Lacing up the cleats, putting down the phone


Ben Allan Smith

Iowa's Ihmir Smith-Marsette avoids tackles during the Iowa State game at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette has the potential to be one of the most dynamic players on the 2018 Hawkeye football roster.

Wide-receiver coach Kelvin Copeland said it himself, Smith-Marsette is arguably the fastest player for Iowa, and he’s got the dedication to make a name for himself.

“He’s a very bright young man; he understands football,” Copeland said. “That kid studies football, he lives football. What he has to do is trust what we’re coaching him, trust the system. Once we put those two together, we’ll have something special.”

Last season, the Newark, New Jersey, native hauled in 18 receptions for 187 and a pair of touchdowns. He ran the ball seven times, totaling 41 yards, and he also returned four kickoffs for 134 yards.

While he did a little bit of everything last year on offense and special teams, the then-freshman made a name for himself in Iowa’s 44-41 overtime win over Iowa State in Ames, snagging 4 receptions, including his two touchdowns on the year.

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But off the field, Copeland and the rest of the coaching staff have a goal for the young speedster: Stay off the phone.

In a press conference earlier this offseason, head coach Kirk Ferentz joked that Smith-Marsette needed to stay off his phone, and Copeland touched on the subject during his press conference on Tuesday.

“I see that on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “It’s probably a good thing Coach Ferentz said that in a public setting. It’s one thing for Coach Cope to say it in a meeting or one-on-one, but when Coach Ferentz, when he says that in a public setting, certain people hear it.”

Ferentz’s comments not only reached Smith-Marsette’s ears, they also reached those in his hometown.

“Ihmir came to me after that and was like, ‘Man, Coach, you know what? My people back home, they talk about how I need to get off my phone,’ ” Copeland said. “ ‘They’re threatning to take my phone and stuff.’ ”

Amani Jones, squat king

In the weight room, the Hawkeyes keep things competitive, and one way of doing so is crowning whoever squats the most weight.

Linebackers Amani Jones and Aaron Mends came out as the top lifters in the group, and a rivalry ensued.

The result made Jones the winner, with a total of 625 pounds.

“Me and [Mends], we always worked together with the squat,” Jones said. “Once he stopped working with me, if he’s not working with me, then he’s not working as hard as me.”

But at the end of the day, being crowned the squat king in the locker room doesn’t win any on-field accolades. However, it does give Jones confidence when lowering his shoulder.

“I feel like if I pick an angle, I feel like I can hit somebody pretty hard,” he said and laughed. “I feel like I’m the hardest hitter on the team … You bring the boom.”

Tight ends galore

Last season, Brian Ferentz’s new offense featured a hefty number of two-tight-end sets.

Noah Fant’s versatility certainly helped, as Ferentz could move him around from the line of scrimmage to out in the slot while keeping fellow tight end TJ Hockenson on the field as well.

Tight end Nate Wieting, a junior from Rockford, Illinois, said that the trend hasn’t changed during the offseason. If anything, Hawkeye fans can expect to see more movement out of the tight ends.

“We’re starting to move the tight ends a lot more,” he said.

There’s a chance Iowa could see up to three or more tight ends on the field at once next season, depending on the situation and whatever package Ferentz opts to go with.

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