Coach alluded to the transition that's going on in the off‑season and I really want to just start off saying it's been a pleasure working with Greg Davis over the past couple weeks and really picking his brain and learning from him.
He's a very knowledgeable guy obviously and the best attribute about him is he's just a tremendous teacher, and our players have really taken to him on the offensive side of the ball.
So the transition on our side of the ball is really going quite smoothly and just been a pleasure to work with Greg. His track record, his years at Texas, with the players he's produced and the offenses he's had, it's really going to be a great transition for us.
Obviously moving into spring practice, getting into pads today and again Kirk alluded to it, we'll find out a little bit more about the running backs as we move forward here. Obviously Jordan Canzeri, we saw a little bit last year in that Bowl game, he played pretty well for getting his first extensive action. But he was a guy who had some hamstring issues there at the end of the year. So we didn't quite get him as much work as we would have liked throughout the season. He's doing a nice job.
Damon Bullock has really jumped around, found a home now at the tailback position and he's doing a nice job. And then De'Andre Johnson is another guy that has an awful lot of talent and he's really going to be competing for the job here in the spring.
As you know we have two young tailbacks coming in in the fall in August in Greg Garmon out of Erie, Pennsylvania and Barkley Hill out of Cedar Falls. We'll be excited to get those guys up and running around here come fall camp.
You look at the specialist position right now, Coach alluded to it again, Jonny Mullings and John Wienke will be competing for that title job here throughout spring ball.
And we have Connor Kornbrath coming in, a young man from West Virginia. Phil, is that the first recruit from West Virginia to play at Iowa? That will give you something to do in your retirement [addressed to outgoing UI Sports Information Director Phil Haddy]. Something to do here between golf rounds, start looking that up.
Obviously Connor will come in here and have a chance to compete for the job here in fall, also. And then every spring ball, this place kicking competition is open and obviously Mike has kicked for us here in two years, has done a good job but it's going to be open between him and Trent and Marshall Koehn will jump into the mix here, also.
With the running backs, how much has that helped you having inside Bowl prep with the same three running backs that are on the depth chart now?
COACH ERB: Those Bowl preps are invaluable, just to be moving those guys forward. Obviously Damon had a little bit quicker transition. He started off as a tailback, moved to wide receiver, back to running back I think for the two games in the season and then back to receiver, and then about a week before the Oklahoma game.
He's probably a little bit further behind from a knowledge standpoint. But you know, those practices are invaluable.
What does Jordan still have to show you to make you believe that he's your No. 1 guy without question?
COACH ERB: I think it just comes down to consistency. Jordan again was hampered with some injuries last year, so like I said, we didn't get him quite as much work as we would have liked to throughout the year.
But he's really added some weight. He's a little bit bigger than he was last year. You know, he did a good job in that Bowl game.
I think what he demonstrated in that Bowl game is, I think he carried the ball 22 times in that game so he demonstrated a little bit of durability there for being not the biggest back out there.
But he's got to improve on some things, pass protection and some of those other areas, and that's what we are looking for.
What has it been like adjusting to new coaches, old coaches at new positions and just all of the change this off‑season has brought?
COACH ERB: You know, I'm probably the one having the most trouble with the transition just from ‑‑ I was in the same terminology, the same system for really about 15 straight years.
So obviously the terminology has changed. The concepts haven't changed a whole lot. But our players have really taken to it, and a couple of the players might even be a little bit ahead of me just to be honest. But that just comes down to me being able to translate it back into the system that I've been in 15 years.
But our players are doing a great job with that transition.
How challenging have the last few years been for you as a position coach, all of the different backs coming and going?
COACH ERB: I'm getting good practice at it. The biggest thing is, you know, our players are eager to learn and really, coaching is coaching.
You know, the guys we have had in the room have been eager to learn and it's just as a coach, you kind of start over every year anyhow. But I've had some practice at it.
Do you get asked about recruiting by other running backs?
COACH ERB: Not a whole lot with that. I think it just comes down to, you know, there's going to be opportunities for those guys.
When you recruit guys, they see an opportunity that they are going to come in and have a chance to play, and fortunately over the past couple of years, we have been able to sell that.
The running back position ‑‑
COACH ERB: I kind of look at it like this. We are dealing with 18‑ to 22‑year‑old guys. As you know, 18 to 22 years old, you don't always make the best decisions.
As much as we can educate these guys and Kirk does a great job of educating these guys on the pitfalls of being a college student, especially a college football player, I mean, through the various program speakers, we have had a number of examples obviously, but really it comes down to decision making and as coaches, we cannot be with those guys 24 hours a day. It really comes down to education and hoping those guys make good decisions.
Do you think they don't seem to grasp ‑‑ you're in the room with them all the time; I'm sure you've hammered them.
COACH ERB: Yeah, again, it's an educational process. And you know, whether you're a parent, whether you're a teacher, when your students don't always get the message, you have to re‑evaluate what you're doing, and as a coach, you're evaluating anyhow. You're always evaluating.
So it's an evaluation process and you're always trying to educate these guys.
Are you looking forward – Damon Bullock, we didn't get to see him much last year at running back. What kind of running back is he, and what can you expect from him?
COACH ERB: Damon is really demonstrating to be a versatile athlete. He has great vision, real good balance, can really catch the ball out of the backfield well, and he's a little bit faster than people give him credit for. He's kind of more of a slasher. He's not going to be a true downhill, punishing runner, but he does have some toughness and he has demonstrated he can lower his pads.
We are excited to give him a number of practices together to see how well he can improve.
With Coach Davis, with running backs catching pass, is that more of a feature this year? Do you see that coming?
COACH ERB: I told the backs the other day, the more you catch the ball out of the back field, the more the quarterback is going to look for you. It really comes down to that. Coach Davis does a great job of working with the quarterbacks, going through their initial reads, and obviously getting the ball down and out quick.
So you know, we will look to catch a few more balls, but again it comes down to, as long as we catch them, the quarterback has more trust in us.
What do you see out of Brad Rogers? Do you see an expanded role?
COACH ERB: Brad is just ‑‑ the biggest thing Brad brings to us is versatility. He has played tailback here. He was brought in as a tailback. He can run the ball. He can be a big one‑back type of back, but he's also tough enough to play fullback.
And Brad is really kind of another example of Brad ‑‑ a year ago wasn't able to build because of a medical condition. We threw him in early in the season, he didn't have a ton of reps before we threw him in some of the games so he improved as the year went on.
But Brad Rogers, the biggest thing he brings to our room is his great, great leadership and he's a guy that can do a lot of things that we would ask.
You've had a lot of recruiting success in Chicago; what do you attribute that to?
COACH ERB: Recruiting is a group effort. I just happen to have the Chicagoland area. Really when you go in, and you talk to any recruit in any area, it comes down to really what you're trying to sell.
And we have got a tremendous program here. Obviously we have got the best head coach in America. We've had some success around here. Once guys get on campus and see it, they tend to fall in love with it. Those guys we recruited out of Chicago recently did a tremendous job of helping us with some of those guys over there. Ryan Ward, Faith Ekakitie and Jaleel Johnson all really bought into what Iowa is all about.
Do you see these guys producing ‑‑ you have a guy who is about 250 carries usually; do you see this group producing one of those?
COACH ERB: Time will tell. We'll see as we go through spring and then obviously to the fall. But we have a number of guys that are versatile, so we will ‑‑ ask me that question in November and I'll give you a better answer.
Can you talk about the two guys coming in?
COACH ERB: With both Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill, two guys that had tremendous high school careers, both guys obviously Greg coming out of Erie, Pennsylvania where we have had some success with guys coming in here; both of them are a little bit bigger backs. Greg is more of a slasher. But he shows he can get downhill and run tough. Very good speed.
Then Barkley just had a tremendous high school career up there at Cedar Falls and we are excited to get him in here. Both guys have a passion for football and both guys are going to have a chance to come in here and compete.
Was playing time a big deal with Garmon ‑‑ being able to sell that?
COACH ERB: I think it was. I think it was both him, Barkley and Greg, coming in and competing for a spot, and the best guy is going to win. I think that was attractive to both.
Is basically what you see in August going to determine what action those guys are going to see?
COACH ERB: Depends how well they can pick up the system and how well they can hold up the ball and how well they can protect the quarterback. That all goes into it. And that's not the end of our evaluation.
It really comes down to the transition that they make into college, because obviously coming from high school to college, the game is going to be faster. We are going to demand more of them from a maturity standpoint. We have got to see how all of those things factor in.
How open is it, and what do you need to see out of Mike Meyer? He started out really great, I think 12 of 14 and then tailed off.
COACH ERB: At the kicking position more than anything, it just comes down to consistency. That's what it comes down to.
Mike started off the season great and missed a few kicks that he knows he can make. Mike has tremendous talent. Again it just comes down to being a little bit more consistent.
Can you envision using somebody else on kickoffs to maybe help with his leg fatigue?
COACH ERB: We have done that in the past and again it will come down to who is best suited for the job.
Punting … was that something Wienke volunteered for or something you saw?
COACH ERB: A little known fact coming out of high school: John Wienke was the all‑state punter. He punted seven times in high school.
So John toyed around with it a little bit when he got in here, and obviously a pretty good opportunity for him right now. John was on the field for us last year as our holder. Good thing is, nobody knew it, but he was on the field for all of our PATs and field goals last year so, gave him a role.
Think he can throw the ball, too?
COACH ERB: We faked one punt around here in 13 years, if you haven't checked. And I think it was Bradley who threw it who was an ex‑quarterback, so we'll see.
Kickoff from the 35 ‑‑ how will that change kickoffs?
COACH ERB: It remains to be seen. I think you'll obviously see lot more touchbacks than has been in the past. I think the rule is also, if it's a touchback on a kickoff, it comes down to the 25. So there will be some discussion as we go along here how we want to approach it.
Obviously it was a safety issue, so I think you'll see a lot more touch backs than you've seen in the past.
Do you look for a kicker that can hang the ball up there around the 10?
COACH ERB: Yeah, I think he ‑‑ kicking the ball, not giving them a chance to return is ‑‑ you don't have to cover. You are taking an offensive play away from those guys.
What does it say about Trent that he's willing to stick around, and you, that you are going to keep him on scholarship through five years?
COACH ERB: Trent is a competitive guy, and Trent is competing out there every single day. He's not a guy that when things get tough he's going to walk away from it. It says an awful lot about him and his character.
He's going to go out there and he's going to compete every single day and if he wins the job and he's the best guy for it, he's going to be happy. If it's not, if he's not the guy, he's still going to go out there and approach it like he is.
The willingness to offer kickers scholarship ‑‑
COACH ERB: That comes down to the character of our head coach. Coach Ferentz isn't in this just to win and lose games. He's in it truly for the well being of our student-athletes.
What do you see in Marshall Koehn; do you think being maybe the only guy not on scholarship kind of drives him and gives him a little chip on his shoulder?
COACH ERB: He's going to be competing with it also, and Marshall has tremendous potential, too. We are pretty fortunate right now that we have three pretty good kickers.