Ferentz shrugs off concerns about young Hawkeye squad

BY SETH ROBERTS | JULY 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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CHICAGO — In 2008, Ricky Stanzi and Pat Angerer began the Iowa football season on the bench.

Now, they're in the NFL.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz referred to Stanzi and Angerer when he talked about the 2011 edition of his team at the Big Ten Media Days.

He said the Hawkeyes are in a transition period, similar to the one the team went through three years ago, where — even with a strong slate of seniors — there's little certainty about who will step up for the Black and Gold.

Maybe, he said, the stars will come from the bench — much like Stanzi and Angerer.

"We have a lot of young guys, [and] we're eager to see how they come along," he said. "That's going to be the key for our football team, how we come along from this point. We have an opportunity right now to really grow.

"We're eager to see what the next six or eight weeks bring, see how things develop, and eager to get started with our play."

Ferentz didn't say which young players would be in the mix, replying with a simple "We'll see" when he was asked about potential impact freshmen.

The team released its final two-deep on Thursday, though, and the chart highlights a variety of first-year players.

The most notable player on the list is quarterback James Vandenberg, who will replace the popular Stanzi under center. Ferentz said he has "all the confidence in the world" his young gunslinger — who started his first game at Ohio State in 2009 — will perform well.

"You couldn't ask for a guy to compete any better in that ball game [against the Buckeyes]," Ferentz said. "We'll probably see some ups and downs in September, but I think he'll level off and do very well."

The two-deep features more new names on the defensive side of the ball, including a tandem in the secondary. Collin Sleeper is listed as the starting strong safety, despite having no previous game experience after he walked on the team in 2008.

Ferentz's free safety is Micah Hyde. The junior isn't new to the secondary — he was the cornerback that memorably returned a Blaine Gabbert interception for 6 points and a win in the 2010 Insight Bowl — but he hasn't seen game action at free safety since high school.

Also new on the defense is Dominic Alvis, a sophomore listed as a starting tackle. Alvis replaces Karl Klug, who was drafted by Tennessee in April, and Ferentz said there were plenty of parallels between the two players.

"[Alvis] played both [tackle and end] in the spring," he said. "I'm not saying he's Karl Klug, but Karl had that versatility. It's a matter of trying to fit the pieces a little bit. [The defensive line is] a position — that and the secondary — that'll probably be really interesting to watch and see how they unfold."

Even if Ferentz isn't sure about which players will end up filling which holes, though, the 12-year coach said he's looking forward to watching his young Hawkeyes mature on the field.

"Time will tell," he said. "I like our team. I like the guys on our team [and] we've got the opportunity to grow and develop. We have to do that. We've done that better in some years than in others, and that's going to be the challenging task for us."

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