CHICAGO - When the Iowa football team begins fall practice a little more than a week from now, Kirk Ferentz fully expects his projected starter at running back to be 100 percent ready.
Sophomore Jewel Hampton, who rushed for 463 yards last season as Shonn Greene's understudy, is healthy. He's been going full speed in workouts for the past two weeks. He's expected to be full speed next week.
Ferentz said rumors in early July that Hampton had suffered a season-ending or possibly even a career-ending knee injury contained only a smoldering ember of fact and were fanned into a roaring bonfire on Hawkeyes message boards.
"I left town, and we had a runaway train," Ferentz said Monday at the Big Ten's preseason media kickoff. "It was a real circus, I guess."
Ferentz confirmed that Hampton did hurt his knee, but it occurred in a non-contact situation and was nowhere near as serious as the Internet doomsayers indicated.
"Nobody fell on him or anything," Ferentz said. "Nobody tripped him."
Other news from the Iowa camp Monday:
- Ferentz said guard Julian Vandervelde, from Davenport Central, won't be at full speed at the start of fall camp after undergoing offseason surgery. He said there is a chance Vandervelde could be ready for the Sept. 5 season opener against Northern Iowa.
- Ferentz admitted that finding stability at the center position will be one of the keys to the Hawkeyes' season. Senior Rafael Eubanks is competing with junior Josh Koeppel and Ferentz's son, James, for the job.
"James missed the second half of spring practice (with an alcohol-related suspension), which puts him at a real disadvantage," Ferentz said. "Right now, I would say it's Raf, and then Josh. Raf has a huge experience advantage, and he's a good football player, but Josh has elevated his play very quietly."
Vandervelde saw some action at center in the spring scrimmage, but Ferentz said his injury situation probably precludes his moving to center.
- Ferentz said that only one of the Hawkeyes' incoming freshmen has yet to be approved academically by the NCAA Clearinghouse, and he expects to get an answer on that a week from Wednesday. He added that he expects freshmen to compete for playing time at wide receiver, running back and on special teams.
- The top three teams in the Big Ten preseason media poll were Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State, and it didn't escape Ferentz's attention that the Hawkeyes must play all three of those teams on the road this fall, two of them in night games.
"I think road night games are tougher than road day games," he said. "If we're going to have a good football team we're going to need to prove our mettle on the road."