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Spring football game — Who to watch

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | APRIL 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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After losing 12 starters between offense and defense, the Iowa football team is sure to have some unfamiliar faces this season. The public will be able to see many of those new faces in Saturday’s Coca-Cola Classic Spring Practice, scheduled for a noon start at Kinnick Stadium.

Here are some players to keep an eye on.

Wide Receiver — Kevonte Martin-Manley (RS freshman), Don Shumpert (sophomore)

Wide receiver may be the Hawkeyes’ position with the least experience. With returning veteran Marvin McNutt sidelined this spring after shoulder surgery, less-experienced players such as Martin-Manley and Shumpert have seen more reps in practice. Junior Keenan Davis would seem to have the starter spot opposite McNutt on virtual lockdown, so one of these two will likely be Iowa’s slot man in the fall. At 6-3, 185 pounds, Shumpert may be a better athlete, but quarterback James Vandenberg said last week he’s been impressed by both.

Tight End — C.J. Fiedorowicz (sophomore)

Brad Herman will likely be — and is listed as — the team’s No. 1 tight end, but Iowa has a propensity to use two-tight end sets, so Fiedorowicz should have chances to contribute. The 6-7, 265-pounder may have been a victim of outside hype as a true freshman, arriving in Iowa City with impressive measurables and slotted as the fifth-best tight end in the class of 2010 by Rivals.com. He didn’t record a single catch.

Now, with a year in the program under his belt, offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe said Fiedorowicz has better knowledge of the team’s system and thus can play with “a lot more speed and a lot more confidence.”

Fullback — Jonathan Gimm (RS junior)

Gimm is a player who has toiled in the depth chart as a backup tight end for three seasons. A switch to fullback might be the best thing that’s happened to him since becoming a Hawkeye. With assumed starter Brad Rogers missing spring ball to undergo cardiology tests, Gimm has had a chance to show what he can do. Replacing the unheralded but ultra-effective Brett Morse — a three-year starter — won’t be easy, but O’Keefe said Gimm has done well.

“He’s another guy that we haven’t quite found a home for, and now we have,” O’Keefe said.

Defensive Tackle — Carl Davis (RS freshman)

At 6-5 and 310 pounds, there is nobody on the Iowa football team bigger than Davis. Like Gimm, he is another player that has probably benefited from a teammate’s injury in the way of earning more opportunities — redshirt junior defensive tackle Steve Bigach is out after off-season surgery.

But just because he’s big, that doesn’t mean he isn’t athletic, defensive coordinator Norm Parker said.

“He doesn’t look like a 300-pound slow guy out there,” Parker said. “He moves his hands. He’s athletic. He’s a 300-pounder who can dunk a basketball and do all that stuff.”

Strong Safety — Collin Sleeper (RS junior)

There may not be a more aptly named player on the roster than the walk-on from nearby Solon. The redshirt junior has emerged as the No. 1 at a position that, for Iowa, is as wide open as they come.

The likes of Tom Donatell, Jordan Bernstine, and incoming freshman Nico Law should ensure it remains a competition all the way into the fall, but for now, Sleeper is listed as the guy.

Walk-on or not, Parker said Sleeper has “a lot of ability.”

“He can run like a deer, and he’ll hit you,” Parker said.


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