IOWA CITY — It’s that time of the year.
As the opening kickoff for a new football season approaches, it is accompanied by excitement, anxiousness and to some degree nervousness.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said those feelings have been a constant throughout his 21-year tenure for coaches and players alike.
“Bottom line is it’s a new beginning for our team,’’ Ferentz said Tuesday at his first weekly news conference of the season.
One thing Ferentz and the Hawkeyes do not know as they work toward Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. opener at Kinnick Stadium against Miami (Ohio) is whether transfer receiver Oliver Martin will be on the field against the RedHawks.
Ferentz said Iowa has heard nothing from the NCAA regarding the waiver the Michigan transfer sought that would allow him to play this season.
“We do hope to hear something this week. That would be great and obviously timely, good, bad or indifferent,’’ Ferentz said. “It will be nice to hear something.’’
Ferentz said once the request is sent to the NCAA – something that is handled through Iowa’s compliance office – the timetable for a decision rests squarely with the NCAA, which has indicated it works through them in the order they are received.
“I appreciate that every case is different, but just talking as a sports fan now, reading what you read and hearing what you hear, it seems like there’s a lot of inconsistencies or different scenarios is probably a better way to put it,’’ Ferentz said.
“But the one thing for sure to try to predict what’s going to happen in any case, it sounds like that might be impossible. We learned that a couple of year ago (when Drew Ott was denied an additional year of eligibility) firsthand.’’
A record-setting receiver as a prep at Iowa City West, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Oliver has practiced with Iowa throughout fall camp and is being prepared to take the field against the RedHawks.
Ferentz said if Martin is cleared this week, he will play Saturday.
“He’s definitely in our plan to play him and he would be on our travel team if we were traveling,’’ Ferentz said. “If we get the green light, he’ll be in there playing at some point, absolutely.’’
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Quarterback Nate Stanley said he has seen solid growth from all of Iowa’s receivers during fall camp.
“The whole group has made good strides and they’ve all been out there working hard, pushing each other,’’ Stanley said. “I feel like we’re at a good place with them.’’
Ferentz said Iowa will be prepared to work Martin into a rotation that continues to be led by juniors Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette and will include redshirt freshmen Nico Ragaini and Tyrone Tracy Jr.
“Just the way our depth is right now, it doesn’t impact us,’’ Ferentz said. “If he’s able to play, great, we’d love to get him in there and get him going. If he can’t, then we’ll keep working him in practice but not necessarily into the game plan.’’
BANWART DOUBTFUL: Offensive guard Cole Banwart is the only Hawkeye on the two-deep roster who is listed as doubtful for Saturday because of injury.
“Injury-wise, we’ve come out of camp really healthy right now and at this point, we’ll see how it goes, but I’m not optimistic that he’ll play based on practice (Tuesday) morning,’’ Ferentz said.
If Banwart cannot start, senior Levi Paulsen is expected to open at right guard while his twin brother, Landan, will start at left guard.
STARTING POINT: Ferentz said true freshmen on the offensive side of the ball may have the greatest chance to see early playing time.
“Defensively, I don’t know how many, if any, will really enter into play this week or the next couple weeks,’’ Ferentz said. “We’ll wait and see but right now it might not be any. Offensively, I think we have a couple of opportunities perhaps.’’
Ferentz said Iowa’s two true freshmen running backs, Shadrick Byrd and Tyler Goodson, could help in reserve roles on offense or on special teams.
FLIP A COIN: Competition to become Iowa’s starting placekicker continues and Ferentz said both Caleb Shudak and Keith Duncan could share duties in the opener.
“It’s been neck and neck. As I looked at the stats the other day, you could almost flip a coin,’’ Ferentz said, saying that Shudak will handle kickoffs.
CAPTAINS NAMED: Seniors Michael Ojemudia, Brady Ross, Nate Stanley and Kristian Welch have been named as captains for Iowa’s season-opener.