March 25, 2015
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters on Wednesday that the Hawkeyes will approach the first day of spring practice with an open mind and open competition.
The open competition is nothing new for Iowa. For the better part of 17 years starting spots on Ferentz’s teams are won each week and the competition is never closed.
But the open mind approach? That only reaffirms the plan Ferentz laid out in January, days after Iowa’s loss to Tennessee at the TaxSlayer Bowl.
He said then that Iowa needed to get off campus and visit other programs to get a closer and broader look at potential changes within the program. And he did, visiting roughly five different universities to see how other people operate while giving he and his staff a chance to self-reflect.
“It was really good,” Ferentz said, “not only X’s and O’s, but program-wise, recruiting-wise. I think it was healthy for us.”
Ferentz made no bones about the fact that Iowa’s loss to Tennessee at the TaxSlayer Bowl was anything but painful, but like any time you lose a game, he said the staff worked to analyze and work intelligently forward.
“That’s where our focus really has been,” he said. “We’re focused on moving forward right now. I think we have a really good staff in place. We’ve gone through some transitions certainly, but I think we have everyone in the right seats.”
Ferentz shuffled front office assignments in the offseason, but the more noticeable changes will be on the field. The Hawkeyes lost four starters on defense — including NFL caliber tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat — and six starters on offense — including an Outland Trophy winner, their all-time leading receiver, a workhorse running back, and in all likelihood, the quarterback who started 25 of the last 26 games.
Ferentz confirmed Wednesday that Jake Rudock has been cleared to visit other football programs.
“He’s exploring some other options at this point with our support, certainly not encouragement, but support,” Ferentz said. “We’ll work through the process, but until he decides what he’s going to do definitively we’ll keep him outside the program at this point.”
The top line of the quarterback depth chart belonged to C.J. Beathard, a junior-to-be that passed for two touchdowns and rushed for 82 yards while leading nine of Iowa’s 14 drives in the bowl game.
“We have a new season and a new opportunity in front of us, a lot of challenges as well, but what else can you ask for. I feel really good about things. I think all of us are ready to get back on to the field and see what we can do with this opportunity. We have a lot of work to do. But that’s the fun part of it.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
Beathard has just one career start under his belt, but he has more experience than the offensive tackles that will be asked to protect him. Sophomore Boone Myers is expected to fill the shoes of consensus All-American Brandon Scherff at left tackle, and sophomore Ike Boettger is slated to replace NFL prospect Andrew Donnal at right tackle.
Ferentz said both players are further along at this point in their careers than some of the very best linemen he’s had go through the program — including Eric Steinbach and Robert Gallery — but what they do moving forward is how their careers will be judged.
“The next step is those guys actually going and playing and practicing with consistency,” Ferentz said. “But the cupboard is not bare. We just have to bring those guys along, and it’s going to be fun.”
Beathard will have the luxury of handing the ball to a pair of healthy veterans. Senior Jordan Canzeri and junior LeShun Daniels, Jr., are expected to see a significant increase in snaps following injury plagued seasons.
“I think (Jordan) and LeShun are kind of co-starters, that’s how I’d phrase it,” Ferentz said. “They’re two different style of runners. Kind of the same in that both of them were injured last year for a majority of the year… but both those guys did a good job in December. I think they’re going to have to play well, and I’m confident they will.”
The Hawkeyes have one month of spring ball beginning March 25 and ending April 25. Iowa will host an open practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa, on April 11, and conclude spring drills with an open practice at Kinnick Stadium on April 25.
“We have a great group of guys working hard and we’re anxious to get on the field,” Ferentz said. “We have a new season and a new opportunity in front of us, a lot of challenges as well, but what else can you ask for. I feel really good about things. I think all of us are ready to get back on to the field and see what we can do with this opportunity. We have a lot of work to do. But that’s the fun part of it.”