IOWA CITY, Iowa – Preparing for a Nebraska quarterback with limited college experience, Iowa defenders are preparing to adjust plans as needed during Friday’s regular-season finale at Memorial Stadium.
“We’ll be ready for anything,’’ Hawkeye linebacker Seth Benson said Tuesday.
Freshman Logan Smothers is expected to start under center for the Cornhuskers in the 12:30 p.m. game after started Adrian Martinez suffered a shoulder injury during the first half of Nebraska’s 35-28 loss at Wisconsin last weekend.
Coach Scott Frost said Monday that Martinez would not play against the Hawkeyes and that Smothers, who has seen limited action in five games this season as a back-up, would start for the Cornhuskers.
Another freshman, Heinrich Haarberg, is also taking snaps in practice this week.
Smothers, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound native of Muscle Shoals, Ala., attempted seven of his 11 passes this season in a win over Fordham and gained 36 of his 70 rushing yards in the same game.
He’s replacing a quarterback who not only threw for 8,491 yards over the past four seasons but also ran for 2,301 yards.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly press conference that Hawkeye staff members are working to assemble as much information as they can on Smothers.
“I don’t think we have much film. I think maybe they dug some up from junior high – those guys (on Iowa’s video staff) are pretty creative back there,’’ Ferentz said.
“Mostly, I think we have spring game tape, that type of thing, but it’s not the same. But, we do have an idea of who he is and what he is. And he is fast, I do know that.’’
In addition to accessing the limited game tape they have of Smothers, Iowa staff members will take a look at high school and recruiting videos they find of both Smothers and Haarberg this week.
Ferentz said the quarterback change adds “one more challenge’’ to Iowa’s game preparations this week.
“My guess is he fits their scheme, though, so (Smothers, a redshirt freshman) is a real athletic guy and the other guy (Haarberg, a true freshman) is a little bit younger and we don’t know quite as much about him,’’ Ferentz said.
But as Nebraska prepares for its 12th game in a 3-8 season, Ferentz suspects the Cornhuskers will still look pretty much like a Cornhuskers team that has been competitive throughout the season.
“I would guess the scheme is going to stay pretty much the same where we’re going to have to defend a lot of things,’’ Ferentz said, adding that Smothers “is a really athletic guy and that puts pressure on you when the quarterback can move around like this guy.’’
Benson said Iowa is preparing to face a quarterback who is capable of doing many of things Martinez brought to the Nebraska offense but just lacks the experience that the four-year starter had.
“He probably fits the scheme and what they’ve got going. He probably fits they want to run. We’ve just go to play Iowa football and our scheme, as long as we play to our fundamentals and do our keys and responsibilities we should be alright,’’ Benson said.
Safety Kaevon Merriweather believes remaining true to Iowa’s defensive principles is where things will begin for the Hawkeyes.
“We have to still do what we do,’’ Merriweather said. “We don’t expect them to do a lot different. It is the end of the season and usually, you aren’t going to change a lot of things in a week at this point. We don’t completely know so we need to be ready for whatever wrinkles he may bring to the field.’’
If there is a need to adjust, Benson trusts Iowa coaches to make that adjustment quickly.
He said coaches typically only need one or two sets of downs to figure out what an opponent is doing.
“That is something our coaches are really good at, making adjustments to whatever happens after that first, second series,’’ Benson said. “It all goes back to putting in positions where we will be able to make plays and get the stops we need.’’
Merriweather said that never changes.
“We’re built to adjust. Every week, teams may try something a little different, but we adjust and continue to play Iowa football,’’ Merriweather said. “That won’t change this week.’’