When your team finishes with it’s worst record since 2000, there’s going to be plenty of room to improve in the offseason. For the Iowa Hawkeyes, who finished just 4-8 in 2012, they have questions at just about every offensive position as spring practice ramps up. Can Kirk Ferentz find some answers?
It starts at quarterback, which is a complete mystery heading into 2013. Last season, James Vandenberg had a senior season to forget, but he got the most he could out of it. He was the only quarterback in college football last season who attempted every single pass for his team, though how effective he was at it is left to be debated.
As spring practice begins, it’s a three-way race between a trio of unknowns. Will it be sophomore Jake Rudock or freshman C.J. Beathard or junior Cody Sokol and what will Iowa get from any of them? Beathard is new on campus, Sokol redshirted last season so got minimal work in a new offensive system and Rudock has yet to throw a pass in his career.
Behind the quarterback, who will get the carries at running back and will they last a whole season? Iowa has a nasty reputation for losing ball carriers at an alarming rate thanks to the spiteful deity of AIRBHG. The Hawkeyes haven’t graduated a running back since 2007 as players leave, get hurt, get suspended or retire as happened to fullback Brad Rogers, who announced he would retire before this spring because of injuries.
The good news is that Iowa actually enjoys some depth at tailback. The top two rushers in 2012, Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock, will return for 2013 and Jordan Canzeri, who was the No. 1 running back coming out of last year’s spring practice, returns after redshirting a season after tearing his ACL. Two other freshmen who redshirted last season, Barkley Hill and Michael Malloy, will also be in the mix. Which of them gets on the field (and which can stay upright) remains to be worked out.
Possibly the biggest question mark, however, is at receiver. Kevonte Martin-Manley is the top returning wideout and the clear No. 1 option in the passing game, but there’s a ton of uncertainty behind him. Iowa will be trying to find another option (and a couple behind that guy) to make the Hawkeyes’ passing game a legitimate offensive option.
Tevaun Smith, Jordan Cotton and Don Shumpert are the top statistical returning receivers and junior college recruit Damond Powell also figures to get significant reps in the receiver rotation. If a few of these options emerge as go-to receivers, it would take a ton of pressure off of whichever quarterback wins the starting job this spring.
Kirk Ferentz is one of the longest tenured head coaches in college football, but he may not have had as many questions to answer during spring practice as he does this year. How well Iowa answers these questions may dictate just how long of a tenure Ferentz will have with the Hawkeyes.