TaxSlayer Bowl Notebook: Scherff excited about challenge in Barnett

Iowa’s Brandon Scherff is pumped up about facing Tennessee phenom Derek Barnett.

JACKSONVILLE, Florida — By now, Brandon Scherff has heard the noise about Tennessee’s phenomenal pass rusher Derek Barnett. When asked Wednesday morning what he thinks about the freshman, Scherff said he was, like most of us, impressed.

“For a kid who’s 18, a freshman in college, I know he’s a lot further along than I was as a freshman,” Scherff said.

Barnett, of course, set Tennessee records this season. His 20.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks are the most by a true freshman in program history. Both figures rank among the best in the SEC, too.

Scherff, of course, is Iowa’s prized bull, the 2014 Outland Trophy winner and consensus All-American. The senior left tackle is projected by many as a first-round draft pick in the 2015 NFL draft — some even have him going as high as the top 10.

This creates an intriguing matchup, a talented freshman from arguably the game’s best conference against the country’s best offensive lineman. The idea of having to block Barnett excites Scherff, and he said he’s looking forward to.

“He’s quick off the edge and a very powerful guy,” Scherff said. “The whole defense is quick. They like to rush to the edge, they like to finish blocks, and they like to do what we want to do, and that’s be the most-physical team on the field.”

Scherff Inside

Weisman is ‘fine,’ excited about healthy backfield

Senior running back Mark Weisman said on Wednesday that his health is fine and that he’ll be ready to play on Friday when the TaxSlayer Bowl kicks off.

Weisman’s good health comes at the same time as that of his teammates. Iowa’s four main running backs — Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, LeShun Daniels Jr., and Akrum Wadley — are all healthy and ready to play against Tennessee.

Iowa’s coaches — specifically, offensive coordinator Greg Davis and head coach Kirk Ferentz — said earlier in the week Iowa will play the “hot hand” against the Volunteers. Weisman will likely get the start, but his healthy teammates in the backfield, he said, will bode well for the Hawkeyes.

“It makes us a better football team,” Weisman said. “It’s great to have everybody back healthy and ready to go.

“[Tennessee’s defense] is out there every play, and we’re not going to be out there every play, all the running backs. So we should be fresh out there, and maybe get an extra step on them.”

Coaches enjoy Florida

Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Iowa’s Ferentz both said on Wednesday morning that they’ve enjoyed the TaxSlayer Bowl experience.

“We’ve had a tremendous experience being here this past week,” Ferentz said. “Everybody’s just been fantastic, starting with the committee, the events, and everybody involved. Just tremendous. The hotel we’re staying at has been great. The high school we’re practicing at has been great.

“It’s really been a great experience for our football team, and we’re really appreciative for this opportunity.”

Jones said the bowl and the experience have been “first class.”

“It’s been a great, great experience for our players,” he said.

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