The Iowa football season is officially underway come Wednesday, when the Hawkeyes take the field for spring practice. This year’s team has a few more storylines than I can remember from years past, while at the same time I can’t recall being so optimistic for an upcoming season since ... well last year never really happened. Except for when we beat Michigan.
Anyway, Kirk Ferentz addressed the media yesterday and went over some things like the quarterback situation, what’s going on with Matt VandeBerg, and some changes on the staff.
First, new depth charts!
Some juicy stuff in there? Not really. We’ll get more in to that later.
Let’s start with the quarterback position.
Nathan Stanley is the only quarterback on the roster with any significant playing time, and even then it’s not all that significant. Still, experience is experience, especially at QB. When asked about the position Kirk was quick to note his successes with installing a new signal-caller:
I think if there's any good news there, we've had great success. Our five nationally or top 10 ranked teams all basically had a new starting quarterback. Rick Stanzi was a carryover after earning the job midway through the 2008 season. All our guys were first-year starters, all did a great job. Of those five guys, coincidentally four of those were coached by Ken O'Keefe. So that is a little bit of an interesting point.
Is that a Ken O’Keefe humblebrag? *SNOOOOOOOOOORT*
Anyway, there’s a reason Stanley was the backup as a true freshman last year and I guess we’ll see why sooner rather than later. You’ll also see Drew Cook’s name as a quarterback on that depth chart, we’ll see if he sticks around that position... or Iowa City at all.
Oh, you might have also heard that Brian Ferentz was promoted to offensive coordinator this offseason. So maybe a new offensive scheme was installed overnight?
Q. You said the conversations have been enjoyable in the offensive room. How will the playbook look different?
That will all pan out. Part of that will be who wins the jobs, how things pan out personnel-wise. You're not going to see a dramatically different team ...
One thing about football, there's not a lot of new stuff out there. But the way you call things, it varies program to program, place to place. I think the big thing was everybody getting an understanding of what we wanted to feature, how we were going to name those things, talk about those things. Getting even on the same page that way has been a little bit of a process. It's been fun. A great exchange. A lot of guys contributing in the process.
Q. I know you can't predict execution. Will the casual fan be able to notice a difference with the offense with Brian running it?
We'll see. Hope it looks like the '15 offense, how does that sound? Obviously our passing game was not where it needed to be at the end of the season last year. But we had the same coaches, a lot of the same players, we did pretty well in 2015. Not a lot of the same players, I take that back. The scheme is pretty much the same in '15 ...
The kind of balance we had in '15 really is what we'd like to have. It may not look exactly like that. The plays may not look exactly like that. We were at a pretty good place offensively in '15 where we could run and throw, do some good things that way. From the time we got here, it's been a key thing for us, balance.
OK, there’s a lot to unpack there, so let’s start with this:
One thing about football, there's not a lot of new stuff out there.
Um. Well. The spread offense would like a word, coach.
I’m not saying I expected Brian to go in and put Akrum Wadley at quarterback, but I was of the belief that we would at least be getting a different playbook with Ferentz the younger. And maybe we are! This seems like the kind of thing Ferentz would keep close to his chest. It also doesn’t, so maybe change isn’t happening. We won’t really know until the spring game, or even the first game of the year.
Hope it looks like the '15 offense, how does that sound?
Sounds great. Bet you said the same thing about the offense last year, too.
OK I’m done talking about the offense until the next time I talk about the offense.
Dangle the Carrot
You may have noticed JUCO transfer Nick Easley high up on the two-deeps. Well, maybe he really is that good despite the coaches getting their first looks at him in January. But also, it may have been a stunt to light a fire in the belly of Iowa’s current receivers, who save for Matt VandeBerg, leave a lot to be desired on the field.
We threw a little curve ball in there, we put Nick Easley's name on the depth chart, get something going there, stir it up a little bit. Here is a guy who did really well at Iowa Western. He's come in and done a nice job in the winter program.
Who knows what he's going to do. He has a chance to go in there and compete. Especially with Matt being out, it's wide open right now for everybody to have a chance. Just basically the goal is to demonstrate they can play and help us win football games, then we'll figure out where they belong afterwards.
A chess game, I’ll tell ya.
The Ice Bath
Speaking of VandeBerg, Kirk basically said the senior receiver re-injured his foot randomly, and it wasn’t a matter of rushing recovery. He won’t be around for spring ball, and neither will Drake Kulick who broke his ankle against Nebraska.
Akrum Wadley also won’t be getting hit in spring ball. Ferentz attributed that to the knee surgery he had in January. Manny Rugamba is a full go, though.
What About Punts?
You’ll notice there isn’t any depth to speak of at punter and kicker according to the above charts. When asked about a backup punter, KIRK HAD EVEN FORGOTTEN ABOUT HIS INCOMING PUNTER:
Q. Ryan is not here until the summer?
Who is that?
Q. Ryan Gersonde. How do you factor in somebody who isn't here but will be a potential guy?
It's really pretty simple for Colten right now. He's our punter. All he has to do is go out and play, play well, consistently. If he does that, get out front. It's better to be out front, better to be on the inside lane. That's what I've been told. I never was. Start out on the inside lane, have a chance.
It's a great opportunity for Colten right now. His biggest challenge is consistency. I'm not comparing him to Jason Baker, but I would have said the same thing about Jason in 1999. The guy has potential, has a good leg. But consistency.
I know nothing about kickers and punters, but it seems like that's the career path of those guys. They tend to be a little bit erratic. At some point they start developing the consistency. That's what Ron had last year. He's a fifth-year guy, too. That's kind of like the quarterback situation right now. We got to factor that stuff in as we assess the inexperience, the youth, that type of thing.
Colten has been here a couple years now. He's at that point where it's time for him to go. It's his job to win right now.
Yeah, sure, just forget about the most important position on your team why don’t you?
- LeVar Woods was officially named special teams coordinator. He’ll continue coaching tight ends. Ferentz said they’ll work something out if a 10th assistant is granted, but it looks like Woods is pulling double duty. Also, a run game coordinator will not be installed.
- The football team is returning to Des Moines on April 7 for its annual practice. This is taking place on a Friday night, a departure from its usual Saturday afternoon slot.
- Defensive lineman Michael Slater has left the team. Ferentz mentioned him when he spoke about Jay Scheel’s departure, of which he seemed genuinely upset about.
- It sounds like there’s going to be a lot of shuffling on the defensive line. Nathan Bazata is the only interior lineman with extended experience, with Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff seeing limited snaps. Add in the fact that Iowa has four capable defensive ends (if you count AJ Epenesa, and we do even though he won’t be around in the spring) then there’s a good chance we see one of the Nelson’s or Parker Hesse move inside.
- Wadley is up to 195 lbs. See all the weight changes here. Some linemen gained 35 lbs. Sounds kinda nice.