Hype Train

HI.com Publisher
Posted Aug 30, 2011


Many players are crushed by the expectations created by hype on the recruiting trail. Iowa's Keenan Davis and C.J. Fiedorowicz seemed to have figured out what's most important.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - It doesn't take long to get the hype train started. Shortly after that, it's well beyond the station (and, often, reality).

I know I'm part of the problem. Running a web site that covers recruiting, we feed the madness. No, it's not all craziness, but there's enough there to make Nurse Ratched (Google it) feel at home.

Fair or not, Keenan Davis and C.J. Fiedorowicz serve as examples in this equation. We could come up with a long list of others. I'm looking at you, Jordan Bernstine. Your time is now, Nico Law. Get ready, Maurice Fleming.

We build them up along the recruiting trail creating an expectation for them in college. Heaven help us if they don't live up to it…and fast.

I've discussed highly regarded recruits countless times with fans. The conversations usually start with something like "what's going on with (fill in the blank)? Why isn't he playing? Is he a bust."

The answer is pretty simple, all things being equal with health and otherwise. Tony Moeaki is a freak. Most guys take some time to develop. You see that across the country, not just at Iowa. And the Hawkeyes are more of a developmental program than are the blue bloods.

Davis arrived at Iowa in the summer of 2009 as a Scout.com four-star recruit and the 18th-ranked receiver in the country. He brought the added pressure of growing up a half hour from campus in Cedar Rapids.

Davis starts to smile when asked if friends and family questioned him during his first two seasons at Iowa as to why he hasn't gotten on the field.

"Yeah, yeah, I try not to pay attention to that stuff," Davis said. "I know why I'm not on the field. There were two of the best wide receivers (Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt) that I've ever seen ahead of me. I loved learning from them. I loved sitting back and watching. I even learned a lot from the guys that didn't play much.

"I've learned how to be a receiver and a teammate. The people outside don't see that. It's a process. You have to put a wall up to all that noise from the outside and focus on you."

I remember talking to Davis early in his career. He told me it was tough to be patient. Tuesday, he said it wasn't that bad. That's been part of the maturation process.

It's not easy to wait your turn. The guys who are patient and do the necessary things to improve often make it.

Fiedorowicz showed up at Iowa with monstrous expectations. The Class of 2010 recruit from Illinois was ranked as the No. 2 tight end nationally by Scout.com. His de-commitment from the rival Illini to join the Hawkeyes also stoked the fire.

"I did a lot of learning the first year," Fiedorowicz said. "I had a big head coming in here."

Last season, Fiedorowicz played sparingly at tight end as a true freshman. Most of his reps came on special teams.

"I never really got the chance to watch college football," he said. "I was a three-sport athlete (in high school), so I only got to watch bits and pieces. I didn't know all that went into being a college tight end.

"It's a physical spot as well. You're not going to be able to play tight end at Iowa unless you're able to block."

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff demand a lot from their players. Missed assignments aren't tolerated.

"I got yelled at a lot last year," he said. "I'd block the wrong guy or something like that. I've improved with my footwork and my overall blocking. I couldn't even get in a stance when I got here."

A lot more goes into succeeding at the college level than meets most fans' eyes. That preparation also is a process.

"You get awakened that there's more to the game than what you think," Davis said. "The speed is quite a bit different. You also have to have a lot more knowledge of the game (than in high school).

"There's a lot more studying. In high school, I really didn't study film. I didn't know anything about that. Here, you spend countless hours studying film."

Fiedorowicz is at peace with his first college football season.

"I was behind two really good tight ends in Allen Reisner and Brad Herman, who knew the offense," he said. "I needed to learn. I got my feet wet on special teams, which was needed. Now, I'm hoping to contribute on offense."

Davis and Fiedorowicz played as true freshman, mostly on special teams. Things have cleared out on the depth chart at their respective positions that they came into this season with a chance to employ what they've learned.

"I'm really excited to show the team that I can come out and help," Davis said. "I want to see how I've grown. Everybody wants to see how they've grown."

Davis and Fiedorowicz say they're not motivated to live up to their advanced billing coming out of high school. They're past that.

"I play for the team," Davis said. "I'm a Hawkeye just like everybody else out here. I'm trying to grow as a person trying to help the team grow as a full unit.

"That's what I play for."

There's a lesson in that for all of us.


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