"There's times when we've had positional moves from high school and they've been All-Big Ten players. (Wide receiver) Jeremy Ebert (a quarterback in high school) is a great example. There's been other times where guys might be scuffling a little bit and struggling through the process. If it's early in your career, there's time. If it's late in your career, you're out of time. That's just the way it is. It's reality. Our job is to find a way to help our guys win."
* One of the 'Cat bright spots in their loss to Michigan was the performance of true freshman wide receiver Christian Jones, who ended the night with three catches for 68 yards. The most memorable of them was a fly he ran along the right sideline, a play that ended with his body contorted and a defender draped on him and a reception that gained 39. "As soon as I caught it, I saw a side of me I never saw in the game and I got a lot more confident," he said this week. "I felt like I was back in high school."
And what was that feeling?
"Usually in high school, I'd make big plays and sometimes I'd celebrate. I'd celebrate and get really hyped up and play harder, you know. That's how I was in high school. I had a lot of passion. Coming here, I still had passion, still had confidence. But I wasn't in the mood I used to be in. So as soon as I caught that pass, I felt myself getting into that mood and having that attitude that I can go out and do anything I want."
Did he not have that feeling before since he was in a new environment?
"Yes. It was a totally new environment. I'm not used to playing Big Ten teams. I had to adjust to playing teams I used to watch on TV."
* A few Jones' factoids: He plays the trumpet. "My mother told me I had to pick up a hobby that wasn't video games or TV, that I needed to be culturally invested in an art form," he explains. "So trumpet was something to do and I actually played the piano when I was younger too.". . . He has a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, a sport he says gave him "Mental toughness. You have to be very mentally tough in Tae Kwan Do. I used to go out in tournaments in Junior Olympics and all that. You get kicked around, knocked around, and you've got to come back and keep fighting. That's one thing you learn to do. Keep fighting.". . . He played football for Westfield High School in Houston, but for academics attended Carl Wunsche High School (a charter school) in Spring, Texas. "I was in the engineering program (at Wunsche)," he says. "I did the engineering program my junior and senior years. My sophomore year, I was in pre-med. I was adjusting to taking specific classes and learning which one I really wanted to do.". . . He was also, back in high school, a member of the National Honor Society and the co-founder of Brothers Reaching Others, a non-profit that tutors underprivileged students primarily in math and science.
* The obligatory Dan Persa update: "I think I get more comfortable each week," he said this week.
What has changed to make him more comfortable?
"I think just not thinking about it (his Achilles). The first game, I thought about it a little bit. Then last game I didn't think about it at all. I think about it less and less."
And what has that allowed him to do?
"Just play. Not worry about it, just react fast, like I've been doing."
* Last Saturday it was the Michigan option and the darting Denard Robinson, and the Saturday previous it was the Illinois option and the athletic Nathan Scheelhaase. Now, just ahead, looms the more-traditional power game of Iowa, which is why we asked defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz if the ante on physicality gets raised this Saturday. "Yeah, it does. Yes, it does," he said. "They're so good at what they do in their blocking scheme and the back coming downhill, you've got to be at the best of your game and attacking and coming down and fitting those gaps. If you don't, that's when they crease you.
"Then they've got a great corps of receivers, they're throwing the ball better, what makes Iowa tough is their dual dimension. Their running game, other people run zone, but they run it as good as anybody. They've done it for years and years, so they know what they're doing with it. And they're going to give you new formation wrinkles to try and get an edge and try to get around you. So it's a tremendous challenge when you play them."
Can his players cut it loose more against Iowa than they could against Michigan, where they had to worry about Robinson?
"Our front people did a good job attacking the line of scrimmage, but. . .this scheme is real hard on the line block, then you've got big running backs that are coming downhill. So you have to be more physical in your attack just because of the nature of the line blocking and the running backs they're doing it with."
* Quickly noted: The Hawkeye offense is directed by James Vandenberg, who's completing 60.1 percent of his passes and averaging 252.8 passing yards per game. The latter figure is second best in the Big Ten. . . His big-play receiver is Marvin McNutt, who has averaged 16.8 yards on his 29 receptions. "An All-Big Ten receiver," Fitzgerald says of him. "A lot of similarities to (A.J.) Jenkins in Champaign, but different, bigger, 6-4, 215.". . A pair of Hawkeye linebackers, James Morris (10.4) and Christian Kirksey (9.8), lead the Big Ten in average tackles per game. . . The 'Cats have won five of their last six games with the Hawkeyes. But their margins of victory have been one, 14, five, three and four points. No wonder, then, that Fitzgerald says, "It's come down to turnover ratio and making plays in the fourth quarter. For us, it's going to be critical to start fast. It's going to be a raucous environment. We can't go out there and get knocked out in the first round. The crowd's going to give them an extra, added boost. There's no question about that. It's an outstanding environment at Kinnick."
* And finally, with his team on a three-game losing streak and the Hawkeyes coming off a loss to Penn State, this from Fitzgerald: "The motivation for this game is both teams are coming off a loss. Both teams are frustrated probably with the way they've played recently. And both teams probably feel that they could have won most recently."