10 @ 10: Brandon Synder’s return a plus for Hawks

October 17, 2017 GMT

The return of Brandon Snyder to the Hawkeye secondary has been valuable in a number of ways.

That, along with depth chart updates, the growth of A.J. Epenesa and more are all part of today’s Hawkeye 10@10, your daily dose of Iowa news and notes.

Delivered each weekday at 10 a.m. at Hawkmania.com, your home for all things Iowa, here is today’s Hawkeye 10@10:

1. As much as anything, the return of Brandon Snyder at free safety has strengthened Iowa’s communication on the back end of the defense.

Defensive coordinator Phil Parker said that area improved quickly once Snyder, a 13-game starter in 2016, returned from an ACL tear in Iowa’s win over Illinois on Oct. 7.

“His experience of being back there and the commitment that he’s made to understanding the defense and understanding what we have to do against the offense he sees matters,’’ Parker said.

“He does a great job of communicating and that has really picked up since he has been out there. You can see him directing traffic and understanding not only the plays they’re going to run but making sure that everybody is in the right coverage.’’

2. Iowa has only a couple of changes on its depth chart as it works toward Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Northwestern.

Miles Taylor and Amani Hooker currently share the top line at strong safety after Hooker replaced Taylor at the position late in the first quarter of the Illinois game.

Jake Gervase is listed behind those two.

At free safety, Brandon Snyder tops the depth chart after starting against the Illini. Hooker is listed as his back-up.

At right cornerback, Michael Ojemudia continues to be listed ahead of Manny Rugamba as he works his way back from an injury.

The only other change is at punter, where Ryan Gersonde is now listed as the starter ahead of Colten Rastetter.

3. Phil Parker sees Iowa’s eight-player rotation on the defensive front working the way he envisioned.

“They’re getting close to where it’s like, ‘hey, it doesn’t really matter who is in the game.’ As long as they can go hold their point, I think we have a chance,’’ the Hawkeye defensive coordinator said.

He said the rotation has allowed Iowa to keep fresh bodies on the field and he said the move of Matt Nelson inside to a tackle spot has helped make it all work.

4. Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said Boone Myers’ lingering ankle injury has been a source of frustration for plenty of people, most notably the senior offensive lineman.

“You’ve got a guy now that physically can’t do some of the things that he used to be able to do,’’ Ferentz said. “That’s a hard position to be in and I can’t say enough about how he’s responded to that. Instead of being bitter or angry or sulking, the first thing he did was put his arm around a guy like Alaric Jackson or last week a guy like Tristan Wirfs and help them get ready to play. I think that’s really difficult to do, but he’s done it.’’

5. Manny Rugamba is expected to be closer to full health against Northwestern after missing all but one snap of the Illinois game with a lower leg injury.

“I probably shouldn’t have played him the one snap,’’ defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “I put him out there based on the personnel (Illinois) had on the field and I probably shouldn’t have done that. I think another week (of rest) would help him and he’s doing a good job with that.’’

6. The natural growth of Iowa true freshman defensive end A.J. Epenesa includes making improvements in stopping the run.

“I think he’s doing a little better job of that, and playing on first and second downs now he’s understanding that,’’ defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “Obviously, the reps he’s been getting from camp and all the last six weeks of the season here, I think it’s really going to help us later on in the run game. I think he’s a good run player. I think he can help us in the pass rush on third downs.’’

7. Iowa will be facing the Big Ten special teams player of the week in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Northwestern.

Kicker Charlie Kuhbander was received that honor Monday after becoming the first freshman kicker in Wildcats history to kick three field goals in a game when he hit from 40, 32 and 32 yards in Saturday’s win at Maryland.

Kuhbander also was successful in all three of his extra-point kicks. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was named the offensive player of the week after throwing for five touchdowns and rushing for two more in a win at Nebraska.

Barrett completed 27-of-33 passes for 325 yards in the game and ran for 48 yards.

Leon Jacobs of Wisconsin was named the defensive player of the week after recording a season-high nine tackles and intercepting a pass at the Badgers’ 11-yard line in the fourth quarter of a 17-9 win over Purdue.

The Badgers’ Jonathan Taylor was named the Big Ten freshman of the week for the third time, carrying a career-high 30 times for 219 yards against the Boilermakers.

8. In case you missed it Monday, the starting time for Iowa’s next home football game has been set.

The Hawkeyes will host Minnesota at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 at Kinnick Stadium, the second straight time Iowa has hosted the Golden Gophers under the lights at Kinnick.

The game will be televised by FS1.

9. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said the Hawkeyes would be more than pleased if quarterback Nate Stanley could complete a pair of deep balls per game.

“If you send one down the field once a quarter and you look at four in a game, if you’re hitting on two of those, I think you’re really, really good,’’ Ferentz said. “If you’re hitting one, you’re doing pretty well because are the type of plays that change a game.

“We certainly haven’t been afraid to send it down the field, probably looking at more like five or six a game and when we hit those, it really changes the complexion of things. It comes down to, and it’s a word nobody wants to hear, but it’s about execution.’’

10. It hasn’t made headlines, but there have been times this season when Iowa has shuffled responsibilities of its three starting linebackers.

“We don’t advertise it, but we do move guys around a bit,’’ defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “In the Wyoming game, we kind of switched responsibilities moving Bo (Bower) to the outside and having Ben Niemann in the box so he’s like a will backer. It all depends on the formation.’’