Ferentz not bothered by team's youth for spring

BY SETH ROBERTS | MARCH 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa football team is young. Really young.

The youth — or simple inexperience — will be most apparent on the defensive line. Returning lettermen on the spring two-deep released Tuesday are tagged with stars next to their names; only one of the first eight players listed, Steve Bigach, carries a star. He's listed as a starting defensive tackle.


For now, the rest of the line will be filled by redshirt freshmen-to-be Dean Tsopanides, Darian Cooper, and Riley McMinn. The backups, with the exception of senior-to-be tackle Joe Gaglione, are almost as young as the projected starters; Melvin Spears will be a redshirt freshman, and Louis Trinca-Pasat and Mike Hardy will be sophomores.

But head coach Kirk Ferentz said it won't be the end of the world for the Hawkeyes.

"I go back to 2008, when we were really trying to build something with a really young team," Ferentz said on Tuesday. "… At that time, [Ricky] Stanzi and [Pat] Angerer were second-team players all through spring, and then in September ended up emerging … there are guys on our roster right now, I'm sure, who are capable of doing some things that we're not seeing yet."

That will need to happen at more positions than not, though.

The wide receivers have little experience behind Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley; their respective backups on the two-deep, Don Shumpert and either Jacob Hillyer or Steven Staggs, have 5 career catches combined. All of them belong to Staggs.

Iowa's defensive backfield returns 2011 standouts Micah Hyde and Tanner Miller at cornerback and free safety, respectively. B.J. Lowery is listed as a first-team cornerback; he missed the first five games last year with an injury and finished with 11 tackles and 3 break-ups. Nico Law is slated as the strong safety after playing well on special teams as a true freshman in 2011.

The punting spot could be the most interesting position battle on the team. In one corner stands sophomore Jonny Mullings, who dropped jaws at Ottumwa High by blasting a ball 85 yards. In the other stands John Wienke, the former backup quarterback who was most recently seen throwing an interception in garbage time of the Insight Bowl.

"That's one [position] we probably won't know until August, who's going to be our punter," Ferentz said. "Can't take that for granted."

Alvis, Davis likely to miss spring

The Hawkeyes are fairly healthy heading into spring practice, but the two injuries could have some fairly serious implications.

Defensive linemen Dominic Alvis and Carl Davis are expected to miss at least the majority of spring ball as they recover from knee surgeries. Alvis and Davis are two of a small handful of Hawkeye D-linemen with game experience coming into the 2012 season.

Alvis was dependable in nine games last year, picking up 30 total tackles and 1.5 sacks before a torn ACL ended his season early. He had surgery in November.

Davis is also sidelined with an unspecified knee issue; Ferentz said the 6-5, 310-pounder from Detroit went under the knife in January. The sophomore-to-be played a little in 2011 but didn't record much in the way of statistics (6 appearances, 2 tackles).

"Both are recovering very well, and they'll be out on the field at times, [but] I think right now Dom will be out there more than Carl," Ferentz said. "Carl is probably a couple weeks away from doing any significant work out there. They should both be ready in June."

Running back White gone for real

Jason White was just a redshirt junior when he walked at Senior Day in November 2011. It looked like the walk-on's tenure with the Hawkeyes was over.

But he appeared to be back as recently as Feb. 1, when Ferentz announced White had decided to return for his senior year as a scholarship player.

White isn't listed on the team's spring roster that was released on Tuesday, so it's safe to assume he won't be back after all.

Follow DI Sports Editor Seth Roberts on Twitter.

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