March 24, 2010
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — New season, new chapter, same goal.
The University of Iowa football team opens spring drills Wednesday after a winter program that head coach Kirk Ferentz said went well. The Hawkeyes are coming off an 11-2 season capped by a 24-14 win in the FedEx Orange Bowl that lifted them to No. 7 in the final national polls. Iowa has won 17 of its last 20 games.
“It’s good to get started again,” Ferentz told a gathering of media Wednesday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “We’re excited to get back on field. This is a real important phase for us in terms of football. Certainly it’s a new season; all of us were pleased the way it turned out last year, but this begins a whole new chapter for us.”
Calling it a period of opportunity for youngsters and veterans alike, Ferentz discussed the importance of the next 15 practices. Spring ball will culminate with a public practice in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, April 17, at 1:05 p.m.
“These next 15 days on the field and in meetings are really important because our time’s really limited,” Ferentz said. “This is a period of opportunity for all of our guys, not just the younger guys, but guys like (defensive end Adrian) Clayborn and (quarterback Ricky) Stanzi; guys who have established themselves have a chance to improve and that’s what we’re counting on.”
The injury update is optimistic for wide receiver Paul Chaney, Jr., who is recovering well from an ACL repair (should be full speed by June) and for running back Jewel Hampton, who is cleared to practice this spring, but Ferentz emphasized that he will do contact work, but will not get tackled in drills. Shoulder injuries have once again temporarily shelved safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood, as well as offensive lineman Kyle Haganman and running back Adam Robinson. Defensive lineman Steve Bigach is recovering from knee repair and defensive lineman Dominic Alvis is nursing a groin injury. All are expected to be ready for camp in August.
Iowa’s offensive backfield will benefit from the return of Hampton, who missed the entire 2009 season. In his place, freshmen Robinson and Brandon Wegher emerged, meaning that playing time is up for grabs at running back, just like all other positions.
“We have a lot of good football players coming back that are going to emerge as good leaders. Some of them have already accepted that role over the last year, year-and-a-half. We have a lot of work to do, I think we’re all aware of that and we’re anxious to move into the next phase.”
UI head football coach
“It’s that way for everybody right now,” Ferentz said. “Our first goal is to get more than two (running backs) to the game. We have had a hard time doing that, unfortunately. It’s a real luxury item when we have three backs, so if we can get to that point, that would be great.”
Specific positions that will draw the most analysis in the spring are at offensive line/tight end and linebacker.
“We probably have eight or nine guys competing for the top spots (on the offensive line),” Ferentz said. “It’s going to be interesting and we’re going to be equally interested to see who is going to emerge behind (Allen) Reisner at tight end. We would prefer to play at least a couple guys out of the gate, whether or not we have that luxury, we’ll see.”
With the loss of offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Dan Doering, Rafael Eubanks and Dace Richardson, Ferentz joked that the staff selected the preliminary spring depth chart by “throwing darts.”
“We’re pretty much just flipping coins right now and depth charts don’t mean a lot at this point,” Ferentz said. “Hopefully we’ll be further along here in four weeks and more importantly, hopefully by September we’ll have a good idea where we’re heading.”
Replacing the void at linebacker created by the graduation of Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds will be another question mark. Ferentz likes the flexibility at that position with Jeff Tarpinian, Troy Johnson and Tyler Nielsen to name three returning Hawkeyes.
“I think that we have a lot of guys that are growing,” Ferentz said. “I think it’s going to be good competition.”
Coming off a victory in the FedEx Orange Bowl and returning many key contributors could lead to heightened expectations in 2010. Ferentz continues to state that there is a fine line between winning and losing in the Big Ten Conference: a seven-point loss to Northwestern; a two-point win against Michigan. A three-point loss at Ohio State; a two-point win at Michigan State. In the last two seasons, the Hawkeyes have won six games decided by five points or less and lost five games by that same spread.
“If you look at the margin of error, the margin of points we have been beat by over the last two seasons, it’s respectable,” Ferentz said. “Then you flip it around, too. As close as it’s been with our losses, I could match every loss with a win. Our margin of error is typically going to be pretty slim; our players need to understand that.”
The Hawkeyes, including quarterback A.J. Derby and defensive end Louis Trinca-Pasat, begin practice Wednesday at 4:20 p.m. Derby and Trinca-Pasat are members of the 2010 recruiting class who have already enrolled at the UI.