Big Ten: Kyle Haganman

Iowa opened spring practice today, and head coach Kirk Ferentz met with reporters to preview the next few weeks.

A few takeaways from Ferentz's news conference and Iowa's spring two-deep:

  • Health update: safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood will miss spring ball following shoulder surgeries; running back Adam Robinson also will sit out following shoulder surgery; linemen Steve Bigach (knee) and Kyle Haganman (shoulder) also are out following surgeries. Running back Jewel Hampton (knee) has been cleared to practice this spring and will be involved in some contact drills (won't be tackled). Wide receiver Paul Chaney Jr. (knee) will be very limited in spring ball but should be back to full strength by June. Defensive end Dominic Alvis (groin) will be very limited. Nolan MacMillan could be in the mix at offensive line, but he's still working back from sports hernia surgery.
  • Not surprisingly, Ferentz fielded several questions about the offensive line, which loses four players who started part or all of last season. Iowa's spring depth chart shows the starting offense line as Riley Reiff at left tackle, Julian Vandervelde at left guard, Josh Koeppel or James Ferentz at center, Adam Gettis at right guard and Markus Zusevics at right tackle. But don't read into that too much, as Ferentz likened filling out the first string, after Reiff and Vandervelde, to throwing darts or flipping coins. "We probably have eight or nine guys competing for the top spots," Ferentz said. "We have a lot of guys on pretty equal footing as far as the competition goes."
  • As expected, Shaun Prater is listed as the starter at right cornerback, while Micah Hyde appears as the starter at left corner ahead of both William Lowe and Jordan Bernstine, who comes back from an ankle injury that sidelined him all of last season. Amari Spievey was a huge loss, and it will be interesting to see who steps in for him.
  • Ferentz gave a very Ferentz-like answer when asked about the expectations Iowa will face heading into 2010. "We have some very good players back and that will drive expectations," he said. "Preseason polls are a lot like recruiting rankings. They are all speculative. Recruiting rankings are based on what guys did in high school, which is the only way you can rank them. I think preseason rankings are based on your experience level, your success level and then maybe the name of your school, too. So those three things factor in. ... Outside of maybe the name-brand schools, the preseason polls are usually not real accurate."
  • Ferentz called the competition at kicker wide open between Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker. "We can do better at that position," he said.
  • Ferentz praised the development of linebackers Jeff Tarpinian, Troy Johnson and Tyler Nielsen, who will compete for the two vacant starting spots alongside Jeremiha Hunter. "Quite frankly I'm almost more worried about a year from now at our linebacker spot," he said. "Sounds kind of funny, our two pretty good seniors graduating, but we are top heavy age-wise."
  • Ferentz is optimistic about the competition at running backs and would like to have three healthy options on game days this fall.
  • The coach also gave an update on his NCAA tournament bracket, which, like many of ours, is busted. One of his daughters, meanwhile, picked Northern Iowa's upset of Kansas. "She knows nothing about basketball," Ferentz said. "Her other picks were -- she was leading after the first two days. I guess she's still leading. She's beating the president, right now, on her brackets. Whatever. Mine are awful."

Spring superlatives: Iowa

March, 18, 2010
The spring superlatives series marches on, as I take a look at the strongest position and weakest position for each Big Ten team entering spring practice.

Up next is Iowa, which returns 14 starters from a team that went 11-2 and won an Orange Bowl championship last season. The Hawkeyes are especially strong at defensive line, safety and the offensive skill spots, but they need to reload at offensive line and linebacker.

Strongest position: Defensive line

  • Key returnees: Defensive end Adrian Clayborn (70 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 9 quarterback hurries, 1 blocked kick); defensive end Broderick Binns (63 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 9 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked kick); defensive tackle Karl Klug (65 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 5 passes defended); defensive tackle Christian Ballard (54 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 5 quarterback hurries).
  • Key losses: None
  • The skinny: The Hawkeyes will boast arguably the nation's best defensive line in 2010, as all four starters return from a group that changed games last fall. Clayborn should contend for All-America honors after being one of the Big Ten's most disruptive defenders last fall. Binns also changed games with several big plays, and all four men contributed to a defense that ranked 10th nationally in yards allowed (276.5 ypg) and eighth in points allowed (15.4). Depth is a mini concern entering 2010, but Iowa boasts so many playmakers among the starting four that it should be fine.
Weakest position: Offensive line

  • Key returnees: Tackle Riley Reiff, guard Julian Vandervelde
  • Key losses: Tackle Bryan Bulaga, guard Dace Richardson, center Rafael Eubanks, tackle Kyle Calloway
  • The skinny: Offensive line is undoubtedly the single biggest question mark for Iowa in 2010 as four players with significant starting experience depart, as well as a few reserves. The good news is head coach Kirk Ferentz has a good track record of filling gaps up front. Reiff emerged nicely during Bulaga's three-game absence in 2009 and will play a critical role in protecting quarterback Ricky Stanzi in 2010. Vandervelde also brings experience to the interior line, but Iowa needs more bodies there. Bulaga was the team's most decorated O-lineman, but Eubanks could end up being the toughest one to replace. Keep an eye on players like Josh Koeppel, Adam Gettis, Markus Zusevics and Kyle Haganman this spring.