At least four true freshmen will see significant playing time this year at Iowa, Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
Linebackers James Morris and Christian Kirksey will at least play special teams, while C.J. Fiedorowicz will get on the field as a tight end. Walk-on kicker Mike Meyer will kick off for Iowa this year.
“Those four guys are right now as of this point set to go, and we have got another probably four to six guys that we are looking at,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’ll just see how the week develops and take it a week at a time. But I think those guys have caught on pretty quickly and done some good things.”
Morris (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) was taking repetitions at middle linebacker with Iowa’s third-defense. He was The Gazette’s Prep Athlete of the Year and twice was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa. He led Solon to three straight state titles.
Kirksey (6-2, 195) hails from Hazelwood East in St. Louis. His nephew, Brandon, is a junior defensive tackle at Minnesota.
Fiedorowicz (6-7, 250) was Iowa’s most highly decorated recruit. He was named All-American by USA Today and a top 150 recruit. He might
“He’s really good offensively,” Iowa starting tight end Allen Reisner said. “He can catch the ball. He’s one of the best hands for tight ends I’d say coming in. Run blocking, he’s new at that but he’s definitely making strides.
“He looks like a sculpture. He’s chiseled, 260 and just pretty cut.”
Ferentz said Fiedorowicz has adjusted nicely from high school to college.
“He came in with pretty good stills, and he’s been able to learn rapidly enough to envision him playing and playing well on the field,” Ferentz said. “It’s one thing to throw a guy in there, but also you want him to go in there and have success and be able to compete at a good level. We are trying to win football games right now, so we are not just trying to get somebody’s feet wet.”
There’s also potential for running backs De’Andre Johnson (5-8, 210) and Marcus Coker (6-0, 230) to see playing time this season. Coker, who’s from Bettsville, Md., injured his shoulder early in camp and Ferentz said he’s a few weeks from practicing. Johnson, a Miami, Fla., native, has impressed coaches will his hard-nosed running style this fall but Ferentz plans to keep him out of action to preserve a potential red-shirt season.
Wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley (6-0, 190) has drawn praise as a potential big-play threat.
“Kevonte has definitely shown some huge strides,” Iowa junior wide receiver Marvin McNutt said. “He’s made plays. He’s almost in the same position Keenan (Davis) was last year. He knows his play-making ability.
“Definitely he’s a playmaker, and I feel like he’d be a great part or addition of our receiving corp.”
Ferentz plans to wait until Friday before informing his kickers who will handle those duties in Saturday’s game against Eastern Illinois.
Senior Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker split kicking duties in 2008 and were rated as even in 2009 fall camp. Murray eventually got the nod, and Mossbrucker was red-shirted for the season.
“We are going to go through the week and make a decision probably at the end of the week right now,” Ferentz said. “But it’s been pretty close with competition.”
Murray, an Iowa City native, hit 32-of-33 extra points and 19 of 26 field goals last year. He was named to the Lou Groza Award watch list earlier this month.
Mossbrucker connected on 31-of-33 extra-point attempts and 13-of-15 field goals in 2008. He said he’s unsure who will get the job.
I don’t think anybody has an advantage. I think it’s even,” Mossbrucker said. “The coaches are going to have to make a decision, and that’s how it’s going to be. You’ve got to be a man about it and live with it. Everybody understands that, and we’re pretty mature about it.”
Ferentz said true freshman Mike Meyer will become the team’s kickoff specialist and could figure in at kicker.
It’s also possible Mossbrucker and Murray could rotate at kicker, something the two did in 2008.
“That happened my first year here, and that would be the ultimate competition,” Mossbrucker said. “You’re competing in a game and you’re also competing to win a spot if you think about it, if that doesn’t get you jacked up, I don’t know what does.
“I can’t miss or make field goals for him. The only thing I can do is kick the football, and that’s the only thing I can control and that’s what I’m focused on.”
Wide receivers Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Keenan Davis will handle kick return duties, while Colin Sandeman will return punts. McNutt will back up Sandeman.
COUNTING ON DAVIS
Junior middle linebacker Bruce Davis worked with the first-team defense while starter Jeff Tarpinian was out with a broken right hand. Davis said he thinks he’ll see some time at middle linebacker on Saturday.
“Yes, I expect to,” Davis said. “Whatever coaches want me to do, but I expect to get a lot of playing time on Saturday.”
Davis, who hails from Cleveland, played primarily special teams last year and earned that unit’s Hustle Team Award. He recorded 14 tackles, caused one fumble and recovered another last year.