Iowa Football: Five Things We Learned Coming out of the Spring Game
Iowa's spring game was Saturday, and as is typical with Kirk Ferentz spring games, this practice/scrimmage/event hardly resembled a game.
Because of that, it's hard to learn much about the Hawkeyes from Saturday's game.
However, there were some clear breakout stars of the spring and the coaches seemed happy with the improvement in some areas, but saw need for improvement in others.
Check out five things we learned in Iowa's spring game on Saturday.
Keenan Davis Is Ready to Be a Starter
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Keenan Davis stole the show at Iowa's spring game on Saturday with a spectacular one-handed catch and a number of other great plays. With Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Colin Sandeman gone, it's Davis's time to grab the starting job.
“It’s his time,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He needs to play like a starter, [and] he’s certainly more than capable.”
Davis was one of the top wide receiver recruits in the country coming out of high school, and after two years as a backup, is next in line to start alongside Marvin McNutt.
“It’s Keenan’s time. It’s his turn to step up and be a leader—and he’s going to do it," McNutt told the Des Moines Register.
The Offensive Line Will Be a Strength
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Last year, the Iowa offensive line was a weakness, especially at the beginning of the season, after losing a lot of talent from 2009. This year, with three starters returning, that unit should be one of the Hawkeyes' biggest strengths.
That was evident on Saturday, as the offensive line dominated the defensive line for much of the game.
A good offensive line will be important this season, as Iowa will likely be a run-based team and will also be breaking in a new quarterback.
Kirk Ferentz-coached teams are always good in the trenches, and after getting away from that philosophy last season, expect Iowa to be its normal dominant self on the offensive line.
The Defensive Line Needs Work
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The Iowa defensive line's story is almost the complete opposite of the offensive line's. It was the most experienced unit for the Hawkeyes last season and helped its team finish sixth in the nation in run defense.
Mike Daniels returns to start at defensive tackle, as does Broderick Binns, who started at defensive end in 2009. As of now, senior Lebron Daniel and freshman Carl Davis are the starters at the other end and tackle spots, respectively.
The unit seemed confident that it would be able to fill the holes left by Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, and Karl Klug, but was overmatched by the offensive line in the spring game.
The defensive line will continue to be a work in progress all season, and due to its inexperience, Ferentz said that he could use a six to eight man committee.
The Secondary Will Be Loaded
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The secondary figured to be a weakness this year with the departures of safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood. However, with loads of talent at corner, the Hawkeyes were able to fill those holes.
Micah Hyde, a starter at corner last season, switched to safety during spring practice, and while that is not a sure switch during the fall, it seems to be going well.
“[Hyde] is a talented guy, great ball skills. We can just put anyone in and they can get the job done," defensive coordinator Norm Parker told the Des Moines Register. "I’m proud that I came back, and I think this was the best choice that I made.”
Joining Hyde at safety is Collin Sleeper, who the coaches have been very impressed with this spring.
The corners are loaded this year, with GoDaddy.com preseason All-American Shaun Prater returning, as well as Greg Castillo, Jordan Bernstine, and BJ Lowery. Castillo got a lot of experience last season and Bernstine has proven to be very versatile and could potentially switch to safety.
So while Iowa does lose two great players, expect it to reload in the defensive backfield in 2011.
AJ Derby May Stay at Quarterback After All
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James Vandenberg may have cemented his place as Iowa's starting quarterback this spring, but all of the talk at quarterback has centered around AJ Derby. The freshman from Iowa City has pulled even with junior John Wienke at No. 2 on the depth chart.
Ferentz said the final depth chart will likely be determined in August, but it's clear that Derby has shown the potential that he displayed as a highly touted recruit out of high school.
There has been a lot talk about Derby switching positions because he is so athletic and big for a quarterback. Iowa has said from the beginning that it plans to use Derby as a quarterback and it looks like rumors of him switching positions may finally slow down.