This past weekend, the Iowa football team had their Spring Game, which gave everyone a small look into what next season might entail. In anticipation of next season, there are several question marks awaiting answers. Who will take on the role of quarterback, the running back situation, and what we can expect to see from offense and defense?
This Hawkeye team has seen a lot of loss in the past few years. With players like Micah Hyde (drafted a week ago in the 5th round by the Green Bay Packers), Marvin McNutt, Steve Bigach, Keenan Davis, Joe Gaglione etc no longer on the team, there are not only a lot of big shoes to be filled, but also a lot of work to be done by the team as a whole. It is safe to say that the upcoming season will be experimental if you will. The team is young and does not have a surplus of vets to carry the team strongly through the season.
With James Vandenburg gone, the quarterback position is perhaps the biggest aspect in question for many. During the spring game, there was a rotation of three different QB’s who split game action: Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard. According to head coach Kirk Ferentz, the three have progressed thus far and the competition will carry over into fall camp. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis even said, “We have no idea who the QB will be…they have done some good things but they have not separated themselves yet.” Coming off the heels of those words, from what was seen in the Spring Game, neither of the three showed anything exceptional. Their skill is something that will definitely need improvement, especially when compared to other great QB’s in the Big Ten with more experience. Several things will need to be seen in order for either of these guys to stand out, as Davis is looking for someone who can take care of the ball, make plays off-schedule and be able to extend plays. Until these things are seen, the question of who will be QB remains unanswered.
It is no secret that there has been a “running back curse” on the Hawkeye football team. Over the past few years running backs have been dropping like flies, and the team has struggled to find consistency in this area. Last season both Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock exploded onto the scene and showed great promise. Bullock stepped into the spotlight in season opener against Northern Illinois, where he carried the ball 13 times for 77 yards. Mark Weisman, the converted fullback, also excelled at the position in numerous games throughout the season. In the Spring Game last weekend, Joradan Canzeri finally got back into the game after tearing his ACL last season during spring practice. Another name that we didn’t see much action from last season was Michael Malloy. There is definitely a lot of potential with these running backs, and it is clear that several, if not all, of these guys are also versatile.
Another area that is up for discussion is offense and defense overall. In my opinion, a weakness of the Hawkeye team is its lack of originality (offensively). Last season we saw a surprise in the offense when they successfully executed a flea flicker that resulted in a touchdown against Minnesota. Other than that, there was not much versatility on the offense. Opposing teams knew what to expect from Iowa and that worked to Iowa’s disadvantage. There was also a struggle in the passing game. Wide receivers struggled to catch Vandenburg’s either under or overshot passes and the running game was only a strength in some games. Those will be two areas that need to be strengthened in order for the Hawkeyes to hopefully see more success. Another aspect of the offense that could use improvement is the increased use of tight ends. Last season, we saw the gradual incorporation of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. With his size, he proved to be a strong weapon of the offense, but in my opinion he wasn’t used nearly enough. In February the Hawkeyes welcomed new graduate assistant DJ Hernandez, who will be working with the tight ends. Perhaps adding his experience to the team will prove beneficial when it comes to the use of tight ends next season.
Defensively, the Hakweyes are likely to be stronger next season. The defense was the highlight of the team last season and did a considerably good job on making up where the offense slacked. There are several juniors on the defense who saw a lot of playing time last season and proved themselves positive contributions to the team. Carl Davis, Dominic Alvis, Christian Kirksey, James Morris and Anthony Hitchens are all strong players who have delivered for the team and they did the same in the Spring Game.
Overall, the Hawkeyes have several areas of improvement but with proper coaching and perhaps a little time they could transform into a much stronger team. They open up their 2013-2014 season against Northern Illinois, again, on August 31, 2013.