Coordinators talk recruiting, Pinstripe Bowl

Hawkeye football coordinators Phil Parker and Brian Ferentz spoke with members of the media on Dec. 18, and they covered a variety of topics, including recruiting and Iowa’s matchup with Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl.


Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker addresses the media on Monday, December 18th. The Hawkeyes take on Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 in New York City at 4:15 p.m. (The Daily Iowan/Adam Hensley)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

When defensive coordinator Phil Parker recruits, the biggest thing he looks for isn’t on the field.

Parker said at the Dec. 18 media availability that one of the keys in a great defensive prospect is intellect, and one way he can bring those qualities out is through a game.

“I try to quiz guys on what they do. To me, sometimes, it might be a simple question — Do you know how to play checkers or chess — to see how they think,” Parker said. “If you play them in checkers or chess, it’s just how they think. Are they thinking ahead? Are they anticipating? Obviously, you got to have the athletic ability, you got to be able to run, but I look for football players, somebody who has that sense of understanding the game of football.”

The cliché of comparing a game of football to a chess match rings true in this case.

Iowa has had success in its defensive-back recruiting over the years, from snagging such athletes as Bob Sanders, Micah Hyde, Desmond King, and Josh Jackson.

Having that sense of knowing where one should be on the field is just as important, if not more crucial, than raw, atheltic ability in recruits, Parker said.

“They’re fast, but sometimes they’re going fast the wrong way,” he said. “They’re twice as far away as they should be as you get a guy who understands the game and can see and develop.”

New signing date, same challenges

There’s a lot of buzz regarding the early signing day, especially because the Hawkeyes snagged California quarterback Spencer Petras (class of 2018, 4,157 yards, 50 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in his senior season) days before the new signing date.

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said he didn’t believe there was a major rush compared with previous seasons, but for other programs, that might not be the case.

“People who are upset with the early signing day are the people who can afford to wait and take guys from other people’s classes,” he said. “I guess it’s more hectic for them in December.”

A prime example of this came on Dec. 17, when linebacker Ben VanSumeren (class of 2018), who committed to Iowa in November, flipped his decision to Michigan.

The new signing period is a double-edged sword, and Ferentz knows this.

“My job is to play within the rules, whatever they are,” he said. “Signing day is Wednesday. We’re trying to make sure all the guys we’re recruiting, we get them signed Wednesday.”

Looking ahead to New York City

When Iowa squares off against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 in New York City, it’ll be a battle of two hard-nosed defenses; the Hawkeyes rank 20th in the country in terms of points allowed per game (19.9), while the Eagles’ 22.5 puts them at 36th.

“Football is a violent game, and I think they play with a lot of violence,” Parker said. “Are they running the same stuff we are? Probably similar but not the same.”

Ferentz pointed to BC defensive lineman Harold Landry as one of the Eagles’ best weapons defensively and someone the Hawkeyes need to account for come game day.

“[He’s] special,” he said. “I don’t know what his situation is right now — I know he’s missed a little bit of time — but we expect him back. He’s a difference maker up front. He’s a guy who [we’ve] got to account for in the pass rush.”

Landry leads Boston College with 5 sacks this season and is tied for second on the team with 8.5 tackles for a loss.

BC and Iowa are two similar teams — both traditionally rely on the running game and physical defense to win football games — but offensively, Iowa differs from years past.

The running game still propels the unit, but quarterback Nate Stanley injected life into a once-dormant passing game this season, providing yet another wrinkle the Eagles must account for on Dec. 27.

“I’m sure they figure we anticipate running the ball a little bit,” Ferentz said. “Obviously, Coach Reid knows a little bit about us. He’s familiar with our program. He’s familiar with us offensively — at least philosophically.”

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