Saturday, April 16, 2011

Post Spring Drills: Iowa Football 2011

The Iowa Hawkeyes enter 2011 likely an off-the-radar team in the Big Ten. Who should people keep an eye off as we head to Summer drills and August camp in 2011? Iowa spring roster and Spring Drills Recap.

QB - 16 James Vandenberg, fourth year junior, will step in for departed senior Ricky Stanzi, who will see his name in the NFL Draft later this month. Iowa has two players battling for the #2 spot, with junior 14 John Wienke and local product, redshirt freshman 17 A.J. Derby. As long as Iowa's signal caller tries to manage the Iowa offense, than attempt to win ball games, the Hawkeyes should be pretty solid at QB. Iowa did sign a freshman quarterback out of Florida, who should be a contributor down the road for Iowa (i.e. not 2011).

RB- True sophomore 34 Marcus Coker stepped up in the Insight Bowl win over Missouri, after Iowa's top running back Adam Robinson, a sophomore in '10, was left home, due to off-the-field issues. Iowa's running back position has been a roller coaster ride, since the Spring of the 2008 season, with both off-the-field issues, grades and injuries. Entering the '10 season, Kirk Ferentz was as high on the young RB Coker, than any RB he has recruited. Marcus Coker ran for 219 yards in the Insight Bowl win over Missouri and awarded offensive player of the game. This spring, junior walk-on 3 Jason White has ran #2 at RB. White played some in 2010 at RB and on special teams, but a knee injury knocked him out for most of the season. Redshirt freshman 30 De'Andre Johnson participated in the Spring, but was slowed entering Iowa due to a knee injury. This is a position where Iowa signed four running backs in Class of 2011.

FB - This is a position that is open for the Hawkeyes in 2011. The top candidate is out, due to medical reasons. True sophomore 38 Brad Rogers was held out of the Insight Bowl, due to a heart condition. He missed the Spring, due to the "cardiac" condition. Brad Rogers played a key role in his start at Michigan in '10. Iowa often will go one back, with either two tight ends or with three wide receiver sets, so how Iowa fills this open position in 2011 is clearly yet to be seen. Junior converted tight end 92 Jonathan Gimm and sophomore 41 Jacob Reisen saw reps in the Spring. Could we see a freshman step in or more HB sets in 2011?

WR - Iowa typically goes with three WR sets. Three players typically get the reps as starters under offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe offense for coach Kirk Ferentz. O'Keefe has been at Ferentz's side for 13 seasons now. The top wide receiver is 7 Marvin McNutt, Jr., who took the Spring off recovering from off-season surgery, but he should be 100% for his senior season. McNutt has been an outstanding performer the past two seasons for Iowa. The #2 spot likely will go to junior 6 Keenan Davis, who is entering his third season out of Cedar Rapids Washington. Davis appeared to have an outstanding Spring. A junior walk-on out of Oksaloosa 83 Steven Staggs is a player to watch heading into the 2011 season. The third spot may go to two youngsters though, true sophomore 8 Don Shumpert or redshirt freshman 11 Kevonte Martin-Manley. Iowa has some freshman members from the Class of 2011 that fans hope to see step up, as well.

TE - Many sports fan might not think of Iowa as being a TE-U, but under Kirk Ferentz, most senior TEs that start at Iowa go on to be drafted by the NFL team and spend time on a NFL roster. The two top TEs over the past 12 seasons under head coach Kirk Ferentz are Dallas Clark and Tony Moeaki. Iowa will replace Allen Reisner from '10, with another senior 39 Brad Herman for 2011. Iowa has a true sophomore, 86 C.J. Fiedorowicz, who may be Iowa's next top star at TE, from a physical standpoint. Another player, junior walk-on 85 Zach Derby will play a role, in a offense that requires three deep at the TE position. Iowa has a large roster of TEs, including incoming true freshman Ray-Hamilton.

Head coach Ferentz is entering his 13Th season as Iowa's head football coach. From '81 to '89, Ferentz served as former head coach J. Hayden Fry's offensive line coach. So, like most football teams, the offensive line is a key area to watch, especially, when you are examining an Iowa football team. Iowa returns three starters from the '10 season in the offensive line, plus a couple of part-time starters. Look for Iowa to have a solid offensive line heading into 2011.

LT - Junior 77 Riley Reiff is the returning anchor for 2011 Iowa offensive line. Reiff will begin his third year as a starter. The Hawkeyes have had some outstanding left tackles under Ferentz. Reiff replaced Bryan Bulaga in '10 at left tackle, moving over from the right side. Bulaga left Iowa early for the 2010 NFL Draft and finished his first season as starting right tackle for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Junior 60 Matt Tobin heads out of Spring as the #2 LT for Iowa.

LG - Senior 73 Adam Gettis started the '10 season as the starting right guard, but an injury slowed him last season. Gettis is the top candidate to replace departed LG Julian Vandeverde, who played well in his final season, after being slowed by injury much of his career at Iowa. He ended the Spring as the #1 right guard, but he could very well be Iowa's top choice at LG this fall. Redshirt freshman 68 Brandon Scherff was the #1 LG at the end of Spring drills. Iowa will determine the Top 5 or 6 linemen in the Fall, before they start using pen over pencil. with the offensive line. Sophomore 60 Drew Clark looks to provide depth at one of the guard positions in 2011.

C- Junior 53 James Ferentz will enter his second season as the Iowa signal caller in the offensive line. Ferentz remains an undersized center, who many believe would be an all-American, if he had a larger frame. Sophomore 59 Conor Boffeli is another lineman that the coaching staff is high on. He could shift over to guard, if required.

RG - Sophomore 76 Nolan MacMillan was a part-time starter in '10, but has been dinged both last year and this Spring. MacMillan was recognized for his play as a freshman nationally last season, so he could be a player to watch at RG in 2011. Gettis could remain at RG, especially, if MacMillan doesn't get back on the field. Another player to watch at RG coming out of the Spring, as #2 RG, is senior 72 Woody Orne.

RT - Senior 56 Markus Zusevics returns for his second season as a starting tackle for Iowa. Sophomore 70 Brett Van Sloten returns at the #2 spot at RT for Iowa in 2011. Others to watch in the offensive line for Iowa in 2011: redshirt freshman 78 Andrew Donnal and junior 66 Casey McMillan, Newcomer, JUCO transfer sophomore 67 Dan Heiar, likely will miss the 2011 season, if he is unable to recover from a recent single-vehicle accident that cost him in the final week of Spring drills.

Last season, Iowa was without the services of defensive coordinator Norm Parker for much of the season. He did return at the end of the season. Parker has served as Ferentz's DC for all 13 seasons. His presence is very important and Iowa looks to retool in 2011 on the defensive side of the field. Iowa must replace three starters in the defensive line, retool a linebacker corp that was killed in '10 with injuries, as well as replace both starting safeties for 2011.

LE - Senior 58 Lebron Daniel becomes one of the new starters in the 2011 defense. Daniel has served as outgoing DE Adrian Clayborn's back up the last couple of seasons. It will be interesting to see how Daniel responds to the new role. Sophomore 79 Dominic Alvis is listed in the #2 spot, but he played with the #1 defense at DT rotating with Carl Davis. Iowa often uses undersized players at DT taking advantage of their motors and quickness.

LT - Senior 93 Mike Daniels is considered a returning starter, after former DT Christian Ballard moved outside much of the '10 season at DE. Clayborn, Ballard and DT Karl Klug have all departed. It will be interesting to see how leadership steps, up from three seniors who likely will start on the defensive line this season. A walk-on freshman 64 Cole Heissel has emerged as a backup for Daniels.

RT - For the Spring controlled scrimmage sophomore 79 Dominic Alvis and redshirt freshman 71 Carl Davis rotated with the first unit at DT opposite Mike Daniels. Another player expected back from injury in the fall is junior 54 Steve Bigach, who saw action as a reserve in '10 and can't be ruled out in the rotation. The #2 spot during the Spring was manned by redshirt freshman 98 Mike Hardy, who is a nice prospect out of the State of Wisconsin. Another redshirt freshman to watch is 74 Donavan Johnson. Another veteran, who should be back for 2011, is senior 87 Thomas Nardo, who was held out this Spring, due to injury. Another redshirt freshman 90 Louis Trinca-Pasat will provide depth to the defensive line.

RE - Senior 91 Broderick Binns was a starting DE in 2009 is back in the starting line-up, after being a part-time starter in '10. The back up at DE may change, but coming out of the Spring is senior 96 Joe Forgy. But, what side will junior 99 Joe Gaglione, who has been slowed by injuries, but was able to participate in the Spring controlled scrimmage, which is a welcome sign for Iowa.

WLB - Two youngsters are battling for the #1 spot this Spring. True sophomore Christian Kirksey from St. Louis and converted back true sophomore Anthony Hitchens from Ohio are battling for the #1 spot. Kirksey is in the lead heading into Fall.

MLB - True sophomore 44 James Morris, started #3 at MLB in '10, but elevated to the #1 spot, due to injuries and received some freshman all-American recognition. Morris will be back by #2 MLB from a year ago, senior 57 Bruce Davis, who is coming off a knee injury from last season. Junior walk-on 51 Terrance Pryor could figure inside or at WIL as a reserve.

WIL - Senior 45 Tyler Nielsen broke his neck in the middle of '10 season. He returns and should anchor the LB corp, along with Morris. Nielsen should be an outstanding LB for Iowa. He was having a solid season, until he injured his neck. Converted TE sophomore 47 Dakota Getz will provide depth at the WIL position. Like most LBs, look for a major role in special teams from others, such as sophomore 37 Shane DiBona, who played in '10, but missed Spring, due to injury. Others: redshirt freshman 43 Jim Poggi, 50 walk-on redshirt freshman Palmer Foster, 54 sophomore Marcus Kloos, redshirt freshman 56 Lucas Speaker and true freshmen may see an opportunity to make a mark on special teams, as many last year did for Iowa.

CB - Junior 2 Greg Castillo and true sophomore 19 B.J. Lowery are battling for one of the open spots in the secondary, since returning starting CB junior 18 Micah Hyde was moved to FS to fill one of the two safety spots open in the Spring. Will Hyde stay at FS? If so, look for Castillo and Lowery to battle or rotate opposite Iowa's top CB.

FS - Junior 18 Micah Hyde was moved from CB in the Spring. True sophomore 5 Tanner Miller was the #2 FS in '10, but was held out during the Spring, due to a surgery. Hyde or Miller could figure at FS. One or the other could be moved to another position, such as CB for Hyde or SS for Miller. Junior 40 Jack Swanson will provide depth at FS, as he did last year and play special teams.

SS - The other open position in the secondary in 2011. Junior walk-on 16 Collin Sleeper could be the next walk-on safety to sign during the Ferentz era. He worked with the #1 unit during the Spring. Two seniors are expected to provide depth at SS, as well, with 13 Tom Donatell and 4 Jordan Bernstine. A true freshman Nicholas Law from Maryland may be a prospect to watch in 2011.

CB - Senior 28 Shaun Prater, opted to not enter the NFL draft and figures to be one of the leaders in the 2011 secondary for Iowa. A walk-on redshirt freshman 26 Jordan Price will provide depth, along with senior 4 Jordan Bernstine. Others, who figure to provide depth in the secondary and on special teams in 2011: senior walk-on 12 Kyle Steinbrecher, redshirt freshman walk-on 22 Brian Kroll and junior walk-on safety 29 Nick Nielsen is back. Look for opportunities again from members of freshman class on special teams. One senior 10 William Lowe is missing this Spring, due to complications coming out of Iowa's rhabdo medical condition, which impacted 13 members of the team in January conditioning drills. The senior CB is a reserve CB and contributor on special teams in the past.

PK - True sophomore 96 Mike Meyer emerged as the #1 PK in 2010. He returns, along with junior 8 Trent Mossbrucker, who has experience at PK over the past three seasons. Iowa did invited a preferred walkon for 2011, so if Meyer and Mossbrucker have issues, another player may be called on in reserve. Meyer and Mossbrucker should be the two in 2011.

PT - Four-year starter Ryan Donohue has departed. Fifth-year senior walk-on 6 Eric Guthrie appears to be the #1 guy heading into the Fall. Redshirt freshman 15 Jonny Mullings from Canberra, Australia appears to be still a work in progress. Iowa has given junior QB 14 John Wienke, an opportunity to compete for punter, as well. Wienke is currently one Iowa's #2 QBs and will likely be Iowa's holder on placekicks in 2011. Under Ferentz, typically, a punter is used as a holder, like most NFL teams.

LS - Sophomore 61 Casey Kreiter will be Iowa's new deep snapper. Iowa will have newcomers at holder, long snapper and punter in 2011. Further, Iowa will need to have newcomers step up at kick returner and punt returner in 2011.

KR - Keenan Davis has been the sidekick next to #1 KOR Derrell Johnson-Koulanos the past two seasons. With DJK's departure, Davis likely will get an opportunity with Iowa's newcomers on the kick off return team.

PR - Could Keenan Davis get the nod? The Hawkeyes could look at Kevonte Martin-Manley, Micah Hyde or Don Shumpert. Of course, Iowa may look at a newcomer at either KR or PR in 2011.

It will be a wide open race in the Big Ten, especially with the new division play format. Iowa will play in the Legends Division with Michgian, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern. In the other division, the Leaders Division will consist of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin. The Big Ten title game will be in Indianapolis this season.


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