CLINTON — University of Iowa head men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter headlined the list of Hawkeye coaches at the annual Clinton County I-Club Banquet and Golf Outing at the Clinton Country Club Wednesday.
The Hawkeyes compiled a 13-19 record in Lickliter’s first season at the helm of the program.
“There were a lot of growing pains,” Lickliter admitted. “But it’s a great place with incredible fans and there is a lot of support. We’re not very pleased with the results although I thought we saw some results of what I thought we can do.”
The results Lickliter spoke of were impressive home wins over then top 10 nationally ranked Michigan State and an Ohio State team that had downed the Hawkeyes 79-48 earlier in the season.
“I think there were glimpses there and we defended really well. To bounce back from one of the worst losses that I have been a part of (Ohio State) and to come back and beat them I think speaks to what you can do in being resilient and persevering, so I think there were some positives. We just didn’t have quite the depth or the strength that I though we needed. We are trying to fix that, we’re recruiting and I tell you we’ve been very well received,” Lickliter said.
Lickliters first full recruiting class includes Iowa’s Mr. Basketball Matt Gatens and Kirkwood Community College guard Jermain Davis. In total six student-athletes will join the Hawkeyes next season.
With one season in the books the Hawkeye head man is ready to move on and move forward.
“I appreciate the support, because I think there are a lot of Hawkeye fans that are saying to me ‘stay the course’. That’s important to me and I appreciate it,” Lickliter said. “We’ve got some guys returning and they are very committed, they’ve been putting a lot of time in the weight room.”
Also appearing was head wrestling coach Tom Brands, fresh off of winning a national championship in his second year, which according to Brands is old news.
“You’ve got to go back in time two months to get those thoughts back up,” Brands said. “They’re pretty good feelings just because we had a lot of guys coming around and getting a least close to where they wanted to be and two were actually where they wanted to be, (Mark) Perry and (Brent) Metcalf.”
“We’re two months down the road now and we’re on to the next step. Brent Metcalf is on to the Olympic trials right now and he’s fifth on the ladder and he’ll be wrestling for a spot at Beijing. The wrestling keeps going.”
Brands feels the program has come a long way from where he inherited it two years ago, when he was hired from Virginia Tech.
“I remember having a long way to go to where it was a lifestyle for the guys,” Bran. “It’s a lifestyle now for a lot of the guys and we added some in the latest recruiting class. The biggest thing is that these guys continue to live that lifestyle.”
Brands was pleased to prove the experts wrong who felt the Hawkeyes were not yet ready to claim their 32nd Big Ten crown and 21st national championship. There was also some question on whether Metcalf, a sophomore, would live up to expectations after transferring in from Virginia Tech when Brands was hired.
“A lot of people doubted that, but we knew what Metcalf had under the hood. And he proved it and he proved a lot of people wrong. I think he was ranked seventh or ninth coming into the season, but they didn’t know what we had. We knew what we had. He’s a great leader and a great competitor, but more importantly his lifestyle is geared toward domination on the mat. That means it is very important to him, but he doesn’t let other areas of his life slip.” Brands said of his star pupil, who compiled a 39-1 record on his way to winning the national championship at the 149-pound weight class.
“All that being said, we thought we could win it last year,” Brands added. “Two years ago we were hoping to get hot and that’s not how you want to live. You want to live with domination and winning even on your down weeks and getting performances out of guys that are meaningful. And that’s what we did this year.”
Norm Parker, defensive coordinator for the University of Iowa football team was also in attendance on Wednesday. Parker’s defenses have led the Hawkeyes to a pair of Big Ten titles in his 10 years on head coach Kirk Ferentz’s staff.
In 2007, the Hawkeyes were 6-6 overall and 4-4 in Big Ten play. Iowa started the season 2-4, then closed the season 4-2 and just missed a making it to a seventh straight bowl game by losing their final game to Western Michigan.
“At the end of the season, we had to win five games to go to a bowl,” Parker said. “We won four as everybody knows and we lost the last one. I think if we would have won the last game it would have been as satisfying a season as I have been a part of.”
Parker’s defense will return five starters in 2008 as they lost six to graduation.
The defensive signal caller will look to some promising prospects to fill the holes vacated by defensive ends Bryan Mattison and Kenny Iwebema; linebackers Mike Humpal and Mike Klinkenborg; and cornerbacks Charles Godfrey and Adam Shada.
On the defensive line, Parker feels last season’s back-ups will fit in nicely.
“I think Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard could be very good football players,” Parker said. “Iwebema and Mattison are darn good football players, they are with pro football teams right now, but I expect Clayborn and Ballard to come in there and be the same kind of players.”
At the linebacker spots, the Hawkeyes hope to fill the voids with numbers.
“In the middle there is Pat Angerer from Bettendorf and Jacody Coleman. So we got some guys in there,” Parker related. “At weakside linebacker, we got Jeremiha Hunter, Jeff Tarpinian and Troy Johnson from Florida and I think all three of them are decent. We got three guys working in there and they all got a chance, but nobody has claimed the No. 1 position. It’s good that you’ve got the competition there over the summer, but in some ways you would like the situation cleared up a little more.”
In the defensive backfield, there are a number of options.
“Bradley Fletcher had a great spring and started some for us last year. Jordan Bernstine had a shoulder operation and didn’t get to play in the spring, but he’ got a chance at corner. I think we are going to be a little better than people think. At safety, Brett Greenwood from Pleasant Valley is like a different guy this year. He’s gone from a little young guy in a little yellow school bus to a college football player.”
As the defensive coordinator, Parker has had a chance to note the progress of former Northeast High School standout, Mark Mahmens. He feels Mahmens is making strides in moving from defensive end to defensive tackle.
“He’s in there. He is a hard working kid,” Parker complemented. “He’s working hard as an inside guy. It takes time to learn how to play on the inside. He made more plays this spring than he did before.”
The Clinton County I-Club hosted an estimated 220 guests for the banquet.