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Some holes on football O-line

BY BRENDAN STILES | APRIL 14, 2010 7:30 AM

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Norm Parker hasn’t needed to evaluate his defense much this spring. But for Ken O’Keefe, it’s another story.

O’Keefe’s side of the ball has seen an exodus of players who graduated, and when the team holds its final practice open to the public at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, injuries will prove to be yet another factor.

At running back, sophomores Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson, and Brandon Wegher won’t suit up on Saturday. Wegher suffered a shoulder sprain during practice last week, and head coach Kirk Ferentz ruled Robinson out at the start of spring practice last month.

Hampton, who has taken part in drills, is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered last year.
Instead, redshirt freshman Brad Rogers and sophomore Jason White will get the bulk of the carries at running back.

“We’d like to think we have a little depth there, and there are guys that have some playing experience. But they’re all nursing different things at this stage,” O’Keefe said at a press conference on Tuesday. “If somebody’s saying there is depth, then I guess I’m with you, sort of. At practice, it doesn’t look that way.”

While his name wasn’t on the depth chart released on Tuesday, one redshirt freshman wideout had both O’Keefe and Ferentz talking.

“If you want to talk about a young player who kind of gathered some notice this spring, it would be Jordan Cotton,” Ferentz said during a Big Ten teleconference on Tuesday. “He’s still got a lot to work, but he has really done some things that have caught our attention in a real positive way.”

Defensively, safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood missed the entire spring practice session to recover from off-season surgeries. Nick Nielsen is listed first on the depth chart at strong safety, and Jack Swanson is the first player listed at free safety.

The linebacking corps is also filled with question marks because of the departure of former starters A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer. Senior Jeff Tarpinian, who prior to this year was always battling senior Jeremiha Hunter for a spot at weakside linebacker, is listed at middle linebacker.

“He could be middle. He could be outside,” Parker said. “Tarp will be a major factor in the whole thing. He’s played very well the last 10 days.”

Shoring up the offensive line

With four offensive linemen from last season gone, the Hawkeyes have some areas to fill up front.

Ferentz and O’Keefe both expressed confidence in the six linemen who have emerged so far this spring. Sophomore Riley Reiff and senior Julian Vandervelde will shore up the left side, with Adam Gettis and Markus Zusevics along the right.

Center is where the battle is. Senior Josh Koeppel and sophomore James Ferentz, both Iowa City products, are in a “dead heat” for the starting job, Kirk Ferentz said.

“A football team is very similar to an empty bus. In the beginning, we want to make sure to get the right guys on the bus, and then once you get them on the bus, now we got to make sure to get them in the right seats,” O’Keefe said. “That’s really what spring ball is all about right now for our offensive line.”

Parker still going strong

Health hasn’t been an issue for Parker, who said he has been doing better and getting stronger.

The defensive guru gave the line of the afternoon after being asked how long he intends to keep coaching.

“I’ll probably croak out on the field someday,” he said. “Hope we’re ahead when I do.”


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