IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Iowa football players get together to work on the game this summer, there is a different vibe.
The start of fall camp remains a little over a month away, but Hawkeye players sense a different energy level and a different level of intensity as they work to turn last season’s deficiencies into this fall’s strengths.
“There is more of a commitment,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “We all expect more of each other, and we’re holding each other accountable.”
The drills themselves and the overall amount of time, those things haven’t changed a great deal as players juggle summer academic responsibilities and jobs with preparation for the upcoming season.
However, Hitchens said there are differences in the number of repetitions in drills and the amount of work that is being accomplished in workouts.
“It’s a much more serious approach than a year ago. Nobody wants to go 4-8 again,” Hitchens said. “Whether it’s the once a week when we all get together for an hour or when we’re working out in small groups, guys are busting their butts to get better.”
While Iowa generally remains a young football team, linebacker James Morris sees increased depth as he watches this team progress.
“That is pushing everybody, and I think it has made us all more competitive,” Morris said. “What I see is a hungry team.”
Throughout the team, there is no lack of competition, a situation fueled by three candidates working to win an open quarterback position and a large group of receivers angling for playing opportunities.
Running back Mark Weisman, indicating that returning quarterbacks Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard all have performed well this summer, believes that is creating a productive summer.
“Everyone is showing up every day ready to work,” Weisman said. “At this time of year, that’s where it has to start. While it’s hard to tell with no offensive linemen or no defensive line guys putting on a rush just how much progress we’re making, it feels like we’re getting better.”
Unlike basketball, NCAA rules prevent football coaches from working with their players during the summer months.
Coach Kirk Ferentz views the work the Hawkeyes put into the game this summer as critical to the team’s chances of rebounding from last season’s record.
“We’ve been pleased with the way the guys have responded so far, but every step along the way is important. It was a long December — no bowl trip, no bowl gives, sitting around looking at that lump of coal in the stocking — but in the offseason and the spring, guys have responded,” Ferentz said.
“If they are doing what they need to be doing now, it will show in August, and if they do in August what they need to, it will show in the fall. Conversely, if they don’t do what they need to do, that will show, too. Every step along the way is important.”
Linebacker Christian Kirksey agrees.
“Nobody is missing time this summer. Nobody is taking a day off,” Kirksey said. “We’re going to come back in August ready. We don’t want a repeat of last season.”
EARNING HIS KEEP: Running back Michael Malloy will be placed on scholarship once the fall semester begins, Ferentz said. The redshirt freshman from Sioux City Heelan walked on last fall after having a scholarship offer pulled following a legal incident prior to his senior year of high school.
ON THE MEND: Ferentz said redshirt freshman running back Barkley Hill of Cedar Falls has indicated that soreness related to the ACL he tore during preseason camp in August has gone away. He is expected to be ready for full work when fall camp opens in August.
LATE ARRIVAL: Wide receiver Damond Powell, a junior college transfer from Snow College in Utah, will not arrive on campus until he completes coursework at that level. Ferentz said he expects Powell, who caught 41 passes for 1,231 yards last season, to be in Iowa City when camp starts in August.
ACADEMIC FOCUS: Australian punter Jonny Mullings, a junior who has seen no game action in his career, has left the team and will focus on academics in the fall, Ferentz said. Marshall Koehn will open fall camp as the back-up to sophomore returning starter Connor Kornbrath.
HERNANDEZ IN HOUSE: Ferentz said that first-year graduate assistant D.J. Hernandez, the brother of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, “is doing fine” and hasn’t missed any time at work because of the potential legal situation involving his brother.
CHICAGO BOUND: Linebackers Christian Kirksey and Morris will join offensive lineman Brett Van Sloten as Iowa’s player representatives at next month’s Big Ten media days in Chicago.