Spring has sprung, which means not just previews, podcasts, but press conferences, too. Ferentz's annual spring football presser is slightly more informative than your average KF presser, since it's usually our first glimpse of where things stand after the annual end-of-season shuffling that goes on after guys leave the program. Sadly, Biff Poggi was not in attendance at this presser.
* Injury updatin'. As always, there are a handful of guys who will miss spring practice while they rehab injuries:
* Marvin McNutt, WR: thumb/shoulder
* Tanner Miller, S: shoulder
* Shane DiBona, LB: shoulder
* Steve Bigach, DT: shoulder
* Austin Vier, TE: back
* Brad Rogers, FB: heart
Aside from Rogers, they're all expected to be fine for summer/fall camp. Rogers is still undergoing tests; Ferentz wasn't sure when (or if) he'll be back at this point. Tyler Nielsen is back to full health after a broken neck ended his season last year, but they're still going to take it easy with him during spring ball.
* Fullbacks fullbacks fullbacks. With the graduation of Brett Morse and the ongoing health issues surrounding Brad Rogers, there's a definite void at fullback. Fortunately, there's no shortage of bodies at that spot after some off-season position switches:
* Scott Covert: was DE, now FB
* Jonathan Gimm: was TE, now FB
* Matt Meyers: was LB, now FB
* Cameron Olson: was LB, now FB
They join Rogers, Jacob Reisen, and Mark Weisman (a transfer from Air Force; he'll have to sit out this year, per NCAA transfer rules) to give Iowa seven fullbacks on the roster. Meyers and Olson are former walk-ons; Covert was part of the '09 recruiting class; and Gimm was part of the '08 recruiting class. Gimm caught the eye of Iowa coaches for his blocking prowess, but he reportedly didn't have the surest hands around, if you catch my drift. There was some chatter of moving him to the offensive line, but he's listed at 240, so that never panned out. Given his issues catching the ball, he may not be much use on the 2-3 times a season when Iowa throws the ball to the fullback, but if his blocking really is up to snuff he could see a lot of time anyway. Riesen has the experience advantage on everyone but Rogers (he's been at that spot for two years now), but Gimm was the one listed second on the depth chart. Speaking of that...
* Depth chartin'.
QB: James Vandenberg, John Wienke
RB: Marcus Coker, Jason White
FB: Brad Rogers, Jonathan Gimm
WR: Marvin McNutt, Don Shumpert
WR: Keenan Davis, Kevonte Martin-Manley
TE: Brad Herman, C.J. Fiedorowicz
OT: Riley Reiff, Matt Tobin
OG: Adam Gettis, Woody Orne
C: James Ferentz, Conor Boffeli
OG: Nolan MacMillan, Brandon Scherff
OT: Marcus Zusevics, Brett Van Sloten
As always, spring football depth charts should be taken with a pretty heaping pile of salt -- especially since these are before any actual practices have taken place. These are probably a better reflection of (a) who was looking good during bowl practice and (b) who's been getting a thumbs-up from Doyle in offseason workouts. As expected, Vandenberg and Coker are on the top line at QB and RB. As noted above, Rogers and McNutt won't be practicing this spring. The names not listed at RB and WR are almost as the names that are listed. De'Andre Johnson isn't listed as RB2 and Jordan Cotton is already apparently behind two freshmen (Shumpert, KMM) at WR. On the other hand, it's unclear how much Johnson has practiced while rehabbing his knee last year; it wouldn't be a shock to see him take the RB2 slot by the end of the spring. And Cotton should get plenty of looks this spring; with McNutt out, I'm sure all the young receivers will get long looks.
Herman and the Polish Hat are 1-2 at TE, to no particular surprise. The interesting thing will be seeing how involved the Polish Hat gets in the offense as TE2. Over the last few years, the TE2 has averaged 10-15 catches and 150 yards receiving in Iowa's offense. There also weren't any real shake-ups along the offensive line. Gettis and MacMillan started a handful of games each last year before injuries ended their season, so it's no surprise to see them listed as starters here. As we said in Tuesday's preview, though, they have the shakiest job security on the offensive line -- don't be surprised to see new faces listed on the top lines there at some point if someone really excels in camp.
DE: Broderick Binns, Dominic Alvis
DT: Mike Daniels, Steve Bigach
DT: Thomas Nardo, Carl Davis
DE: Lebron Daniel, Joe Forgy
MLB: James Morris, Bruce Davis
OLB: Tyler Nielsen, Christian Kirksey
WLB: Christian Kirksey OR Anthony Hitchens, Shane DiBona
CB: Shaun Prater, Greg Castillo
CB: Micah Hyde, B.J. Lowery
FS: Tanner Miller, Jack Swanson
SS: Collin Sleeper, Tom Donatell
Again, not a lot of surprises here. The defensive line contains two former starters (Binns, Daniels) and two guys who were regular back-ups by the end of last season (Nardo, Daniel). Nardo seems like the guy with the shakiest hold on a starting spot; Binns and Daniels are pretty well locked-in and Daniel has seen far more time than any other defensive end on the roster. Nardo is still listed as a walk-on and Mas Casa thinks he may have been one of the afflicted players during Rhabdogate; Davis is also a really, really intriguing prospect at DT. LB has Morris and Nielsen on top at their respective positions -- no surprise there. The one surprise is Kirksey, who must have turned a few heads in practice at some point, considering DiBona has a pretty sizable game experience edge on him.
The biggest surprise in the secondary is the absence of Jordan Bernstine in the two-deeps at, um, any position. He's still with the team and Ferentz says he's still in the mix; hopefully he stays healthy this spring/summer and impresses -- this is his last chance to do something at Iowa. Sleeper is in the mold of many an Iowa safety in the past: a lightly-recruited (or walk-on) player who emerges from obscurity to find a spot on the depth chart. Ferentz mentioned that Hyde will get some looks at safety in the spring, although that move is really only tenable if someone else (Lowery, Castillo, Bernstine, etc.) steps up to become a reliable option at CB. Frankly, the real intrigue at safety will come in the summer when the incoming recruits join the fray and Miller is full-speed.
K: Mike Meyer, Trent Mossbrucker
P: Eric Guthrie, Jonny Mullings
KR: Keenan Davis
PR: Marvin McNutt
Meyer retains the starting kicking job after his solid efforts as a freshman; he's also reportedly on scholarship now. Eric Guthrie is not, but his edge in experience (SR versus rsFR) lands him the nod over Mullings for the starting punter job for now. Feel free to disregard McNutt's name at PR; he won't be fielding a single one this spring and it would be a shock if he did this fall, either. Someone will emerge at PR this spring or summer (maybe that's where Cotton is able to make his mark); it's hard to imagine Iowa risking their number one WR (and a crucial part of their offense) at PR. Davis may very well be one of the options at KR, though -- DJK was a fixture back there (and pretty damn good) during his Iowa tenure. Either way, expect them to look at lots of different options at the return spots.