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Hansen: Stories left over from Big Ten media days

[ 0 ] July 30, 2011 |

Impressions left over from two days of eating, sleeping, living and breathing Big Ten Conference football on the south side of Chicago:

For two days, Nebraska was the center of the universe. Imagine the fuss if Notre Dame ever joins the league.

McCormick Place won’t be big enough to contain the hyperbole. “Legends” and “Leaders” won’t do the conference justice as names for the two divisions go. They will seem understated and unworthy.

Forced to borrow from superhero comics, the Big Ten will become the Justice League. Notre Dame will join the newly formed Green Lantern Division. The other division will be the Incredible Hulks. Sorry, but it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead.

Bo Pelini, the Nebraska coach, is a scary guy on TV. When something goes wrong for the Huskers during a game and the camera pans to the sideline, the protruding veins in his neck really come through on high def. In person, he seems much calmer and gentler. A lot was made, however, of the fact that Pelini wore a necktie to meet the press. It’s hard to know how to interpret that.

Pelini isn’t the only new coach joining the league. Helpful reader Kirk Tofte of Urbandale says Jerry Kill, the new Minnesota coach, reminds him of Hayden Fry — “an older, experienced head coach who knows what he wants to do and how to do it. Like Fry, Kill has brought long-time staff members with him to his new job.”

If you want to look smart, Tofte tells me, you’ll get on the bandwagon early. He makes some good points. Kill is a fine rebuilder and a nice fit. But some things don’t change.

There’s still only one football team anyone cares about up there, and it isn’t the U.

Before the season kicks off in a few weeks, all the new coaches look like world-beaters.

Brady Hoke, at Michigan, followed Chuck Long as the coach at San Diego State. He started 4-8 but jumped to 9-4 and a bowl game the next year.

Ferentz remembers Hoke best for his time at Ball State. The Cardinals were terrible when he arrived, finishing 4-8 and 2-9 before improving every year after. In Hoke’s last season in Muncie, Ind., Ball State was undefeated in the league. Can he work similar wonders at Michigan?

“Write it down,” Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s going to happen.”

Marvin McNutt, Iowa’s all-Big Ten wide receiver, says he’s much faster as a wide receiver than he was as a quarterback. When he switched positions a few years ago, he said his 40 time was 4.72 seconds. It is now 4.5. Instead of taking five-step drops behind the center, he spent the practices running 50 yards downfield.

Ferentz agrees. “In ’08, Marvin couldn’t run three routes without taking a 10-minute break. Anybody over 6-1 is branded as a possession guy, but I don’t see anybody catching him when he gets the ball.”

McNutt, by the way, is like a lot of other Hawkeyes who end up showing NFL ability.

They’re missing something, at least in the eyes of Texas, Florida, Ohio State, Alabama and the other national elites. But they come to Iowa City and find their niche.

On Friday, somebody at Ferentz’s roundtable mentioned the name Jordan Canzeri out of Troy, N.Y. A running back, Canzeri stands 5 feet, 9 inches and might weigh a biscuit or two over 170 pounds. He’d committed to Villanova before Iowa entered the picture in January and offered him a scholarship. Connecticut rushed in late, but Canzeri signed with the Hawkeyes three weeks after they got in touch with him.

They beat what used to be called a Division I-AA school for this young man. Who knows how it will turn out, but Ferentz talked about the way he “blew it” with Danny Woodhead a few years ago and said he wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.

Woodhead, from North Platte, Neb., was a great high school player who got no Division I offers out of college, mainly because he was 5-7 and maybe 180 pounds. He went on to become the NCAA career rushing leader at Division II Chadron State, but remained unclaimed on draft day.

Last season with the New England Patriots, he rushed for 547 yards, caught 34 passes for 379 yards and signed a contract that, reportedly, will pay him more than half a million dollars next year.

The song is wrong. Short people have plenty of reason to live.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Marc Hansen: Marc Hansen is a sports columnist for The Des Moines Register. View author profile.

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