Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Opening spring ball: Iowa
By Adam Rittenberg
Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes hit the practice field Wednesday for the first of 15 spring workouts.
Here's a snapshot of the Hawkeyes in spring ball:
The big story: Football mercifully resumes as Iowa tries to turn the page on a rough offseason and start fresh. Aside from the dramatic Insight Bowl win against Missouri, Iowa hasn't enjoyed much good news in the past four months. There were off-field problems and player discipline, followed by the hospitalization of 13 players with rhabdomyolysis in January and a subsequent internal investigation. The football field will be a welcome sight for Ferentz and his players as they try to regain their mojo from 2009. Iowa loses a large senior class but returns a group of promising young players and a very solid offensive line. Ferentz's teams typically fare better when outside expectations aren't as high, but the growth process must begin right away this spring.
Position in the spotlight: Quarterback jumps to mind as Iowa begins the task of replacing three-year starter Ricky Stanzi. Remember James Vandenberg? The plucky freshman who nearly led Iowa to a Big Ten title-clinching win at Ohio State in 2009? He now sets his sights on the starting job but could be pushed by junior John Wienke and redshirt freshman A.J. Derby, a fascinating player who could see time at other positions. I'd also include safety here as the Hawkeyes must replace both starters (Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood).
Coaching changes: Ferentz's staff stability continued as Iowa was one of only two Big Ten squads to avoid any coaching changes during the offseason. The only potential uncertainty is veteran defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who missed most of last season following foot amputation surgery. Parker is a battler, though, and will be helping the Hawkeyes as long as his health holds up.
Keep an eye on: Keenan Davis. Iowa needs a No. 2 receiver to emerge alongside Marvin McNutt, and Davis will get every chance to fill the role this spring. A heralded recruit, Davis has just 15 receptions in his first two seasons and needs to take the next step at a position of need.
Spring game: April 16