Once Iowa opened the window to welcome in 2011 spring practice on March 23, they quietly closed the door on 2010, which, in the final analysis, was a monumental disappointment.
Early season practice will conclude on April 16 with the 2011 Spring Game.
This brings us one step closer to the opening day kickoff on September 3, 2011.
Several questions will be be answered as players audition for starting roles in September.
Answers to several queries, however, can only be postponed. Some players will not available to play this spring because they are out with injury.
WR Marvin McNutt, DL Steve Bigach, LB Shane DiBona and DB Tanner Miller had offseason surgery and will not be practicing.
At least these players will not have full contact during spring workouts. They, along with TE Austin Vier and FB Brad Rogers, who also have medical issues, will not participate fully in spring drills.
Iowa lost many of their 2010 starting roster. In fact, the Hawkeyes return fewer starters than most teams in the Big Ten.
Many of the positions vacated are critical, like the quarterback position, where the absence of three-year starter Ricky Stanzi leaves a large hole to plug.
Also gone are Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard and Karl Klug–the bulwark of Iowa’s 2010 defensive line.
Adding to that enormous chasm on defense are the departures of Iowa safeties Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash.
Iowa football, however, is about the future and what Iowa has in the wings ready to take the field and re-establish Hawkeye glory in 2011.
The leading contender for quarterback coming into the 2011 season is James Vandenberg.
The junior QB came in to replace Ricky Stanzi in 2009 against Northwestern when Stanzi went down with an injury.
Vandenberg led the Hawkeyes the following Saturday in Columbus when Iowa faced the No. 1 team in the Big Ten, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Vandenberg almost pulled it off at Ohio State, but ultimately, Iowa lost to the Buckeyes in overtime.
Overall, Vandenburg has completed 47 of 95 passes for 515 yards.
He has thrown three touchdown passes as well as five interceptions in his career.
Sitting right behind Vandenberg on the depth chart are junior John Wienke, standing 6'5" and red-shirt freshman A.J. Derby, 6'4," both waiting their turn to lead the Hawkeyes on the field.
Vandenberg has earned his spot, but he will have to produce quickly and big-time to keep it.
Iowa's running backs began to fall in 2010 for a variety of reasons.
As a true freshman, Coker was finally pushed into the limelight, starting with the Michigan State game when Adam Robinson was injured and could not play.
Coker proved right away that he had the strength and stamina to do the job.
For the season, Coker ended with 622 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards, scoring three touchdowns during the 2010 campaign.
The freshman saw plenty of action during Iowa's victory at the Insight Bowl, running for 219 yards in 33 carries. He was named the MVP on offense at the Insight Bowl.
Coker will enter the 2011 season as the No. 1 running back.
He has proven himself on the field and will lead the rushing attack for the Hawkeyes.
Junior Jason White is sitting behind Coker and will be hoping to see more playing time in 2011. Also, expect the coaches to test out De'Andre Johnson during spring ball as well as Marcus Binns.
After completing another stellar year, there was no doubt but that McNutt would be the Iowa starter in 2011 at wide receiver.
McNutt's shoulder surgery during the offseason, however, means that the senior will miss spring practice. He is expected, however, to be fully recovered and ready to roll in September.
In 2010, McNutt hauled in 53 receptions for 861 yards and eight touchdowns. His average reception was 16.2 yards last year.
Definitely, there are some holes to fill in the receiving corps. Keenan Davis will undoubtedly step up in 2011, because he has reached the "now or never" stage of his collegiate career.
Beyond Davis, however, are some major question marks. Who will shine in 2011?
Jordan Cotton, Don Shumpert or Kenvonte Martin-Manley. These guys waiting in the wings are primed to see more action on the field.
There are some walk-ons who also would like a shot like Steven Staggs, James Hurt or Blake Haluska. They may see some playing time in spring practice.
Still, McNutt is the only returner with such valuable and productive experience. The depth at this position is yet unproven.
Iowa has always produced outstanding tight ends since the early days of Hayden Fry, who developed the talents of Marv Cook.
Allen Reisner, who was the Hawkeyes' starting tight end in 2010, has departed.
That sets the stage for Brad Herman, who returns in 2011 as Iowa's probable starting tight end.
While Herman did not see a lot of action in 2010, he managed nine receptions for 154 yards.
Sitting right behind Herman is the exciting C.J. Fiedorowicz, who, at 6'7", can stretch to reach those high ones with the best of them.
Fans have been waiting to see this young man play, and they will undoubtedly get their chance in 2011.
This is especially true, because as Herman ascends to the top of the depth chart, Iowa's proclivity to line up two tight ends should allow Fiedorowicz more chances to catch the pigskin.
Brett Morse, who was Iowa's starting full back in 2010, has graduated and is moving on.
Fullback Brad Rogers missed the Insight Bowl last December suffering with some cardiac issues.
According to the Iowa coaching staff, Rogers is still in the process of completing tests and is not expected to be in action this spring.
The team is being cautious but optimistic about his situation.
Nonetheless, Rogers is listed as the starting fullback on the depth chart.
Last year as a freshman, Rogers ran the ball 11 times, gaining 75 yards. He also had two receptions for 15 yards. Rogers can run the ball hard, and he did gain some useful experience last season.
Hopefully, Rogers will be able to return to action without any further medical issues in 2011.
Backing up Rogers will be Jonathan Gimm, a junior at 6'3" and 240 pounds, or the No. 2 spot might go to Iowa City native Jake Reisen.
One of the strongest returning units on the Iowa football team is the offensive line.
The Hawkeyes lost only Julian Vandevelde from last year.
Additionally, overall performance is expected to improve over 2010, with added experience on the offensive line as a significant factor.
Center James Ferentz, Coach Kirk Ferentz's son, will begin his second year as a starter on Iowa's offensive line after battling for the position at the start of the 2010 season.
This year, with a full season under his belt, expect Ferentz to handle hand-off duties with a new quarterback in competent fashion.
Backing up the position at center is sophomore Conor Boffeli, at 6'5" and 290 pounds, who was highly recruited from West Des Moines, Iowa in 2009.
By all measures, Riley Reiff is the returning star on the offensive line. Most anticipate that Reiff will declare himself draft eligible at the end of the 2011 season, forgoing his senior season.
Despite Iowa's unfortunate collapse at the end of the season, Reiff was awarded All Big Ten Second Team honors by the coaches and the media.
His aggressive style of play makes him a natural team leader and a force to be reckoned with on Iowa's offensive line.
The strength of the "O" line will improve Iowa's chances of bolstering their running game in 2011 as well as giving new QB Vandenberg adequate time in the pocket.
Backing up Reiff as offensive tackle will be junior Matt Tobin, standing 6'6" and weighing in at 285 pounds. Behind Tobin are others waiting in the wings.
No doubt Reiff is solid up front with his starting spot cemented.
Zusevics started every game for Iowa in 2010 at right tackle.
He was a veritable workhorse for the Hawkeyes throughout the year.
As the unit began to meld, Zusevics was a major factor in aiding the maturation.
The offensive line could not, however, provide enough to see the Hawkeyes over the rough spots at the end of the year when other factors were at work.
Expect Zusevics to resume his starting place on the offensive line without interruption.
His backup on the depth chart at right tackle will be Brett Van Sloten, who stands 6'7" and weighs in officially at 290 pounds.
The"O" line did not perform poorly in 2010, but with four starters back, along with other seasoned performers, this unit should once again be a strength inside Kinnick Stadium.
Listed as first team starting right guard In 2010, Adam Gettis was injured much of the year, which cut considerably into his playing time.
But he expects to be back in full form in 2011, resuming his place on the offensive line as he starts his senior year with the Hawkeyes.
Gettis did start twice in 2010 against Wisconsin and Michigan State, seeing limited action as well in other contests while he continued to battle injuries.
It was a disappointing season for the big guy personally. He saw his time on the field limited as the Hawkeyes failed to get the job done at the end of the season.
Backing up Gettis at right tackle is Woody Orne, a senior standing 6'5" and weighing 295 pounds.
Then too, one area where Iowa has recruited well in recent years is at offensive line, so guys like Andrew Donnal, Conor Boffeli, Drew Clark, Brandon Scherff and Brett Van Sloten will definitely be in the mix here and elsewhere along the line.
Getting some opportunities to start in 2010, MacMillan will be ready to be a first team starter for the Hawkeyes on the offensive line.
But the starting spot is not guaranteed, which is what makes spring practice so intriguing for Iowa coaches and players.
Who will emerge as Iowa's starting right guard?
Most assume it will be sophomore MacMillan, who started Iowa's first six games before becoming injured.
In all, MacMillan saw action in eight of Iowa's 13 games.
Standing second on the depth chart should be red-shirt freshman Brandon Scerff at 6'5", weighing 310 pounds, highly ranked out of Denison, Iowa.
All of the glory and the press typically goes to the glory players who score the touchdowns and dazzle the crowds.
It is, however, the guys on the line who do the hard work up front that make the running backs, receivers and quarterbacks look really good.
Iowa loses some real firepower on the defensive line with the departures of Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard and Karl Klug. Senior Broderick Binns will be back to fill in at end.
Binns will be hoping to bounce back after being replaced in the starting rotation by Mike Daniels. Now they will both be starting and in the other starting slots are some very big shoes to fill.
Last year, Binns had 36 tackles, assisting on two tackles for losses and one forced fumble. This is a far cry from what Binns accomplished during his sophomore season.
Binns will be looking to regain the form and the drive that propelled him into the starting rotation.
Iowa fans probably remember Binns most for blocking the last second field goal attempt by Northern Iowa during the opening game of the 2009 season.
Binns saved the day, securing an Iowa win and saving the season in the minds of many.
Backing up Binns on the depth chart as defensive end will be sophomore Dominci Alvis, standing 6'4" and weighing 250 pounds.
One thing for certain. There are many unknowns in discussing the defensive line. The picture will come into focus a little better after spring drills.
The overall depth chart could change considerably by the end of April.
Mike Daniels worked his way into the starting lineup in 2010.
He made honorable mention all Big Ten voted by coaches and the media. In 2010, Daniels was ranked second on team in tackles for loss (11-56) and quarterback sacks (4-31).
Daniels was named Co-Defensive Player of the Week in the Big Ten for his play in the 45-0 win over Ball State.
For that same game, Daniels was named national Defensive Lineman of the Week and national Defensive Player of the Week by College Football Performance Awards.
For his efforts, Daniels won the Hustle Team Award on defense.
Daniels played in all 13 games, with eight starts, where he recorded 17 solo tackles and 23 assists.
Backing Daniels on the depth chart will be junior Steve Bigach at 6'3" and weighing in at 280 pounds.
With his experience, the team will be looking to Daniels to help develop another winning front line on defense.
His leadership will be key to setting the tone and the work ethic of this key ingredient to Iowa success on the gridiron.
It looks to be the year that Lebron Daniel takes a permanent place on the starting line for Iowa.
He was the next best man in after Adrian Clayborn at the end of the 2010 season.
Of the remaining wannabes, Daniel has banked considerable playing time in the heat of battle, unlike Joe Gaglione, Dominic Alvis or Joe Forgy.
That said, one or two of those waiting in the wings should start making some inroads by working their way into the rotation in the spring.
That is because more than likely, Iowa will need more than just Binns and Daniel to produce from the defensive end spot next year.
Going into spring ball, Daniel's second on the depth chart is senior Joe Forgy, listed at 6'4" weighing 260 pounds.
Much more will be known at the conclusion of spring practice.
After starting out as a special teams player, James Morris evolved into one of Iowa's starting linebackers.
It became an impossible year for the Iowa linebacker corps in 2010. The injuries just never stopped.
Jeff Tarpinian, senior middle linebacker, seemed to suffer from a simple shoulder stinger. The injury turned into a shoulder/neck/nerve issue for Tarpinian, limiting him to just five starts.
Later on, when Jeremiha Hunter went down against Wisconsin, the linebackers against Michigan State were true freshman James Morris, redshirt freshman Shane DiBona and Tyler Nielsen before he gave way to walk-on Ross Petersen.
This is called on-the-job training, which should make the linebacker corps a much stronger unit as they head into 2011.
Morris' back up on the depth chart should be senior Bruce Davis, standing at at six feet and weighing in at 232 pounds.
Last year, junior Tyler Nielsen was having an excellent season playing outside linebacker.
Nielsen had stepped in behind departing three-year starter and Miami Dolphins draft pick A.J. Edds.
Then there was the Michigan game.
That was when the injury first surfaced; Nielsen hit quarterback Denard Robinson. It culminated with a broken vertebrae in his neck in the game against Michigan State.
He’s no longer wearing a neck brace and is slated for a return this fall. Assuming he is healthy, Nielsen should step back into the outside linebacker spot he vacated in the the last five games of the 2010 season.
Backing him up on the depth chart would be sophomore Christian Kirksey, 6'2" and weighing 215 pounds.
There are more possibilities at this position since the issue of who fills the particular spots at middle and outside linebackers still is not settled.
There is no doubt that Iowa retains the best talent in the Big Ten when it comes to their coverage at the corners.
Shaun Prater was a first team All Big Ten team selection for the 2010 season and was the team's best defensive player.
Prater had one interception he returned for a touchdown. He also recovered one fumble on the season.
In 2010, Prater started all 12 games he played at cornerback.
During those games, he recorded 50 solo tackles and 18 assists, along with four interceptions and six pass break-ups.
During the preseason hype, Prater was named to the second team all-Big Ten by Sports Illustrated. At the end of the season, Prater more than exceeded the expectations placed on him at the beginning of the year.
His senior season promises to be even better as the starting corner.
Backing Prater up on the depth chart is junior Greg Castillo at 5"11" and 182 pounds.
As part the awesome duo at corner, Micah Hyde was named the defensive MVP of the Insight Bowl in 2010.
During the season, Hyde had two interceptions that he ran back for touchdowns.
In 2010, Hyde started all 13 games at cornerback, recording 58 solo tackles and 24 assists to rank second on team with 82 tackles.
Hyde also ranked second on the team with four interceptions and led the team with seven pass break-ups.
Sophomore B.J. Lowery, 5' 11," and 185 pounds, will be second on the depth chart after starter Hyde at corner.
The return of Hyde and Prater will add stability to the Hawkeye defense, and these two are rock solid at this position.
Bad news for the Hawkeyes to lose both of their starting safeties, Brett Greenwood, who started for four years, and Tyler Sash, who started for three.
That leaves a huge hole to be filled.
By the end of last season, Tom Donatell and Tanner Miller were listed as the back-ups on the two-deeps.
Miller did see action during the Insight Bowl when Greenwood got hurt, so he can claim some playing time under fire.
Miller has an excellent chance to be one of the starters, given his brief appearances last year and the frequent comparisons to Sash and Greenwood.
Because Miller is having surgery and will miss spring ball, he will have to make up some ground during early season camp if he's going to become one of the starters.
Miller was one of nine true freshmen playing for the Hawkeyes in 2010. The sophomore has an excellent chance to make the starting rotation in 2011 as a natural athlete high on the coach's list.
His backup on the depth chart appears to be Jack Swanson, 5'11" and 200 pounds.
Last year, Mike Meyer won the starting placekicker spot from Trent Mossbrucker.
This was after Daniel Murray's injury kept him from returning to the field.
Mossbrucker held the starting spot until he missed an extra point against Arizona.
Once the coach inserted Mike Meyer, a walk on, into the starting lineup, he never looked back.
Meyer led team in scoring with 73 points in 2010, which ranks 19th-best for a single season at Iowa.
Meyer ranked fifth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.824) and ninth in kick scoring (5.6) and field goals per game (1.1)
For Iowa, Meyer was one of nine true freshmen to see action in 2010.
During 2011, Mossbrucker will be sitting right behind him.
Wide receiver Keenan Davis will also serve as kick returner for the Hawkeyes in 2011.
This was a position filled last year by now departed Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.
Davis, a four-star recruit for the Hawkeyes, has not yet made the impact that most expected.
In 2010, Davis saw action in all 13 games, recording 11 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown.
He averaged 19.4 yards on nine kickoff returns.
Much more will be expected of Davis this year, as Colin Sandeman, along with Johnson-Koulianos, vacated the Iowa campus for other fields of play.
Sitting behind Davis on the depth chart at wide receiver is red shirt freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley.
Behind him are others waiting for their chance to play.