Something tells me that members of the Iowa football team will be on their best behavior for the foreseeable future.
Actually, it’s what three of the team’s senior leaders said on Wednesday — and how they said it — that has me believing that.
“We’ve got to step up our leadership,” all-Big Ten left tackle Brandon Scherff said. “We can’t wait for the coaches to crack the whip. We have to crack it on our own.
“Obviously, it hasn’t worked. But we have to start doing that.”
Scherff was referring to a recent stretch in which three Iowa players had scrapes with the law:
• Defensive back Nico Law was charged with disorderly conduct June 7 and now is looking to transfer to a different school.
• Defensive lineman Dean Tsopanides was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated Friday.
• And receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley was cited for having a disorderly house Saturday.
In fairness to Martin-Manley, his charge ranks about as low as its gets on the crime scale, perhaps one spot ahead of jaywalking.
But Scherff was in no mood to hear excuses or rationalizations while meeting with members of the media Wednesday.
“If you have a loud house, you can get called in for it,” Scherff said.
Scherff, and fellow seniors Mark Weisman and Carl Davis, all spoke with conviction Wednesday as they addressed the recent incidents. Iowa has been plagued by off-the-field problems before under coach Kirk Ferentz, but the current senior class is taking steps to avoid repeating that.
The team held a players-only meeting Wednesday in which some new rules and new curfews were established. Downtown Iowa City also was made off limits to the players for the foreseeable future.
“We had the whole team meet and we talked to the guys and said we’re not going down this road,” said Davis, who starts at defensive tackle. “We want to win championships. That’s all that matters. We come here to play for championships. That’s our motivation. And we need everybody on board. We are only as strong as our weakest link. And that’s what we told everybody.
“So we had some discipline (stuff) that we had to take care of. As a senior leader, it’s a tough pill to swallow when they’re all your friends and you have to tell your friends, ‘Hey, we can’t do this.’ And you have to discipline some guys.”
I left Wednesday’s press gathering feeling optimistic that these recent troubles were isolated incidents. But only time will tell.
There haven’t been enough incidents to call it a disturbing pattern, but the situation is headed that way unless something changes.
The quest to initiate change started Wednesday as the team’s veteran leaders laid down their new laws. It helps that with Scherff and Davis, you have two 300-plus-pound linemen with star potential delivering the message, along with arguably the most physical running back in the Big Ten in the 240-pound Weisman.
Their teammates should not only respect and admire them, but also fear them.
Scherff isn’t about to let anybody ruin his chance for a memorable senior season. He turned down a chance to start making some serious coin in the NFL because he wanted to be a Hawkeye for another year.
Davis also has big plans for his senior season, both as a team and individually. He doesn’t expect his teammates to necessarily spend as much time as he does at the UI Football Complex because Davis enjoys that more than hanging out downtown. But he expects them to be focused and driven and to make the right decisions away from the football complex, even more so now.
Wednesday’s meeting wasn’t just about protecting Iowa’s image or its potential on the field. It also was about reminding the players to be good people, sort of a character check.
“Our leaders right now have to take control of this team and make sure that everyone is staying on task,” Weisman said. “You tell them that’s not how we do things around here. We take citizenship very serious around here. You just tell them how to act and what’s not acceptable around here.”
You can tell them how to act, but will they all listen? It only takes one or two knuckleheads to cause a major distraction. There will be plenty of times when Scherff and the other senior leaders won’t be around their teammates to remind them of the consequences.
It’ll come down to each player taking care of his business in a proper fashion. You just hope that the fear of having to answer to an angry Scherff or Davis will be enough to act as a deterrent.
Iowa fans have reason to be optimistic with the Hawkeyes coming off an 8-5 season in which they doubled their win total from the previous season. Eight starters return on offense, three starters return on the defensive line and the schedule doesn’t include games with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State.
Senior leadership also could be a strength for the 2014 Hawkeye squad, based on what transpired Wednesday. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what happens on and off the field.
In other words, time will be the ultimate judge.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football