By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — IOWA CITY – There just wasn’t of offensive punch in the Iowa Hawkeye football team last season. At least, that’s how it seemed at times.
In fact, the Hawkeyes in the last half of last season were a team looking for a spark anywhere they could get it. After all, maybe just one big play or one big score is all it would have taken for Iowa to stop what turned into a six-game season-ending losing streak.
Jordan Cotton and Henry Krieger-Coble certainly did what they could to make those plays last year, even in the face of defeat. For Cotton, there was a 92-yard kickoff return that is among the top-10 all-time longest returns in Iowa football history coming in the 38-14 loss to Penn State that started the losing streak.
For Krieger-Coble, a career milestone was achieved during a very difficult day for his team. The freshman tight end caught his first touchdown of his Hawkeye career, hauling in a 16-yard reception in the "Big House" as Iowa suffered a 42-17 loss to Michigan in a game to ensure Kirk Ferentz’s fourth losing season in 13 years as Hawkeye head coach.
So maybe the first season together as Hawkeye teammates wasn’t quite as memorable on the field for Cotton and Krieger-Coble as their days together at Mount Pleasant. The good news is both can look forward to one more year together in black and gold and both could be looking at playing big roles in the re-awakening of exciting Iowa football.
“Since we didn’t make it to a bowl game, we’ve been looking forward to our first game of this season ever since last November,” Cotton said. “We’ve been pushing forward together ever since that last game against Nebraska last year. It’s time to play football. We’re ready to go.”
“It’s really exciting to get back here and get back on the field,” Krieger-Coble added. “We’ve got a lot of opportunities to get better before our first game (Aug. 31). I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the time.”
There are several area prep teams, from Fairfield to Oskaloosa, that know just how tough it is to stop either Cotton or Krieger-Coble on the gridiron. Cotton has gone from a multi-talented athlete that shined in several sports at Mount Pleasant while becoming a two-time first-team all-state talent for the Panther football team to a Hawkeye senior that is a First Team preseason All-Big Ten selection at kick return specialist after leading the conference with 28.2 yards a return last season.
Cotton, who came out of high school as a tailback who gained over 3,000 yards on the ground, also figures to play a key role at wide receiver in his senior campaign at Iowa. After going two years in Iowa City without playing one down of football, Cotton is happy the opportunities that are beginning to come his way.
“I had a lot of guys in front of me I could learn from when I first got here, so I saw what the older guys did,” Cotton said. “Around here, you just have to wait your turn. That’s what the older guys did. That’s what I did too.”
Like Cotton, Krieger-Coble came to Iowa and sat out one year to redshirt after a glorious prep career in Henry County. The son of a former Hawkeye softball player and the seventh member of his family to compete at Iowa, Krieger-Coble finished three letter winning years of varsity football as an Elite All-State selection and three-time All-State honoree after leading the team as a receiver and tackler while playing wide receiver, tight end and linebacker during his career.
Just like Cotton, however, those impressive prep numbers didn’t translate to big numbers in the Big Ten. Krieger-Coble finished last year playing in nine games for Iowa, making just four catches all season for 30 yards including his 16-yard touchdown catch at Michigan.
“Everyone gets their opportunity to come on the field at one point or another,” Krieger-Coble said. “I just tried to take advantage of that whenever I could.”
And just as he did when he began playing football at Mount Pleasant, Krieger-Coble could always rely on the advice of a more experienced player like Cotton. Having experienced some of the growing pains that comes with the redshirt season to the battle for playing time Krieger-Coble is likely to experience this season, Cotton has been there and done that at Iowa.
“It was really nice having someone that you already know to talk to,” Krieger-Coble said of his relationship with his former Panther and current Hawkeye teammate Cotton. “It was really cool to see him go (to Iowa) a few years before I did. When I was a little younger and just getting my feet in the water here, it was nice to have someone here. It was always easy to talk to him.”
Cotton, who like Krieger-Coble is also a second-generation Hawkeye as the son of another former Iowa football player Marshall Cotton (1984-97), has been just as proud to watch his Mount Pleasant teammate make such early strides on the college level.
“He played early on at Mount Pleasant and he’s really developed a lot ever since he got here,” Cotton said of Krieger-Coble. “He’s a hard worker and he’s going to give you 100 percent every day. I’m not at all surprised to see him doing this well this early. He was moved up early on by coach (Bob) Jensen as a freshman (at Mount Pleasant). He’s a gamer. Whenever a game is on the line, he’s the one that’s going to go out there to make that hard play to help you win.”
After a season in which Iowa had a total of just seven touchdowns through the air, both Cotton and Krieger-Coble could figure into helping offensive coordinator Greg Davis find a way to dramatically boost that number this fall. To help produce a signature season of success on the gridiron at Iowa would be a great way for two young men from Mount Pleasant to finish up their football careers as teammates with Cotton preparing for his senior season.
“It’s always comfortable to be out there knowing you’re out there playing with a guy from your hometown knowing you’re both playing at that same high level,” Cotton said. “It just makes everything fun.”
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