Iowa notebook: Kirk Ferentz pays tribute to Derrick Mitchell Jr., updates injury situation and more

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Derrick Mitchell Jr.

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the second time in barely seven months, a former Iowa running back has died from injuries suffered in an automobile-related accident.

Derrick Mitchell Jr., who was a member of Iowa’s 2015 Rose Bowl team, died on Tuesday after suffering injuries in a car accident over the weekend in his hometown of St. Louis. He was 24.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed the news at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

“On a somber note, I think all of us are really sorry to hear about Derrick Mitchell,” Ferentz said. “It is my understanding he was involved in an accident, I think it was last Friday morning. You knew that was a tough circumstance.

“So it's just a very tough thing, and way too young for something like that to happen. Certainly our condolences with his entire family and just a sad thing to relay.”

After redshirting in 2013, Mitchell compiled 339 total yards and three touchdowns over the next three seasons. He also led Iowa in rushing in the 2015 Big Ten Championship game with 24 yards, and had a career-high 79 rushing yards during a 40-10 victory at No. 20 Northwestern in that same season.

Mitchell Jr. left Iowa after the 2016 season after having dropped on the depth chart and was initially headed to Texas Tech as a graduate student, but landed at FCS school Incarnate Word instead. Mitchell Jr. was the Cardinals’ leading rusher in 2017, running for 601 yards and five touchdowns.

His death comes barely seven months after former Iowa running back Damon Bullock was hit and killed by a car in early March in his home state of Texas.

The Iowa players paid tribute to Bullock in the season opener against Miami of Ohio by wearing a “DB5” decal on their helmets.

It is unclear at this point if the team will do anything to honor Mitchell Jr. for Saturday’s game against Penn State at Kinnick Stadium.

Mitchell Jr. was a star quarterback in high school and then came to Iowa as a receiver. He switched to running back in hopes of seeing more playing time.

Injury report: The Iowa football team is getting healthier based on Kirk Ferentz’s injury report on Tuesday.

Ferentz said senior defensive tackle Brady Reiff and junior cornerback Matt Hankins both have returned to practice and could play on Saturday.

“Brady Reiff started practicing last week, so I think he should be ready to go this week,” Ferentz said. “Hankins was able to jump in and start working yesterday, so we'll see how the week goes with him. But I think he has a chance to be available, so we'll see where that all goes.”

Reiff started the first two games at defensive tackle before suffering an undisclosed injury, while Hankins started the first two games at cornerback before he was injured.

Matt Kroul honored: Matt Kroul’s life has mostly revolved around farming and football, and the former Hawkeye defensive tackle will be recognized for that when Iowa faces Penn State on Saturday in the annual America Needs Farmers Game presented by Iowa Farm Bureau.

Kroul will be recognized as its eighth ANF Wall of Honor recipient.

Previous Wall of Honorees are Aaron Kampman (2018), Chad Greenway (2017), Dallas Clark (2016), Robert Gallery (2015), Bruce Nelson (2104), Jared DeVries (2013), and Casey Wiegmann (2012).

Kroul played at Iowa from 2005-08 and started 50 consecutive games at defensive tckle.

He now helps his father run the family farm, which is located just south of Mount Vernon on Highway 1.

“It's a great concept first and foremost that started several years ago,” Kirk Ferentz said. “Every recipient has been so worthy and Matt certainly is right there with all those guys. Just a tremendous group of individuals and really happy for Matt, so it's a great, great honor and one he's very deserving of.”

Kroul addressed the media on Tuesday and was asked about his durability as a Hawkeye. He singled out Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle for helping to make that happen.

“I think it’s a testament to coach Doyle, too,” Kroul said. “I didn’t mention him yet. He was huge part of not only what directed me in life through those five years, but the things that you learn from that guy carry you forward through life and carry you forward on a daily basis in farming.

“If you followed him and followed what he was teaching you, not only from sleeping and nutrition to the strength and conditioning program standpoint, you knew you’d be fine. Yeah, luck was definitely involved. But at the same time, listen to coach Doyle and read his bible, so to speak, on what to eat, what to do and how to train and recover, it paid off for 50 games.”

Kroul looked back at some of his most memorable games as a Hawkeye, including the 24-23 victory over third-ranked Penn State as a senior in 2008, and the win over Wisconsin in 2005 when he was a redshirt freshman.

Barry Alvarez was coaching in his final game at Wisconsin when Iowa pulled off the upset in 2005 in Madison, Wis.

“I kind of light up when you say that because people say, hey, what’s your favorite game,” Kroul said. “You play fifty of them and that’s a lot of games but that is one that I always go back to, playing in Camp Randall and Barry’s last game.”

ANF Week: There will be a lot more than a football game taking place at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.

As part of ANF Week, Saturday's game, which will start at 6:30 p.m. and televised by ABC, is also a black and gold spirit game. Fans are encouraged to wear either black or gold depending on what section they sit in at Kinnick Stadium.

Members of Iowa's 2009 Orange Bowl champion team will also be honored, and there will be an autograph session before the game featuring former players Ricky Stanzi, Marvin McNutt and A.J. Edds. Kroul will also be a part of the autograph session, which will be held at the Krause Family Plaze.

It also was announced on Tuesday that four F-35 fighter jets will perform a flyover following the playing of the National Anthem at Kinnick Stadium. The lead pilot and the second pilot are both graduates of the University of Iowa, while the third pilot is a Burlington native.       

Goodson climbing: True freshman running back Tyler Goodson made the depth chart for the first time this week as his role continues to expand.

The Suwanee, Ga., native has appeared in all five games this season and led Iowa with a career-high 62 receiving yards on five catches in this past Saturday's 10-3 loss at Michigan.

Goodson also has rushed for 217 yards this season and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

Iowa had three established junior running backs on the roster when Goodson signed with the Hawkeyes, but he appears to have climbed above Ivory Kelly-Martin on the depth chart.

Juniors Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young still are listed as the top two running backs on the depth chart.

“Just watch what we've been doing, right, Goodson has been getting a lot of work,” Kirk Ferentz said. “He has done a good job. We are not disappointed with Ivory, either.

“We have four guys, and to your point, it's probably tough to rotate four guys, or at least have them do the kinds of things we want them to do. I think right now we are probably more focused on those top three and kind of play it week-by-week.”