Focus returns to field for Iowa, Purdue
The Iowa and Purdue programs are thankful the focus shifts to football this week when the two open their seasons and Big Ten play Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette, Ind.
After all, the Hawkeyes and Boilermakers have dealt with less pleasant issues away from the field recently.
On Monday, Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm announced he tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t be on the sideline for the Iowa game. Brohm will remain in isolation for up to 10 days per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which the Big Ten is following.
Purdue co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Brohm will serve as the team’s acting head coach and will call the plays against Iowa.
“It’s unfortunate and it’s not ideal timing, but that’s the way the world works today,” Jeff Brohm said on a Zoom call. “I think our team is in a great position right now to move forward. We’ve had a lot of good work up to this point and a lot of good practices, and I think our team is ready to play.”
The Boilermakers are coming off a 4-8 season, but among the team’s returnees is junior slotback Rondale Moore, an electrifying playmaker who decided to return to the Boilermakers after initially announcing he was opting out of the season to prepare for the NFL Draft.
The big question for the Purdue offense is who will be throwing the ball to Moore, since Jeff Brohm said a starter would not be named until Saturday. Sophomore Jack Plummer, junior Aidan O’Connell and UCLA transfer Austin Burton have been battling for the job this offseason.
Defensive end George Karlaftis, who had 7.5 sacks last year as a freshman, headlines the Purdue defense.
Iowa, meantime, has faced an offseason of turmoil after Black former players accused head coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff of racial discrimination in years past.
Eight former players demanded $20 million and the firing of Ferentz, assistant coach Brian Ferentz, and athletic director Gary Barta in a letter to the university on Oct. 5.
A subsequent internal investigation led university general counsel Carroll Reasoner to formally respond to the allegations by declining the monetary and personnel demands. Kirk Ferentz responded in a statement Sunday that he couldn’t address specific allegations due to potential litigation, adding, “I am deeply committed to helping everyone who joins the Hawkeye football program reach their full potential on and off the field.”
Coming off a 10-3 season, Iowa should be what it usually is, a fundamentally sound team that will pound opponents at the line of scrimmage.
The Hawkeyes return sophomore running back Tyler Goodson and all-league offensive tackle Alaric Jackson along with explosive wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who scored touchdowns receiving, rushing and on a kick return in the Holiday Bowl.
There is uncertainty at quarterback. With three-year starter Nate Stanley gone, junior Spencer Petras is likely to take over.
On defense, the strength for Iowa is at linebacker, where junior Djimon Colbert and senior Nick Niemann return after productive 2019 seasons.
“It’s just good to be back kind of in a flow, even though it’s a different flow,” Kirk Ferentz said. “But we’re back with our players. That’s the most important thing, we’re back working together, and that’s what we all love doing.”
–Field Level Media