Quick slants, Iowa football media day: A.J. Epenesa has landed

Aug 5, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Print View

IOWA CITY — Right now, you can’t really predict what A.J. Epenesa might do as a true freshman defensive lineman for the Hawkeyes. His next practice will be No. 7 in his college career.

But so far, Epenesa has put his position coach in a good mood.

It was pointed out to D-line coach Reese Morgan that he looked like he was smiling while coaching Epenesa in drills so far this camp.

“If you were coaching him, you’d be happy, too,” Morgan said with a laugh. “Now that he’s here, we’re happy. He was a highly recruited young man who had so many different options. He’s been solid. He works in practice every day. He certainly has his ups and downs, but he’s humble and wants to learn.”

The 5-star defensive end has been Iowa’s most anticipated recruit in … let’s say a long time. He was a U.S. Army All-American. He earned all-conference for three years at Edwardsville (Ill.) High School. He set the Illinois prep record in the discus with a throw of 205-11.

“He’s earned the respect of the other guys through the way he does his business,” Morgan said.

Defensive coordinator Phil Parker hinted Epenesa, a 6-5, 270-pounder has gotten a look at defensive tackle, but defensive end seems to be his home.

“We have more flexibility with our defensive ends to slide them inside and outside,” Parker said. “It’s going to depend on what we need and where do we need it, but we’re working toward who can be a multiple player up front.”

New faces in the secondary

Parker is working in seven true freshmen defensive backs.

Freshman Noah Clayberg might have a chance to make the biggest impact. He started spring practice as a running back. When junior free safety Brandon Snyder suffered a torn ACL, Clayberg was switched almost immediately. He finds himself on the depth chart at No. 2 strong safety behind senior Miles Taylor.

“It forced me to have to learn quickly, but I think that’s the best way to learn, when you’re tossed in,” said Clayberg, whose fourth or fifth practice at safety was the spring game in April.

At corner, Parker said he’s really liked what he’s seen out of Matt Hankins, a 6-1, 175-pounder from Lewisville, Texas. At least two freshmen will see time in sub packages, Parker said.

Latest on Quarells

Ferentz was asked about wide receiver Matt Quarells, a former New Mexico wide receiver. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from talking about potential recruits, but last week, the Albuquerque Journal spoke to New Mexico head coach Bob Davie, who confirmed that Quarells was leaving NMU and headed to Iowa.

In so many words, Ferentz confirmed Iowa is bringing in a player. It’s Quarells.

“We do have a player who’s in the process of going through procedural things that have to take place to get admitted to the school,” Ferentz said. “If something comes a long that would be attractive, we’ll definitely have an interest in that.”

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Quarells has two years of eligibility remaining. He graduated from New Mexico in three years and is a former 2-star Hazelwood Central High School (Mo.) recruit with offers from Illinois and Missouri.

Injury report

After sitting out spring practice and missing a lot of the second half of last season, defensive tackle Nathan Bazata is back and practicing. On Oct. 22, Bazata suffered a high-ankle sprain. What sidelined him this winter and spring was a calf injury.

“This is the healthiest I’ve felt since the Wisconsin game,” Bazata said. Morgan said Iowa still has to be conscious of how much it uses Bazata. Morgan said he hopes to have a four-man rotation at tackle, with Bazata, Cedrick Lattimore, Brady Reiff, Jake Hulett and Garett Jansen in that hunt.

Wide receiver Matt VandeBerg, who has twice broken his left foot since last October, said he feels great and is doing all of the drills.

Ferentz said there has been a few minor injuries and some players have been in and out of practice, but nothing serious.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

RB James Butler

OL coach Tim Polasek

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