IOWA CITY, Iowa — An NCAA panel denied defensive tackle Noah Shannon’s appeal of a year-long suspension for wagering on an Iowa sporting event. It effectively ends Shannon’s Iowa football career after five-plus years with the program.
“I want to apologize to the fans and everyone who supports Iowa football,” Shannon said in a statement. “I made a mistake and I have taken responsibility for it. I am heartbroken that I will not be able to play alongside my brothers again, but I plan to stick with the team and support them any way that I can going forward.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he was “incredibly disappointed” with the decision. Shannon was accused of betting on a non-football team, of which the NCAA could call for a permanent ban. Indirectly, it did that with Shannon.
Shannon started 28 games for Iowa over three seasons and was an honorable mention All-Big Ten defensive tackle in 2022. Instead of turning pro, Shannon opted for a sixth year of eligibility this season. Now, he will work with the program while preparing for professional football in 2024.
“This is an interesting study on so many levels,” Ferentz said. “I was just hoping the panel, the committee, whoever it is — it’s all faceless and nameless — might dig a little deeper and just take a little bigger picture on this whole thing. So it’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t change how I feel about Noah, what kind of person he is.”
As the Hawkeyes approach their final nonconference game at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday against Western Michigan (1-1), let’s take a look at a dozen other topics around Iowa football.
Since injuring his right quad in practice Aug. 12, quarterback Cade McNamara had yet to complete a full practice with the team. That changed this week, he said.
“This is the most healthy I’ve felt in a month,” McNamara said. “This would be my first full week of practice of not missing anything and participating in everything. I’m excited to just be fully back in.”
Iowa’s offense was limited with McNamara’s injury, from not running quarterback sneaks in short-yardage situations to not using any rollouts or bootlegs. Even play-action passes, long a staple of Iowa’s offense, were limited to just 10 passes over the first two games, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Time will tell in terms of opening up the playbook,” Ferentz said. “(Thursday) he indicated that he was feeling like he was gaining ground at that point and that was encouraging. We’re in a lot better position today than two weeks ago, which is really encouraging, too.”
Iowa offense adopts counter scheme in Cy-Hawk win: ‘We just stuck with what was working’
Iowa running back Jaziun Patterson had a breakout performance against Iowa State with 86 rushing yards on 10 carries. Perhaps what was most impressive to his teammates was a third-down block in which he leveraged his body to pick up an interior pass rusher while still blocking his primary responsibility, the outside defender.
“Any back who is willing to throw a block and help somebody out is pretty cool,” center Logan Jones said, “especially when it’s a guy bigger than you. One play, my guy spun back and Jazz was right there to help me out there. ‘Oh, this is kind of nice having a running back in there.’
“It definitely gives us energy. You’re blocking with six guys now instead of five. So I think just to be able to see him pick up blitzes like that is just super cool, and he does the same exact thing in practice, too.”
The power with which Patterson (5 feet 10, 204 pounds) displays belies his frame.
“That dude is relentless,” McNamara said. “He’s willing to give up his body no matter if there’s a gap there or not.”
Iowa has 20 commitments in the 2024 class and the Hawkeyes have all of its required positions mostly filled. Any future additions with come down to a late bloomer or roster management following the season.
As for 2025, Iowa has intensified its recruiting efforts. Last week, the Hawkeyes picked up four-star tackle Nicolai Brooks from nearby Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kennedy High School. Brooks (6-7, 345) spent his last two years in Buford, Ga., and picked up offers from Georgia, Alabama, Clemson and others before moving back to Iowa and choosing the Hawkeyes.
“The thing that really jumped out at me right off the bat was his mobility,” said Kennedy coach Brian White, whose son, Max, plays running back at Iowa. “We are an old-school offense. We run counter trey, we run power, we pull guys and this kid can pull. He’s not lumbering. He is quick, he gets around an edge. He doesn’t get juked out by DBs or linebackers.
“He’s also a very powerful kid. He can drive guys. And when you’re as big as (Brooks) and you get a head of steam going, he’s gonna drive everybody off the ball.”
Brooks joins Pleasant Valley (Iowa) High School lineman Joey VanWetzinga in the 2025 class. Within Iowa, the 2025 recruits could rank among the better classes in recent memory. Both Brooks and Clear Lake tight end Luke Meyer are rated as four stars while several others could enter that category in due time.
Drive for 325
Two games into the season, Iowa has totaled 44 points for a 22-point average. Normally, nobody would care. However, with an amendment to offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s contract, the Hawkeyes’ low total has become a conversation starter around college football.
In Appendix C of Brian Ferentz’s amended contract, the offense must hit two designated performance objectives in order to return to his previous terms that were halted Feb. 3. They include averaging 25 points per game and winning seven games. If those objectives are not met, the agreement terminates.
Will Brian Ferentz change approach amid Iowa mandate to score 25 points per game?
Brian Ferentz’s employment does not automatically expire, however. It just means he won’t return to his pre-amendment terms of a two-year rollover, plus a $112,500 bonus and a $925,000 salary. The terms were instituted by former athletics director Gary Barta and interim athletics director Beth Goetz said the objectives remain in place. But Goetz has said multiple times winning games is the core goal.
The amendment provides Iowa athletics with leverage, but the department also can agree to new terms with Brian Ferentz at any point. So, a seven-win season with 324 points doesn’t automatically sack the offensive coordinator. Should Iowa win 10 games or the West Division with 324 points, that outcome is even less likely.
“I have total belief in Coach Brian,” McNamara said. “I think the rest of the guys do, too.”
Cornerback Jermari Harris is listed as a first-teamer after serving a two-week NCAA suspension. Harris had four interceptions in 2021 as an injury replacement for All-Americans Matt Hankins and Riley Moss. But injuries prevented Harris from playing in 2022.
Usually when an Iowa player serves a suspension, whether it’s for conduct or NCAA-related, they shift to the scout team until it expires. Harris instead practiced with the main unit during his two weeks away.
“He’s been really active,” Ferentz said. “He’s had a great camp and basically, he’s been with our team. He was with us Saturday; he just didn’t play the last two weeks. So he’s fully engaged, ready to roll and it’ll be good to get him back.”
In Week 1, five former Iowa tight ends played in NFL games with four starts. Detroit rookie Sam LaPorta played 58 snaps and caught five passes on five targets for 39 yards. Minnesota’s T.J. Hockenson had eight catches on nine targets for 35 yards on 48 snaps. George Kittle played 47 snaps for San Francisco with three catches on six targets for 19 yards. Seattle’s Noah Fant played 25 snaps but did not have a statistic.
The fifth was Atlanta’s Parker Hesse, who was elevated from the practice squad on game day. Hesse played 14 snaps and had one horse-collar tackle on former Iowa teammate Ihmir Smith-Marsette while covering a punt.
Overall, the Hawkeyes have 28 players on NFL rosters, one on injured reserve and seven (including Hesse) on practice squads.
Why tight end play could be at the center of Iowa’s offensive attack
Banking on it
If there’s one player missing out on an NIL deal, it’s defensive back Sebastian Castro. The reigning Big Ten defensive player of the week, Castro plays Iowa’s cash position, which doubles as an outside linebacker/nickel corner in the Hawkeyes’ 4-2-5 defense.
After returning an interception 30 yards for a touchdown at Iowa State, shouldn’t Iowa’s cash defender pick up a deal for taking one to the bank? Perhaps he just needs to change his name to “Cashtro.”
Against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes rotated only two offensive linemen and played six in total. Left tackle Mason Richman, center Logan Jones, right guard Connor Colby and right tackle Gennings Dunker played all 52 snaps while left guard Nick DeJong (37) and Rusty Feth (15) rotated for a few series.
After limiting fullback snaps to seven in the opener against Utah State, the Hawkeyes used a fullback on 19 snaps against ISU. Hayden Large saw action in 15 plays in 22 personnel (two backs, two tight ends), two in 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) and a pair in victory formation. Iowa passed four times with Large in the lineup with two completions for 37 yards.
Hit the sack
Iowa’s defense has just one sack through two games, which has drawn concern from fans on social media after 35 sacks in 2022. But both opponents have employed a quick-passing game, often with one or three steps, which has negated the Hawkeyes’ pass rush.
“For us, it’s not all about sacks; it’s all about just how productive we are being on each and every play,” defensive end Joe Evans said. “When they’re getting the ball out quick, we’d better be hustling to the ball and making a difference. Obviously, sacks are nice. But for me, all I care about is that ‘W’ on the scoreboard.”
Iowa has employed the 4-2-5 as its primary defense since mid-2018. This year, the Hawkeyes have played nearly as many snaps in dime coverage as in 4-3 through two games.
The Hawkeyes’ defense has played 147 snaps this season with 118 in 4-2-5. They’ve played 15 in 4-3 and 14 with six defensive backs. T.J. Hall has operated as the sixth defensive back with Harris out, but it’s possible Deshaun Lee could switch to that role this weekend.
Ball don’t lie
Iowa receiver Nico Ragaini was the victim of an inexplicable blown call when Iowa State defensive back Jeremiah Cooper pulled him down and then intercepted a pass from McNamara.
“I got up, looked for the flag, didn’t see it, ran off the field,” Ragaini said. “Then two plays later, we got the pick-six, so the football gods answered me and gave us the pick-six. Ball don’t lie.”
(Top photo: Jeffrey Becker / USA Today)