It is week two of Iowa Hawkeyes spring practices, and unfortunately, unlike most other college programs, head coach Kirk Ferentz keeps his practices closed.
In effect, Hawkeyes fans who are not interested in Iowa's current basketball successes are desperate for information and have to pick at whatever scraps they can get.
As far as scraps, much of the following has to do with a much-publicized practice picture that HawkeyesSports.com released (No. 7 in the linked slideshow) and Iowa blogger PlannedSickDays tweeted:
No fullback huh? Looks like #45 is lined up there to me. (from yesterday's practice) twitter.com/PlannedSickDay…— PlannedSickDays (@PlannedSickDays) March 28, 2013
The photo shows the first-team offense in an I-formation. Jake Rudock is under center, Damon Bullock is at tailback, Mark Weisman is at fullback and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is on the line in a three-point stance.
Of course, this was only one play out of however many the Hawks ran in practice. The next play might have seen Weisman at tailback, Bullock in the slot and Fiedorowicz motioned off the line. Nonetheless, if Kirk Ferentz isn't going to allow anybody into his camp, then he has to expect people to read into what little information seeps out.
Regardless, much of the following will go over the potential implications of that snippet of spring practices.
This is not going to happen out of the fullback position.
As previously mentioned, Weisman was at fullback in the photo.
A fullback in an I-formation—and especially one who runs behind a zone-blocking scheme—is a limited commodity, even in the best of situations.
Certainly, he can be the go-to short-yardage guy, and he can be a threat in the passing game, but he'll never pick up 200-plus carries a year, and he'll have minimal big-play opportunities. These limitations are not applicable to the tailback out of the same scheme. They also aren't relevant if Iowa adds some wishbone formations—a fullback-friendly scheme—to its offense, but that is not going to happen.
Hopefully, it doesn't come to pass, but it is possible that Weisman could waste the year as an outlet receiver and 3rd-and-short dive option.
After a week of talk about Iowa's Y-back, where was he when the camera flashed?
On the sidelines, presumably. He wasn't on the field.
And the lone tight end? Was he in the slot, motioning into the backfield, on the edge, working his way into a mismatch against a cornerback who is six inches shorter than him or a linebacker who is considerably slower?
Nope, he was on the line in a three-point stance, in the same place he has been since Kirk Ferentz took over in 1999.
Mind you, Ferentz has had great success with tight ends, producing 2002 Mackey Award-winner Dallas Clark, as well as current NFL starters Scott Chandler, Tony Moeaki and Brandon Myers.
However, utilizing athletic tight ends in a versatile offense is the way of the present and the future, and it is what many of the best offenses in college and pro football—Stanford Cardinal, Oregon Ducks, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, to name a few—are doing.
And it is what Iowa needs to do in order to put its offense in the best position to succeed.
The average weight of the five starting linemen is 303 pounds.
The average weight of last year's starting line (on opening day) was 290 pounds.
Austin Blythe, who is currently the starting center, is listed as 300 pounds, which is up 25 pounds from where he was with his last published weight.
It's guesswork, but one would probably have to go back pretty far to find the last Iowa line that averaged over 300 pounds.
Size doesn't always win in the trenches, but it doesn't hurt.
Something that is evident (in the picture) on the defensive side of the ball is that the one visible cornerback is giving up a 10-yard cushion.
Not that Ferentz or the coaches ever said they intended to play press coverage, but the bigger issue is Iowa's receivers had better get used to it.
Heading into 2013, as it was at the end of the 2012, no teams will respect Iowa's vertical passing game—tied for 116th in the country in yards per passing attempt. In effect, every defensive coordinator will have his cornerbacks press up against Iowa's receivers until the Hawkeyes offense proves it will burn them.
Whether Iowa's cornerbacks play press coverage or not is arguable, but it will not be healthy for the receivers to get used to soft coverage.
By the end of the 2012 season, the popular consensus about Rudock was low, and he hadn't even played a down.
However, it was because he hadn't played a down that so many Iowa fans wrote him off as a future never-was.
He spent the entire 2012 season as the No. 2 quarterback, yet he never saw the field, even when games were out of reach by halftime as they were against Penn State and Michigan.
Many people came to the (logical) conclusion that Rudock was only the No. 2 quarterback in name, and Ferentz didn't want to burn the real No. 2 quarterback's redshirt.
Nevertheless, Rudock is taking No. 1 snaps, as the aforementioned picture testifies.
That might not mean much, as Ferentz, when asked about the quarterback competition said, "I don't think anybody has a clear advantage or edge" and "We're probably going to alternate every couple of plays with all three guys." (h/t HawkeyeSports.com)
Once again, that picture only presents a glimpse into a much larger picture, but at this point Rudock is still in the race for the starting quarterback job.