March 26, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Several University of Iowa football players have been reaching for the steering wheel during the offseason; from now until April 26 they have an opportunity to grab the keys and drive to the top of the depth chart.
Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz met with media Wednesday in the Player’s Auditorium in the Hayden Fry Football Complex. All reports Ferentz has received from strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle indicate progress has been made during the winter phase.
“We have a lot of guys that are trying to grab the wheel a little bit and take that role,” Ferentz said. “We’ll know a lot more after 15 workouts. It’s something we’re looking forward to seeing.”
Including in those 15 spring practices is an April 12 return to West Des Moines Valley High School.
“We’re excited about going back to Central Iowa,” Ferentz said. “It’s a chance for us to reach out a little bit to the people that travel to Kinnick (Stadium) for so many Saturdays over the fall. That gives us a way to take the product to them a little bit.”
Although the Hawkeyes return 41 letterwinners and 14 starters, the annual challenge is to replace those who have departed.
“We were very senior-heavy at the linebacker position,” Fernentz said.
“We have a lot of work to do with this team right now to even think about taking on our schedule right now,. So we have to focus on that.”
UI football coach
Gone are linebackers Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey, and James Morris. Reaching for the gears are senior Quinton Alston, junior Travis Perry, and sophomore Reggie Spearman. Gone is tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz with his 30 catches, six touchdowns, and key red zone grabs.
“I think all four of those guys will play,” Ferentz said about tight ends Ray Hamilton, Jake Duzey, Henry Krieger Coble, and George Kittle. “They’ll all have roles. We like to play multiple tight ends.”
Adding to the depth at tight end is redshirt freshman Jon Wisnieski, who Ferentz said had a good month of December.
“He fits right in with that other group from what we saw,” Ferentz said.
There is a defensive position change of note in the secondary. Junior Jordan Lomax, who began the 2013 season as a starting cornerback, has moved to free safety in an attempt to replace Tanner Miller, who graduated. Last season Lomax had five tackles and two pass breakups.
“We’ve liked what we’ve seen of him,” Ferentz said. “He’s got some traits you look for in a safety, too. He’s a physical player and he’s very intelligent.”
The running back position — once one of the thinnest areas on the roster — is stacked with experience and talented newcomers. Last season Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, Damon Bullock, and LeShun Daniels, Jr., all had carries.
“Hopefully it ends up being a crowded position and a good problem,” Ferentz said. “It has the potential for that and they have different packages they offer.”
Iowa begins spring drills with its coaching staff intact for a second consecutive season. Ferentz said the coaches have “reinvented” themselves and the staff is set for the “next decade.”
With all the optimism that comes with spring ball, Ferentz knows there is plenty to be done before the Spring Game on April 26.
“We have a lot of work to do with this team right now to even think about taking on our schedule right now,” Ferentz said. “So we have to focus on that.”