After a long summer without any major news from Iowa City, Iowa Media Day took place on Friday, in Indianapolis. Big Ten fans and football fans everywhere always count down to Media Days. This year also had a little more excitement after the event was altered in 2020 due to COVID. This year, head coach Kirk Ferentz, Tyler Linderbaum, Tyrone Tracy Jr., and Zach VanValkenburg took center stage and officially opened the Big Ten football season.
Media Day Takeaways: Kirk Ferentz
Head coach Kirk Ferentz opened up Iowa Media Day with an emphasis on this being a new season. The Hawks ended 2020 on a remarkable 6-game win streak, but he reiterated that everything starts new in January. Coach Ferentz explained that there is plenty of excitement and uncertainty surrounding this year’s football program. He stated, “Like most years for us at Iowa, we’re always concerned about our depth…basically at every position.” Iowa lost a few key pieces on both sides of the line of scrimmage this year. A lot of the younger guys will be stepping up to fill those voids with the “Next Man In” mentality.
When asked about quarterback Spencer Petras, Ferentz explained how he had a great amount of success for a first year starter without any Spring practice. He also pointed out Spencer’s most valuable learning experience from the 2020 season was the Illinois game. Petras had a first half that, in the words of Ferentz, “He probably couldn’t have played much more poorly.” The Hawks fell behind 14-0 early, and nothing was going on offense. However, Petras came out in the second half and completely turned the game around, putting up 35 unanswered points. Ferentz said his performance in the second half was very revealing in terms of how he’s wired. That is the kind of mentality and leadership that Iowa needs heading into 2021.
Media Day Takeaways: Tyler Linderbaum
Several preseason accolades have been thrown towards Tyler Linderbaum for 2021. Pro Football Focus even has him as the #3 ranked player in the country entering this season. Linderbaum downplayed the hype saying, “No one remembers what your preseason accolades were.” While he stated that his top three ranking in the country is a nice honor, it’s not something he likes to think about. His focus is on entering 2021 with a clean slate and opening up strong against a good Indiana team in September.
Media Day Takeaways: Spencer Petras
The players representing Iowa Football were all asked about Petras and his leadership. They had nothing but positive remarks on him. Tyrone Tracy Jr. stated that Petras is taking a “stand” this year. He said he is standing up for what he believes on the field, and coaches and players alike are taking notice. The stated mentality of Hawkeye Football is to never be complacent, and Tracy stated that Petras is always asking what’s next to get better as a team and as a player. This is the kind of leadership that players love to see in their signal caller, and it drives the team to act the same way.
“You’re not going to find anyone else that watches more tape than him,” said Linderbaum when asked about Petras. This comment speaks to the quarterback’s mental focus in the game and his will to succeed. Additionally, Linderbaum said that Petras is holding his own player-led walkthroughs outside of practice to further develop their offensive chemistry. These are great signs of a true leader at the most important position on the field.
Media Day Takeaways: Zach VanValkenburg
After transferring from Hillsdale College in the Summer of 2019, Zach VanValkenburg had a breakout year in 2020. He tied for first nationally with four recovered fumbles on the year. VanValkenburg graduated with his Master’s degree after last season, and is taking a few classes to maintain his eligibility for the upcoming year. He stated that his workload in school is much less having already graduated. VanValkenburg will have a lot more time to focus on football and really help build chemistry at the defensive line position. As a veteran on defense, a guy with a more time for football is a huge positive.
Iowa Media Day Wrap Up
Ironically, the last time Iowa opened up against a Big Ten opponent (other than in the 2020 Covid schedule) was in the Hayden Fry tenure in 1980 against Indiana. Ferentz pointed this out in his press conference on Friday, and the Hawks will do the same in 2021 as they host the Hoosiers on September 4th. The opener will be a tough test for Iowa, especially given Indiana’s recent success and upward trend. Iowa follows their home opener up with a trip to Ames against another highly-rated program in week two.
The building blocks are in place, however, and Iowa has a lot of solid veteran presence. The next step is focusing on the depth at all positions to prepare for another hard-fought Big Ten football season. As Iowa Media Day wraps up, the countdown to The Swarm at Kinnick Stadium is on.