Big Ten: Cody Hundertmark
Hundertmark had been in the mix at offensive line this spring and was listed as the backup right guard on the team's preseason depth chart. He moved from defensive line to offense before the Orange Bowl and appeared in two games last season.
Not surprisingly, I asked Ferentz about Iowa's offensive line, which has been and will be the team's biggest question mark between now and the season opener Sept. 4 against Eastern Illinois. The Hawkeyes lose four players with starting experience up front -- Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Dace Richardson and Rafael Eubanks -- and need to fill three starting spots and build depth.
Ferentz has seen some separation this spring, as six linemen are creating some distance from the pack. Along with tackle Riley Reiff and guard Julian Vandervelde, who have combined for 35 career starts, Ferentz signaled out guard Adam Gettis, tackle Markus Zusevics and center Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz, who are in a tight race this spring.
"Gettis and Zusevics, both of those guys have been in the program," Ferentz said. "Gettis played more than Markus did last year. He played an awful lot of football because Julian was coming off his [pectoral] tear. He really played pretty well last year, and both those guys have potential to be good Big Ten linemen. And then at the center position, it's kind of a dead heat right now.
"Those six guys have operated pretty well, and they're going against good competition, so we're getting a fair evaluation."
After the top six, there are some question marks as Iowa tries to build depth. Ferentz identified guard Cody Hundertmark, a converted defensive linemen, as the closest to being game ready. Hundertmark has showed good ability but is still trying to bring it all together to fit with the scheme.
"We've got some ground to make up in terms of depth," Ferentz said. "I go back to my time here [as offensive line coach] in the '80s, maybe outside of one year, it's always been an issue. We're not uncommon there with any program in the country.
"Our first-line guys are progressing, doing a pretty good job. We've got to keep bringing them along."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Fifteen spring practices still don't mask all the warts a team has, and every head coach has a position group that keeps him awake at night. After looking at where each Big Ten team got help this spring, here's a look at the positions that still look a little shaky around the league.
Illinois' offensive line -- The Illini boast arguably more offensive firepower than any Big Ten team, but they'll struggle without improvement up front. There's youth throughout the front five, and while players like Jeff Allen boast loads of potential, there are a few unknowns heading into the fall. The line allowed five sacks and 16 tackles for loss in the spring game.
Indiana's wide receivers -- Kellen Lewis' dismissal from the program after spring practice creates a major void at receiver. Lewis was pegged to be Ben Chappell's top target, and with Ray Fisher moving from wideout to cornerback, the Hoosiers need big things from young players like Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher.
Iowa's defensive tackles -- This position will be a question mark for the Hawkeyes right up until the season opener, and most likely beyond. Iowa must find a way to replace mainstays Mitch King and Matt Kroul, and it lacks much experience besides Karl Klug. The team needs continued development from guys like Mike Daniels and Cody Hundertmark.
Michigan's defensive line -- Brandon Graham should be one of the nation's top pass-rushers this fall, but he needs some help up front. Michigan likes what it has in young linemen like Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin and incoming freshman Craig Roh. Those players will need to grow up fast so the defense can generate consistent pressure.
Michigan State's running backs -- Few players meant more to an offense than Javon Ringer did to Michigan State last fall, and the search for a replacement remains a bit murky. Aside from a brief surge by Ashton Leggett, the running back room remains very crowded as Caulton Ray entered the mix this spring. Two heralded freshmen arrive during the summer in Edwin Baker and Larry Caper.
Minnesota's offensive line -- The Gophers have the bodies up front, but they've still got a long way to go in picking up the new offensive system/philosophy. It's a fairly dramatic change for returning starters like Dom Alford and Ned Tavale, so growing pains are expected. But a talented Gophers team can't take another step forward if its offensive line doesn't come together.
Northwestern's wide receivers -- Three starters are gone at receiver, and no one really wowed during spring practice. Northwestern should get better here as Jeremy Ebert returns from hip surgery, but it's time for experienced players like Andrew Brewer and Sidney Stewart to step up as primary targets for new starting quarterback Mike Kafka.
Ohio State's offensive line -- Michigan transfer Justin Boren undoubtedly had a positive effect on the offensive line this spring, but questions remain about a group that underachieved for most of 2008. Can Mike Adams complement his physical gifts with a toughness needed to play left tackle in the Big Ten? How will Jim Cordle and Bryant Browning adjust to new positions when the games begin? Stay tuned.
Penn State's secondary -- Head coach Joe Paterno didn't hide his concern for this group, which lost all four starters from 2008. Breakdowns in the secondary doomed Penn State in its only two losses last fall. Safety Drew Astorino should be ready for big things, but cornerback A.J. Wallace must find a way to stay healthy and become a legit shutdown guy on the outside.
Purdue's quarterbacks -- Joey Elliott boasts the knowledge to be an effective Big Ten starter, but does he have the skills to get it done? He has spent a lot of time on the sideline during his college career, and Purdue would benefit from having another viable option at quarterback. Justin Siller's dismissal really stings, and the development of backup Caleb TerBush looms large this summer.
Wisconsin's linebackers -- The Badgers lose a lot of production in DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas, and they don't have much proven depth at linebacker. They can ill afford an injury to Jaevery McFadden or Culmer St. Jean, and it's imperative to develop more linebackers during preseason camp.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The conference room outside Kirk Ferentz's office serves as a shrine to what Iowa football has accomplished in the last decade.
A case holding watches and rings from each of the seven bowl games Iowa has made during Ferentz's tenure as head coach rests on a table. The 2004 Big Ten championship trophy sits in a corner, and pictures from bowl games and Kinnick Stadium line the four walls.
It's an easy place for a coach to nod his head and take stock of what his program has accomplished since 1999.
Ferentz does none of that, and neither do his players.
"Nobody's going to mistake us with Southern Cal," Ferentz said. "So we better have an edge and we better be trying to maximize what we have."
What Ferentz has is a team that returns 16 starters, eight on a defense that finished fifth nationally in scoring (13 points per game), ninth in rushing (94 yards per game) and 10th in takeaways (32) last season. Iowa was the lone Big Ten team to win its bowl game, capturing six of its final seven games overall, and should enter the fall ranked in the top 20.
But there are question marks, and Ferentz recognizes them. Iowa remains young, with only 15 seniors and five three-year lettermen on the 98-man roster. The Hawkeyes lose Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene at running back and defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, both four-year starters.
"You don't take nothing for granted," cornerback Amari Spievey said.
"Absolutely nothing," added linebacker Pat Angerer.
Ferentz likes the attitude he's seen so far this spring.
"So far, so good," he said. "This team has a chance to be a good football team. We've got a lot of work to do in a lot of areas, mentally and physically, but we have a good feel about it thus far."
Other notes from my coversation with Ferentz and several players:
- Ferentz sounds pleased with the development of junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who beat out Jake Christensen for the starting job last year and led Iowa to its strong finish. Ball security will be the primary challenge for Stanzi, who bounced back from mistakes well last year but can't afford to play with fire too much. Ferentz and tight end Tony Moeaki both recognized Stanzi's obvious development as a leader during the offseason.
"Last year, he was just a guy," Ferentz said. "He's just on a natural track of progression. Rick was just trying to play last year. Not that he wasn't a leader, but we've seen that expand, too. We're optimistic that he'll continue on. ... You hope from an experienced quarterback that he's going to be making better decisions with each opportunity, and I think we've seen that."
- The competition to replace Shonn Greene is under way, and Ferentz doesn't want to place unreasonable expectations on the team's next running back. Jewel Hampton, Greene's primary backup last season, missed the first third of spring ball with a mild hamstring strain but is back at practice and taking contact. Redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson missed the second third of the spring with the flu and is now back. Junior Paki O'Meara has participated throughout the spring.
- As for the void at defensive tackle, junior Karl Klug has stepped in well. Ferentz praised the spring performance of Mike Daniels and said Travis Meade has moved from offensive line to defensive tackle. Freshman Steve Bigach also is getting work this spring. Ferentz said starting ends Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard have taken on the leadership load with the line.
- Ferentz said Iowa will be playing three night games during Big Ten play: at Penn State (Sept. 26), vs. Michigan (Oct. 10) and at Michigan State (Oct. 24).
- Six players are out for the spring following surgeries: Tight end Tony Moeaki, safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood, linebacker A.J. Edds, defensive tackle Cody Hundertmark, and right guard Andy Kuempel. Ferentz said there have been no major injuries this spring aside from players missing a few practices here and there. Moeaki was on crutches when we talked but expects to be back soon.
- There's some buzz around the program that wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has fallen out of favor a bit after a strong finish last fall. Asked about the wideouts, Ferentz named four players Marvin McNutt, Colin Sandeman, Paul Chaney and Trey Stross -- before getting to Johnson-Koulianos, who led the team in both receptions (44) and receiving yards (639) last fall.
"He's got to improve just like everybody else," Ferentz said of the man known as DJK. "There's a lot of little things that he can do better. With receivers, when they make plays, it's pretty obvious, but there are a lot of things that go on during the game that go unnoticed by the average person watching. That's a challenge for all the guys."
- McNutt, who switched to wide receiver from quarterback, has "been intriguing," Ferentz said. He also praised Chaney and Stross for their performances this spring.
- Ferentz discussed the team's recent off-field problems, which included the arrest of his son, James, a sophomore center. Angerer, who admits he partied too much early in his career, also weighed in on the trend.
"We've all been there," Angerer said. "There's a lot of guys on the team that probably should have gotten in trouble, and I'm one of them. I've done some stupid stuff, I've had my fair share of fun, but it's never been as fun as playing in front of 70,000 people."
- Until this week the offseason has been very positive for Ferentz, who agreed to a new contract in February through the 2015 season. The NFL rumors likely will never go away for Ferentz, but the Big Ten's second-longest tenured coach sounds pretty comfortable in his surroundings.
"I'm 53, so I don't know how many more years I've got," he said with a laugh. "I don't think that far out, I really don't. We'll worry about this year, and then we'll go from there. But my plan is to coach for a long time, and my plan is to be here for a long time."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Iowa junior defensive end Adrian Clayborn has not been suspended and joined his teammates for the start of spring practice today.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday that Clayborn, recently charged with assault for allegedly punching a taxi driver Jan. 18 in Iowa City, remains in good standing with the team. Clayborn recorded 50 tackles and 2 sacks last fall, his first season as a starter, and is pegged to be one of the leaders of Iowa's new-look defensive line.
"Sometimes there are two sides to stories," Ferentz said. "I've heard two sides of it, and right now, for me to make any judgment ... would be irresponsible, so I'm not going to do it."
Some other notes from Ferentz's news conference:
- Ferentz said four projected Hawkeyes starters -- linebacker A.J. Edds, tight end Tony Moeaki and safeties Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash -- will be held out of contact during spring drills. The oft-injured Moeaki is battling a foot injury that could be a stress fracture. Reserve guard Andy Kuempel and reserve defensive lineman Cody Hundertmark also will be held out of contact.
"We have too many guys that are out with injuries right now," Ferentz said. "We had our share of postseason surgeries. That's a pretty good dent with those six guys. On the other side, it really gives an opportunity for some younger players to get exposure."
- Iowa could get offensive tackle Dace Richardson, a heralded recruit who has battled injuries, back in the mix this spring. Ferentz hopes Richardson can compete for time on the offensive line, which has vacancies at right guard and center.
- Junior Karl Klug and sophomore Mike Daniels are listed as the starting defensive tackles on Iowa's pre-spring depth chart, as the team tries to replace four-year starters Mitch King and Matt Kroul.
- Sophomore Marvin McNutt has moved from quarterback to wide receiver, so the backup quarterback job is wide open. Redshirt freshmen James Vandenberg and John Wienke will compete there.
- As expected, sophomore Jewel Hampton is listed as Iowa's starting running back, ahead of both Jeff Brinson and Paki O'Meara.