Hawkeyes Start Putting Pieces Together

April 19, 2008

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by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team held its annual Coca-Cola Football Spring Game on Saturday, as 15,352 loyal friends and fans weathered a steady drizzle of rain to see their beloved team back on the hallowed turf inside Kinnick Stadium.

Every practice is a battle for the student-athletes who are required to bring their A-game every day to impress head coach Kirk Ferentz, who has yet to set a majority of the positions in stone.

“I don’t think anyone really stood out,” Ferentz said after the controlled scrimmage. “Our team has potential but we need to have consistency.”

Leadership is aplenty at the quarterback position as two of the signal-callers, junior Jake Christensen and freshman Marvin McNutt, highlight the leadership team. Christensen, from Lockport Ill., started every game last season and is the front-runner to win the job again this year. Sophomore Ricky Stanzi, from Mentor Ohio, and McNutt, from St. Louis Mo., are breathing down Christensen’s neck trying to win the coveted starting job.

“Jake is the number one guy,” senior wide receiver Andy Brodell said. “He is the most experienced out of all the quarterbacks we have. I think Rick and Marvin have both had good springs and both positioned themselves to be able to play in the fall. That will be good because we are four deep at that position. Jake and I definitely have more chemistry than we did last year and I think that will just help us more this year.”

It was a solid day’s work for each of the quarterbacks who all threw the ball well despite the rainy conditions. Each quarterback took several snaps during the scrimmage and they all gave themselves a case as to why they should start.

Christensen threw a rare interception on his first pass, which was returned for a touchdown by Chris Rowell. He settled down from their as he completed 10 of 17, including a touchdown to junior wide-out Trey Stross, who had the only two offensive touchdowns on the day. Christensen hurt his hand when he threw a pass and his hand struck a defensive player’s helmet. Stanzi completed 8 of 15 passes and he also hit Stross on a deep pass for a touchdown. McNutt, a promising young player, came in and immediately received a warm welcome from the crowd. He had difficulty hitting his receivers though, and went 3 of 10 on the day.

“With the weather I think we did pretty good,” Christensen said. “This is the first time we have played through rain, it was a wet ball and the first time the ball gets wet it gets pretty slick. The receivers did a good job catching and I think we did a pretty good job overall.”

“I think Rick (Stanzi) has helped his cause,” Ferentz said. “Again, if we talk about anything right now it is probably consistency. Jake is number one right now.”

The kicking game is also still up for grabs as it was last year between sophomore Dan Murray and junior Austin Signor. Signor won the job last year but faltered as Murray took over the rest of the season. Each player had difficulty kicking field goals in the rainy conditions. Murray finished 2 for 3 and Signor was 1 for 3.

The Hawkeyes still have a sour taste in their mouths after last season’s 6-6 campaign, but there have been relatively few injuries this spring, which riddled Iowa last season. The Hawkeyes will also welcome back senior tight end Tony Moeaki and Brodell, who both went out early with injuries last year.

“We had a few guys get nicked up today,” Ferentz said. “Coming out of the spring, I hope I am not premature in saying this, but no surgical issues or anything like that. All the surgeries that took place happened prior to spring practice. From what I know, I think everyone should be available when we get going in June when they start training.”

“It feels good,” Christensen said. “Brodell is an experienced guy, he runs good routes and he is going to be a leader. It feels good to have him back.”

Last season the Hawkeyes won four of their final five league games, including consecutive victories against Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota to become bowl eligible for the seventh season in a row.

Iowa opens the season with three straight home games, beginning on Saturday, Aug. 30, against Maine. That will be followed by games against Florida International (Sept. 6) and Iowa State (Sept. 13).

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