Monday, August 6, 2012

Can the Iowa coaching staff put the puzzle together for 2012?

Iowa is entering the 14Th season under head coach Kirk Ferentz.  The Hawkeyes should reach Ferentz's 100th career victory at Iowa during the 2012 season. 

The real question is can Iowa's coaching staff find a way to put all the pieces together for Iowa to challenge for a Big Ten Legends division title and a birth in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis this December?

On Monday, the 2012 players and coaches meet with the media for Iowa's 14Th Media Day under Kirk Ferentz.  Only the true freshman were not in front of the media.  Ferentz keeps them off limits, until their second season on campus.

In 2000, a senior quarterback named Drew Brees helped lead a young Purdue Boilermaker team to a Big Ten title and a birth in the Rose Bowl.

In 2012, Iowa will look for a senior quarterback and a young Hawkeye football team to attempt to achieve the same.  James Vandenberg (pictured) will lead Iowa again, after becoming Iowa's #1 signal caller in 2011.  Vandenberg lead Iowa in two games as a redshirt freshman in 2009, as well.

Iowa also has 28 underclassmen on the preseason depth chart heading into 2012.

"This is our youngest team. That's documented if you look at the number of seniors and projected senior starters, which is still up in the air. But, hey, that's college football. We've got a lot of guys that have been in the program, and when they get the opportunity, they'll do a fine job," said head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Vandenberg is a proven commodity as the team's starting quarterback, having thrown for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior in 2011, but who will be his top running mate in the back field is unclear. Sophomore Damon Bullock is the team's top returning rusher with 20 yards, leaving the door open for anyone and all.

"Basically anybody that's in the backfield position, maybe outside of Jonathan Gimm right now, is going to get a look at carrying the football to see if they can help us out in some way," said Ferentz. "We have guys out there that are capable. We have enough talent out there, and hopefully we can bridge the experience gap as well."

Freshmen Greg Garmon, Barkley Hill and Michael Malloy are all in the mix at running back after entering training camps following strong prep careers. Who will line up behind Vandenberg in Soldier Field will play out over the next month in practice.

"Everybody looks pretty good right now, but you'd expect that," said Ferentz. "Over the course of time usually the picture becomes a little clearer. The first hurdle is going to be what do we get done in camp, and who looks the best. We'll try to get that lined up correctly and see who they respond once we go to Chicago, and that'll be the next phase."

Ferentz has liked what he has seen from the 34 freshmen newcomers early in camp.

"So far, so good," said Ferentz, who played 10 true freshmen in 2011. "You're always a little cautious to say too much about anybody on the first blush, but they run around and look like they all belong on the field in their given spots for the most part.

"Everybody on the team has an opportunity; whether they show us they can contribute on special teams, be a backup or earn starting jobs too... we're open to anything."

Putting the pieces in place involves a lot of hard work and Ferentz knows it is not a process that is done overnight, it's done over time.

"We have a long road ahead of us right now, but we have a great opportunity to have a good season," he said. "As we move forward the keys are going to be improvement and developing consistency. Those things are a lot easier to talk about than do."

Iowa opens the 2012 season Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field. The game will begin at 2:30 p.m. (CT) and be televised on ESPNU.

No comments: