Spring practice has come and gone, and few questions were answered. Here's what we know.
The Quarterback Derby
This does not look like a three-horse race.
I know C.J. Beathard is supposed to be nearly even with Jake Rudock and Cody Sokol for the starting quarterback spot, but the staff has a funny way of showing it. Beathard was third in rotation and largely taking snaps with backups. Three years ago, James Vandenberg was supposed to be tied with John Wienke for the backup spot, but the rotation gave it away. Vandenberg went first and got occasional snaps with the first team. Wienke ran with the third string. When the time came, it was Vandenberg who got the call without hesitation and kept the spot despite a horrendous performance off the bench.
So it's Rudock and Sokol, and Rudock probably has a lead at the moment. Rudock went 18/29 for 174 yards. Sokol completed 13/18 for 183 yards and a touchdown, and ran for another. If the race stays that even, Ferentz will almost certainly opt for the player who has been in the program longer, Rudock.
But the chances of Rudock keeping the job are far less certain. Not listed in the stats are two "sacks" on Rudock due to him holding the ball too long, or a Riley McMinn-forced fumble deep in the Iowa offense's own end of the field, caused when Rudock did not sense the pressure from his blind side. Cody Sokol might not be Drew Tate, but his instincts and ability to avoid pressure and extend plays looks more refined at the moment. And on a team desperately short at wide receiver and in need of playmaking ability, Rudock's superior skills as a true dropback passer could be less important than Sokol's gunslinger tendencies.
Thunder and Lightning
Jordan Canzeri looks good. Like, really good. Like, a perfect Fred Russell to Mark Weisman's Jermelle Lewis good. He was quick, shifty, fast to find and attack the hole in the zone read and willing to get smacked between the tackles. With Weisman limited Saturday, it was Canzeri's show. And he did not disappoint.
The question becomes, then, what of Damon Bullock? The Week 1 starter in 2012 is a man without a home if Canzeri and Weisman are healthy, and has too much athletic ability to sit on the bench for a team desperate for speed. There has been discussion of moving him to the slot, which makes sense if it isn't the honorary Paul Chaney end around position; even Bullock doesn't have the speed to make up for the obviousness of that play call. Regardless of where he goes, it's clear Bullock is third in the halfback race.
I was skeptical of the latest Carl Davis boomlet. It was just last year that we heard that the 6'5, 315-pound defensive tackle had broken through, only to see him playing too high, losing leverage, and getting planted repeatedly by James Ferentz.
We believe now. Davis was an unstoppable monster Saturday, recording three sacks, knocking down two pass attempts, and doing to Jordan Walsh what Ferentz had done to him the previous August. He was in the backfield more than Mark Weisman.
Iowa's biggest hole on defense is at end, and there's no way Davis moves outside. But an effective interior rush could mitigate the damage caused by a lack of rush from the edge. If Iowa's defense is to be successful in 2013, the Carl Davis from Saturday has to show up for 13 more.
With five potential wide receivers joining the team in August, we were never going to have a clear picture of the wideout depth chart in April. But the picture is particularly cloudy after Saturday. The top receiver Saturday was redshirt freshman Cameron Wilson, who caught 10 passes for 131 yards. He looked like precisely what Greg Davis was seeking last season: Quick, good hands, and well-versed in the sight reads.
Aside from Wilson, though, the passes were distributed relatively evenly. Keyvonte Martin-Manley, the only sure thing in the receiver corps, caught 5 for 42 yards. Jacob Hillyer hauled in three early passes, but was largely quiet after that. Walk-on junior Blake Haluska caught four for 58, including one circus catch that brought the 16,000 fans to their feet. Tevaun Smith, a strong contender to start opposite KMM in August, went catchless after poor throws and dropped catches.
In a year full of questions, wide receiver is destined to be up in the air into the season, and Saturday did little to resolve those issues. The tight ends weren't much better. Presumed starter C.J. Fiedorowicz had a single catch Saturday, and backup Ray Hamilton added three receptions. It was converted wide receiver George Kittle who led the tight ends with four receptions, and fellow converted receiver Jake Duzey who caught the only touchdown by a receiver or tight end. It might be difficult to identify the all-new "Y-back" in the offensive set, but, if Saturday is any indication, the position is in its ascendancy.
What did you see Saturday (or Sunday night) that caught your eye? The no-huddle offense? The interior line's struggles? Those guys who broke out their old Brad Banks jerseys? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.