IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It didn't take long for three Big Ten Network personalities to spout shining reviews of the University of Iowa football program following their visit to campus Wednesday.
"Best indoor facility in the Big Ten," BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo said.
"(Freshmen running backs) Greg Garmon and Barkley Hillcaught my eye this morning," said Tom Dienhart, senior writer for BTN.com.
"One thing you always know about the Hawkeyes when you look at them -- you're going to see a quality team," BTN analyst Howard Griffith said.
The Big Ten Network was in town for the first of its annual 12-stop tour around the conference for the Big Ten Football Preview Tour. Iowa's segment will be aired on the BTN on Thursday, Aug. 9, at 9 p.m. (CT).
"This is always a great stop," DiNardo said. "It's a fun place to come and (head coach) Kirk (Ferentz) and his staff treated us well. Practice didn't look much different; the names change, but we always say when we leave, that is one of the best practices we'll see during camp with the way it is organized and run. It was another great Iowa practice."
"This is always a great stop. It's a fun place to come and (head coach) Kirk (Ferentz) and his staff treated us well. Practice didn't look much different; the names change, but we always say when we leave, that is one of the best practices we'll see during camp with the way it is organized and run. It was another great Iowa practice." - Gerry DiNardo, Big Ten Network analyst
The Hawkeyes worked out inside their new indoor facility which provided an added treat to the BTN crew.
"First of all, the indoor practice facility is unbelievable," Griffith said. "It is well put together and well-designed."
"I know Kirk Ferentz pined for an upgrade facility-wise and he got it," Dienhart said. "I'll tell you what, this is spectacular."
Iowa returns 12 starters from a team that went 7-6 last season (4-4 in the Big Ten) and advanced to the Insight Bowl. The 2012 squad is heavy with underclassmen (81) and light at the upper end (40).
"If Iowa can answer questions at running back and along the defensive line, it could allow for a fast start to build momentum," Dienhart said. "If they can get the 4-0, 5-0 start, then they could be a dark horse in the Legends Division this year."
"If they can fix some of those (road) ills they had last year, there is no reason they shouldn't be right in the thick of things," Griffith said.
All eyes will be on a Hawkeye offensive backfield that returns running backs Damon Bullock (10 carries, 20 yards) and Brad Rogers (3 carries, 8 yards). True freshmen Hill and Garmon are already on the depth chart.
"(Garmon and Hill) hit the hole extremely fast," Dienhart said. "I saw them in some pass protection drills, going 1-on-1 with some of the linebackers and they stood up pretty well. For true freshmen without fully-developed bodies, they look like they have good strength to them, and their quickness was very apparent."
"They are going to be solid at the running back position, it's just a matter of time," Griffith said. "Clearly two freshmen are going to have an opportunity to contribute, and with freshmen, the key is to not put the ball on the ground, be able to pick up the blitz in the pass protection game, and catch the ball out of the backfield."
"My general feeling is there is talent there," DiNardo said. "It is hard to tell who is going to emerge based on one practice."
To read a recap of day by Dienhart, click HERE. To watch post-practice videos of Hawkeye players and coaches click HERE.
The University of Iowa football team will stage its annual "Kids Day at Kinnick" on Saturday, Aug. 11. Gates to Kinnick Stadium open at 11 a.m. (CT), with the team's practice scheduled to begin at noon. Iowa's 2012 Kids Day is presented by UI Children's Hospital and Kohl's Keeping Kids Safe.
The Hawkeyes kick off the 2012 College Football season on September 1st in Chicago's Soldier Field, as Iowa faces Northern Illinois for a 2:30 pm (CT) kickoff on ESPNU.