Practice will Lead to Answers

Aug. 5, 2011

First Practice — Media Day Photo Gallery

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Gone on the Iowa depth chart are the names Sash, Stanzi and Clayborn. With the loss of 13 starters, the talk coming out of the University of Iowa football media day is the new beginning with the start of fall practice.

“I think the next four weeks, we have a lot of questions to answer, and a lot of things to look at,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz inside the Paul W. Brechler Press Box at Kinnick Stadium. “I think we’ll be a very different football team as we get going here, but I think we’ll be a different team than we were in April.

“My guess is by the end of the month — maybe more so than some other years — we’ll be a different looking team than we were when we started out here.”

The Hawkeyes aren’t starting from scratch. Redshirt junior James Vandenberg has bode his time as the No. 2 quarterback, serving as Ricky Stanzi’s understudy the past two seasons. Iowa’s defensive line features three senior starters atop the depth chart, and Mr. Reliable Marvin McNutt, Jr., returns to anchor the receiving corps.

“We expect him (James) to play well,” said Ferentz. “We felt if James had been called upon last year, he would have played very, very well based on what we saw at the end of the 2009 season. He’s a year better as a football player in my mind right now than he was a year ago at this time, and we all felt good a year ago.”

Vandenberg’s mate in the backfield, sophomore Marcus Coker, returns after having a solid freshman season, rushing for 622 yards with three touchdowns. Behind Coker, the Hawkeyes are looking for depth.

“There’s not much there,” said Ferentz jokingly. “That’s one of the things we’re looking for in August. We’re counting on Jason White right now to do a nice job. De’Andre Johnson wasn’t at full speed last fall, and he looked better in the spring. We need him to continue to progress, and we’ll look at the newcomers as well.”

McNutt will be Vandenberg’s top target on the outside, and the senior sits just six touchdown passes shy of breaking Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes’ school record (21). Besides McNutt, Keenan Davis will be looked upon to step up.

“In a perfect world, we’d like to get the ball to Marvin,” said Ferentz. “Get the ball to all of our skill guys. We’re expecting a lot out of Keenan Davis. He certainly came here to play good football, and we expect him to do that. Based on what we saw in the spring, we think he’s capable.”

With the change to the Big Ten Conference with the addition of Nebraska — the 12th team — the Hawkeyes will shift their goals ever so slightly with the addition of division play.

“I think you want to win both,” said Ferentz about the divisional title and conference championship. “We added one more thing. It used to be we were trying to play to win the Big Ten title and play 13 games. Now you want to play 14, get 13 and one more.”

With one practice underway and a month of fall camp in the horizon, Ferentz is looking forward to teaching, and seeing how his team evolves.

“We’ve got a lot of moving parts, and we’ll have a lot of moving parts through the month of August,” he said. “I think a big concern for us right now is to continue to develop other players that can come in the game outside of the frontline guys. We have a pretty good feeling about the frontline guys, but we have a lot of work to do with the guys behind them.”