Iowa extended its pipeline to the NFL by 11 players, including six draft picks this weekend. The Hawkeyes have had 18 drafted players in the last three years, four more than any other Big Ten team.
Joy and celebration was fleeting in Eastern Iowa, however, for most of the draft. Tackle Riley Reiff, once projected as a top-10 pick, fell to No. 23 before he was selected by the Detroit Lions. Marvin McNutt, Iowa’s all-time leading receiver in virtually every category, sat undrafted until the late sixth round when Philadelphia scooped him up.
Most of the interaction among Iowa fans Saturday was consternation and disbelief that McNutt could fall so far. Fans who had watched him make some of the school’s most important catches (last-second TD vs. Michigan State in 2009) and unbelievable catches (one-handed haul-in against Michigan State in 2011) thought he was among the best entering the league. Instead, NFL evaluators determined he was the 26th-best wide receiver in the draft.
But that all means little now for McNutt. The real question for him — and all Iowa draft picks and free agents — is can he stick? Here’s a look at every situation facing Iowa’s players entering training camp this summer:
McNUTT — Despite his low draft status, McNutt has a nice chance of making the Eagles as the team’s fourth wide receiver. Philadelphia has three established receivers in Jeremy Maclin (63 catches), Desean Jackson (58 catches) and Jason Avant (52). McNutt’s primary training camp battle will come against Riley Cooper, a Florida product who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. Cooper, who like McNutt stands about 6-foot-3, had 16 catches last year for 315 yards and a score. Philly has other decent receivers who are better special teams prospects than McNutt, so he has to win this one-on-one match-up to make the team.
REIFF — Other than a hit to the wallet, falling to this spot was almost perfect for Reiff. Detroit returns all five starters up front for a playoff team with a top-shelf quarterback and the league’s best wide receiver. There’s little pressure for Reiff, other than to contribute right away. He’s not going to be forced in as a day-one starter at left tackle, although that’s his ultimate destination. But he likely will start somewhere (right tackle, guard, maybe left tackle) this year.
MIKE DANIELS, DT — The Green Bay Packers picked Daniels in the fourth round and will ask him to contribute right away in their nickel defense, in which he’ll line up over the guard on passing downs. It’s an odd pairing, primarily because Daniels isn’t big enough to anchor a traditional 3-4 defensive line spot. But Daniels brings tenacity, which should help the porous Packers defense. He’ll have every opportunity to make the squad as a situational player.
SHAUN PRATER, CB — Special teams play is critical for Prater’s chances with the Cincinnati Bengals, and that’s where he excelled at Iowa. Prater, a fifth-round pick, was a special teams ace his sophomore year, then helped out when asked as a starting cornerback his junior and senior year. If he can play special teams up to Cincinnati’s standards, he’ll make journeymen vets Terence Newman, Adam “Pac-Man” Jones and Nate Clements somewhat expendable and contribute as a fourth cornerback.
ADAM GETTIS, G — Washington picked up Gettis in the fifth round, and the Redskins have issues along the interior offensive line. Two players — center Will Montgomery and guard Kory Lichtensteiger — are solid and dependable, although Lichtensteiger suffered a torn ACL last year. Coach Mike Shanahan likes to run a quick-trap, zone-style of attack, of which Gettis is familiar. The Redskins also drafted SMU guard Josh LeRiebus in the third round, so Gettis will have every shot at contribute right away.
JORDAN BERNSTINE, S — The Redskins’ secondary is filled with journeymen. Bernstine, a seventh-round pick, has all the ability in the world, as shown by his unofficial 4.38 40-yard dash time. The Redskins will try him first at cornerback and on special teams. If he stays healthy and competes in training camp, he’ll make the team.
As for the free agents:
TYLER NIELSEN, LB — Nielsen agreed to terms with his boyhood favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings. He’s a natural strong-side linebacker, which places him directly behind former Hawkeye and Pro Bowler Chad Greenway. But Minnesota needs help at linebacker and drafted only one (North Carolina State’s Audie Cole) and that was in the seventh round. Nielsen’s experience playing multiple linebacker positions and special teams are crucial and could aid him in battling for a roster spot.
MARKUS ZUSEVICS, T — A torn pectoral muscle at the NFL Scouting Combine sent Zusevics free-falling from third or fourth round to street free agent. He heads to New England, which has invested three major draft picks at tackle since 2009. It will be a challenge making the roster, but he might land on the practice team.
BRAD HERMAN, TE — Herman landed in New England, which immediately sounds daunting. The Patriots boast the best tight-end tandem in NFL history with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But former NE tight ends coach and current Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz might have helped Herman land in New England. Herman’s versatility — he came to Iowa as a linebacker — could aid him in training camp and help him fight for a practice team spot.
BRODERICK BINNS, OLB/DE — With the Arizona Cardinals, Binns may have found the best home for him as a street free agent. The Cardinals have shuffled out veterans Clark Haggans and Joey Porter but didn’t invest at rush linebacker/end in the draft. He’ll battle former Wisconsin defensive end O’Brien Schofield and ex-Texas DE Sam Acho along with a pair of street free agents Antonio Coleman and Brandon Williams for a roster spot. If Binns can show a quick first step, he’s got a chance.
ERIC GUTHRIE, P — Guthrie faces a similar situation as former Hawkeye Ryan Donahue last year but faces a tougher road. Guthrie will try to unseat established Michael Koenen, who put up 45.3 yards per punt and 40.3 net (eighth in the NFL). Donahue beat out Nick Harris in Detroit last year in part because of the salary cap. If Guthrie is close to Koenen in training camp and in preseason games, the salary cap may play into Guthrie’s favor.
– Scott Dochterman
NFL DRAFT AND OTHER LINKAGE
– Iowa’s Riley Reiff stayed home in Parkston, S.D., for the NFL draft instead of accepting the league’s invitation to be among other premier players in New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
The story was he was more at ease in the sticks. Which was true. But there was a more-important reason. Reiff wanted to be near his 92-year-old grandpa, Lloyd Reiff, who was more excited about Reiff’s status than perhaps anyone in Parkston, Riley included.
– Former Hawkeye running back Jewel Hampton has an NFL team.
Hampton, who transferred from Iowa to Southern Illinois for his senior season, signed a contract as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Niners have Frank Gore, recent free agent signee Brandon Jacobs, and draftee LaMichael James of Oregon at running back, among others.
Former Iowa linebacker Dezman Moses, who left the team after the 2008 season, agreed to terms with the Green Bay Packers. Moses had 9.5 sacks and was a second-team all-Conference USA defensive end at Tulane.
Report: Concussion ends DiBona’s career
– Iowa linebacker Shane DiBona had multiple injuries during his four years in Iowa City, including rhabomyolysis. The Boston Herald reported over the weekend that a concussion, during a non-contact drill, ended the junior linebacker’s career.
– Marc Morehouse
– Nebraska lost a running back on Sunday.
Sophomore Aaron Green said he wants to play closer to his Texas home. Nebraska has released him from his scholarship. As a true freshman last year, he rushed 24 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Green went through spring football with the Cornhuskers. He certainly wasn’t going to win the starting spot from incumbent Rex Burkhead, and sophomore Ameer Abdullah is the clear No. 2 RB. Green’s brother, Andrew, may start for Nebraska at cornerback this fall.
– Michigan State, 2012 national-championship contender? In football?
Spartan linebacker Denicos Allen says yes.
Said Allen: “We know what we have on this team. We know what kind of talent, we know the possibilities. This team can go to the national championship. … Our expectations shouldn’t be Rose Bowl. It should be national champs. Because we can do it.”
That’s after six MSU players went in the NFL draft, including quarterback Kirk Cousins, defensive end Jerel Worthy, and receivers Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham.
Interestingly, the Miami Dolphins took Cunningham in the sixth round when Iowa’s Marvin McNutt was still on the board. Miami’s wide receivers coach is Ken O’Keefe.
There is no sentimentality in pro football.
– Here’s another item from college sports that makes the Bo Ryan-Jarrod Uthoff episode seem like small potatoes:
Larry Brown, who has changed jobs in his sleep over the years, got hired as SMU’s men’s basketball coach. He promptly got rid of four players on the team, including the starting point guard, Jeremiah Samarrippas. None were in any apparent trouble academically or as citizens.
“He basically told me that I wasn’t good enough to play for him,” Samarrippas said.
“I’ve established two years of relationships with people and that’s going to be the hardest part about leaving,”
The four can stay on scholarship. They just can’t play with the team.
Isn’t that special? We hear how players aren’t honoring commitments with schools when they choose to transfer. But these four were honoring their commitments and are getting kicked to the curb.
Oh, but SMU does have $700,000 a year for Tim Jankovich to become Brown’s top assistant.
– Roy Williams knows his way around Iowa.
He worked the state hard to get Raef LaFrentz. And Nick Collison. And Kirk Hinrich.
That was when he was Kansas’ men’s basketball coach. At North Carolina he wooed Harrison Barnes from Ames and Marcus Paige from Marion.
At a recent Tar Heel Tour event, someone in the crowd asked Williams if he stopped recruiting current Duke player Mason Plumlee because he didn’t want to go head-to-head with Mike Krzyzewski.
This CBSsports,com item contains this response:
“I went to freaking Ames, Iowa eleven times and his [rear end] went twice,” Williams said, in reference to the recruitment of Harrison Barnes. “Don’t tell me I’m not going to go head-to-head.”
– Finally, the University of Iowa has just one former player in the NBA. And according to poll of 118 of his peers, he is the dirtiest player in the league.
His name is Reggie Evans. And he got 37 percent of the vote. World Metta Peace had a mere 9 percent.
But what a game Evans (13 rebounds) and his Los Angeles Clippers teammates had Sunday night, rallying from 27 points behind to win the opener of their playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, 99-98.
– Compiled by Mike Hlas
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