expectations — is quite the opposite of last year. The Hawkeyes lose a Big Ten-high 12 starters and face question marks at receiver, defensive line, linebacker, safety, and special teams.

Sometimes, though, that's when Ferentz's teams are at their best.

"We have gone into that underdog role just because of our record, obviously, but that's good," senior defensive tackle Mike Daniels said March 30. "That's fine. We welcome it. It gives us motivation, pushes us harder, and last I recall, when we were in the underdog role, we won the Orange Bowl."


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