Iowa Hawkeyes Spring Practice: What Do We Know?
Spring football is now over for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Fort Kinnick will be closed for a long four months and the Hawkeyes football team will go into hibernation until the beginning of summer practices in August.
Until then, Hawkeye fans are left to ask what they know about their team. What can be gleaned from spring ball, from the depth charts, and from Coach Ferentz's interviews?
Despite Ferentz' legendary stoicism and tight-lipped approach to handling the media, there is a good amount that can be read into.
To begin with, there is the updated depth chart that was released on Tuesday, April 13, four days before the open practice.
I believe the three most notable aspects of the depth chart include Jeff Tarpanian's move to starting MIKE linebacker, Micah Hyde's climb to starting cornerback, and DJK's apparent demotion to co-starting split end.
In fact, I illogically felt that Hunter was more likely to move to MIKE leaving Tarpanian as the starting WILL. Needless to say, it would appear I was dead wrong.
It is impossible to put anything in ink at this point. Moreover, injuries will come up, but Ferentz and defensive coordinator Norm Parker have had glowing reviews of their entire linebacking crew. This was especially true of Tarp, Hunter, and as of now, staring LEO, Tyler Nielsen.
As all three are upperclassmen—Tarp and Hunter are fifth-year seniors while Nielsen is a fourth-year junior—I would be very surprised if these are not the three starting linebackers on September 4 against Eastern Illinois.
As for Micah Hyde, I can't say his ascension up the depth charts is terribly surprising.
During the Orange Bowl, when starter Shaun Prater left the game for a series, it was true freshman Hyde, and not the more experienced Willie Lowe or Greg Castillo, that spelled him.
However, it would appear that he has surpassed fourth-year junior Jordan Bernstine—who redshirted last season due to injury—on the depth chart. I think a great many Hawk fans had Bernstine penciled in for that spot.
Nevertheless, as Bernstine is still working off the rust from his injury, expect that position to be up for some heavy competition next August.
At the very least, Iowa will have considerably more depth at corner than they have ever had in the Ferentz era, and it excites me to think of their nickel and dime packages.
Then there is Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, or DJK. DJK is 210 yards away from breaking Timmy Dwight's Iowa's record for all-time career receiving yards. Furthermore, he is 30 receptions away from breaking Kevin Kasper's record for career receptions as a Hawk.
Yet, DJK is sharing the position with senior Colin Sandeman. With all due respect to Sandeman, who is a fine player, his 24 career receptions don't come close to breaking any records.
In short, it is very safe to assume that DJK is sitting in that place in which he has spent so much time since coming to Iowa City: Kirk Ferentz' dog house.
Some other things of note are the omission of certain players, namely starting safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood, and pretty much all of Iowa's running backs.
Obviously, this is due to injuries. Greenwood and Sash both had offseason surgery and didn't participate in spring practice.
The same with Iowa's leading rusher last season, Adam Robinson.
Meanwhile, Jewel Hampton, who missed last season due to a torn ACL, is still recovering from that injury. In effect, while he has participated in spring practice, he has been held out of any contact drills.
Lastly, Brandon Wegher had his spring ended prematurely due to a shoulder sprain.
All of the above should be ready to go come August.
The biggest question mark facing Iowa this off-season is undoubtedly their O-line. At this point the starting five—Riley Reiff, Julian Vandervelde, James Ferentz OR Josh Koeppel, Adam Gettis, and Markus Zusevics—is no surprise.
However, I must admit, while looking at the backups, I was reminded of a line from the movie Major League , in which a fan looks at the roster of his Cleveland Indians and says, "Who are these guys?"
Of the group, sophomore Matt Tobin is a walk-on, freshman Brett Van Slotten is a converted tight end, junior Woody Orne is a transfer from South Dakota State, and junior Cody Hundertmark was heavily recruited but played defensive end all of last season.
According to Kirk Ferentz, Hundertmark, while new to the position and thus, still rough around the edges, is his sixth man.
Also notably missing from the depth chart is freshman Casey McMillan, who has missed much of the spring with a sports hernia.
Finally, according to Adam Rittenberg , backup tight end, junior Brad Herman, has made great strides this spring. Thus, at least until true freshman C.J. Fiedorowicz arrives this summer, the job is his.
Furthermore, true freshman and early enrollee A.J. Derby will indeed be staying at the quarterback position and all indications are that he has done very well.
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