Derby ascends to No. 2 QB spot


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For all the pundits who continue to doubt A.J. Derby’s merits as a college quarterback, there’s at least one head coach who disagrees.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday the redshirt freshman is his No. 2 quarterback behind James Vandenberg entering Saturday’s season-opener.

Redshirt junior John Wienke will assume third-string duties.

“If we were playing tomorrow, [Derby will] be the next man in. I expect it to be that way Saturday,” Ferentz said. “I think he’s improved, too.”

Ferentz and Derby have fielded the question since the Iowa City native joined the team in the spring of 2010: Would Derby switch to another position?

The 6-4, 232-pound quarterback led City High to the 2009 state championship. But his superior athleticism — he also played safety, wide receiver, and even punter for the Little Hawks — fueled outside speculation about a switch, particularly with Vandenberg likely locked in at quarterback for the next two years.

Derby and his coach both insisted there was no change in the works. His ascension up the depth chart echoes that.

“He’s done a really nice job of embracing his role as a quarterback and helping lead that No. 2 group,” Vandenberg said. “I know a lot of guys look to him.”

Ferentz politely dismissed the idea of Iowa using Derby in any special offensive sets. As for an opportunity for his first in-game experience against Tennessee Tech, Ferentz was hesitant to simply assume the Hawkeyes would have that chance.

“I wish he could play a whole half. That could happen two ways — hope it’s the second way or the good way, however you want to put it,” Ferentz said with a grin, referring to the possibility of Derby getting a shot in a blowout. “To go into a game plan for that — I’ll tell you what, we haven’t beaten anybody yet. I know that.”

Freshmen in the mix at backup RB

Junior Jason White is a “solid” No. 2 at running back right now behind Marcus Coker, Ferentz said.
After that, redshirt freshman De’Andre Johnson and three true freshmen — Mika’il McCall, Damon Bullock, and Jordan Canzeri — are all in the mix to get some carries.

“It’s probably where we’re the thinnest right now,” Ferentz said. “We’ve been pleased with all three [true freshmen]. They’ve done a nice job over the last three weeks, learning well. I think they’ve competed well in the situations we’ve put them in.”

If Iowa’s open practice on Aug. 13 was any indication, McCall may be the lead candidate of those four.

“He’s definitely doing well in performing on the field,” White said about McCall, a 6-0, 215-pounder from Dolton, Ill. “Whenever he gets the ball in his hands, he’s very versatile, very elusive … He seems to be a quick learner.”

Injury report

The Hawkeyes will enter Saturday’s opener nursing a few injuries.

Sophomore B.J. Lowery, previously listed as the No. 2 right cornerback, is expected to be out for the first month with an arm injury, Ferentz said. An undisclosed injury will keep redshirt freshman defensive tackle Carl Davis from playing Saturday, though Iowa is hopeful he’ll return next week.

Linebacker Dakota Getz has been limited since practice began on Aug. 5. Nolan MacMillan, likely a starter at left guard if not for the sports hernia with which he’s dealt since spring ball, is still out of action.

Ferentz said Brad Rogers’ situation “hasn’t come to any resolution yet.” The sophomore fullback was pulled from Insight Bowl practice with an undisclosed heart ailment.

“I think we’re making progress,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to take that week-to-week, day-to-day, see how that goes.”

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