Iowa Football Spring Game: Five Things to Expect on Saturday
As spring practice comes to a close, teams all across the country will be holding spring games for practice and for fans to finally see a football game after a long break.
Iowa hasn't been big on spring games and instead holds a "controlled scrimmage," which is just a fancy phrase for glorified practice.
However, with a number of new faces on both sides of the ball, the Hawkeyes have been busy this spring trying to fill some key holes. Check out what to expect Saturday when Iowa takes the field for its scrimmage.
A Lot of Micah Hyde
Iowa has been set at safety for the past three years behind the solid play of Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash. However, Greenwood graduated after the 2010 season and Sash has declared for the NFL, leaving a gaping hole in the back of the Hawkeyes' secondary.
With a surplus of players at corner and a shortage at safety, Iowa switched Micah Hyde to safety this spring after playing corner all of last season.
Hyde says the transition is going well and expect him to see a lot of action in the Hawkeyes' controlled scrimmage.
More of the First Team Offense Than Last Year
Over 20,000 Iowa fans showed up to Kinnick last year to see the Hawkeyes' spring game and were largely disappointed with the controlled scrimmage—no, practice—that they were treated to.
This year, however, expect Iowa to send the first team offense out much more offense in order to gain game-like experience for a very inexperienced offense.
With the exception of the running backs, who always seem to get hurt during practice, expect to see the first team offense to get plenty of reps, especially quarterback James Vandenberg, who is a promising, yet unproven player.
Battles in the Trenches
Last year, Iowa's defensive line was ranked by many preseason publications as one of the best units in the nation thanks to the stellar contributions of Christian Ballard, Adrian Clayborn, and Karl Klug over the previous two seasons. The offensive line, however, was young and inexperienced.
This year, those roles are reversed. The Hawkeye offensive line should be very solid, as three starters return from last year. However, the defensive line will be more of a question mark, with the graduations of Ballard, Clayborn, and Klug.
The D-line should still be solid, as Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns both return, but it will definitely be a focal point this spring as unproven linemen Carl Davis and Lebron Daniel try to make their way into the starting lineup. Expect that unit to get a lot of time against the first-team offense in the scrimmage.
A Lot of the Backup Running Backs
Last spring, Iowa seemed set a running back, with nine scholarship backs on the roster. However, after a number of injuries, transfers, and suspensions, the Hawkeyes were down to just freshman Marcus Coker by the end of last season.
Since the Hawkeyes can't seem to keep their running backs healthy--Coker was hurt in preseason practice last year—don't expect to see a lot of Coker in the spring game.
However, this gives the backups an opportunity to shine before a sizable class of talented running backs comes in this fall.
The coaches have praised redshirt freshman De'Andre Johnson, who will get a shot at the number-two job. Junior walk-on, James White will have a chance to prove himself on Saturday, as well.
A Tight End Rotation
Iowa's "next man in" philosophy will continue at linebacker this season, as last year's starter Alan Reisner graduated and entered the NFL Draft. Iowa has turned into "Tight End U" during the Ferentz era, and that streak will likely continue in 2011.
Brad Herman should get the starting job after backing up Reisner last year, but he will be pushed by sophomore CJ Fiedorowicz, who was a highly touted recruit out of high school.
The Hawkeyes frequently employ two-tight end sets, so both Herman and Fiedorowicz should get plenty of playing time this fall. Look for both to be very involved in the offense on Saturday and take as many reps against the first team defense as possible.