Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz met with reporters today in advance of spring practice kicking off Wednesday. Ferentz discussed an eventful offseason that included the first two coordinator changes of his tenure. The Hawkeyes have released their spring prospectus, which includes a depth chart filled with young players at key positions like defensive end.
Here are some notes from the new dean of Big Ten coaches:
Ferentz seemed excited about the additions to his staff and talked about streamlining the game plan on offense with new coordinator Greg Davis. Asked whether Iowa would run more of a spread offense with Davis, Ferentz joked that the team had the most pass attempts in his tenure last season but "didn't get any credit for it." He then took a playful shot at the common fan criticism of Iowa's offense, saying, "Maybe they were conservative throws we were throwing." It does sound like after two ho-hum seasons, Iowa needed to shake things up a bit. "The downside of continuity, stability I think is sometimes you just kind of stay on that same path," Ferentz said. "It's time to look at a lot of things. That's what we're trying to do right now. It's fun. It's invigorating. We're going to do it regardless of what happened with our staff personnel-wise."
He also had this to say about Iowa's defensive plan under Phil Parker: "If all you do is throw fastballs, you better be throwing it up near 100 [mph] coming in. But if you can't throw it up that high, you better have a couple other things in your repertoire, at least one other good pitch. You get a guy off guard a little bit. I think that's what we'll have to do."
Iowa will be without defensive linemen Dominic Alvis and Carl Davis this spring, as both men are sidelined with knee injuries. Their absences leave Iowa with what has to be one of the youngest defensive line groups in the country. The Hawkeyes list redshirt freshmen Dean Tsopanides and Riley McMinn as the starting defensive ends on their pre-spring depth chart. Redshirt freshman Darian Cooper is listed as a starting defensive tackle, although Alvis likely will fill that role when he returns. Other than senior tackle Steve Bigach, a projected starter, and backup tackle Joe Gaglione, it's all freshmen and sophomores up front. "We are a very young group," Ferentz said.
Iowa isn't quite as young on the offensive line, although there are some question marks after center James Ferentz and left guard Matt Tobin, who has the ability to play several spots. Sophomores Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal are listed as co-starters at left tackle, and Brett Van Sloten, who played in the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma, is listed as the starting right tackle ahead of Nolan MacMillan, who comes off an injury-plagued 2011. "We have six, seven, eight, maybe nine guys, maybe 10 for the offensive line positions," Ferentz said. "We're going into it with an open mind. There's no incumbents certainly."
The Hawkeyes could end the spring with a clear No. 1 running back, although Ferentz doesn't think they will. Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock are listed as Iowa's top two backs on the pre-spring two-deep, although Ferentz also says De'Andre Johnson can help. "We're going to let those three guys compete and see how that materializes," he said. Heralded freshman Greg Garmon enters the mix this summer.
Ferentz is definitely relying on Keenan Davis to emerge as the team's top receiver, especially since there's so much youth behind him. Iowa also is looking for more from the tight end spot, where athletic junior C.J. Fiedorowicz is listed as the starter.
Tidbits: Iowa likely won't make any position changes. Ferentz said one player was discussed but hasn't made a move. ... It's unclear whether Davis will coach from the field or the press box. ... Ferentz said B.J. Lowery has the inside track to start at cornerback opposite Micah Hyde. ... Jake Rudock is listed as the backup quarterback, while reserve signal caller John Wienke is listed as the starting punter. Iowa signed a specialist in February in Connor Kornbrath.