Hawkeyes head to spring without a quarterback

BY BEN ROSS | MARCH 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa football team started spring practice earlier this week, and coming off a 2012 campaign that saw the squad go 4-8, Iowa’s revamped coaching staff should have its hands full as the snow thaws.

Iowa was the only team in Division-I football to have just one quarterback take all of its snaps last season, leaving an obvious question on the lips of fans and media members alike: Who will replace James Vandenberg in 2013?

“It’s not often where this happens,” Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said about the quarterback position on Wednesday. “We’re going in really with a truly open mind. It’s not like there’s an incumbent there. I don’t think anybody has a clear advantage or edge. Jake [Rudock] has had the most repetitions. Being the No. 2 guy last year, he took the most reps in the offense, so that’s an advantage for him … He’ll start out because that’s how we finished up.”

Rudock sat on the bench behind Vandenberg for the entire 2012 season. The redshirt sophomore from Weston, Fla., has yet to see his first official snap as a Hawkeye, but he draws high praise for his pedigree — he led his high-school team, St. Thomas Aquinas, to a state championship in his senior season.

He won’t be without his competition, though. Junior-college transfer Cody Sokol has a strong arm that should keep Rudock sharp. Behind Rudock and Sokol is redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard. Iowa had one quarterback in its latest recruiting class, Nic Shimonek, of Corsicana, Texas. Shimonek was picked by Iowa’s offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who held the same position at the University of Texas before coming to Iowa. Other quarterbacks that have been recruited by Davis in the past include Colt McCoy and Vince Young.

Coming off an injury-plagued 2012, the Hawkeyes should be relatively healthy this year. Starting left tackle Brandon Scherff went down for the season against Penn State on Oct. 20, but he is said to be back to 100 percent after recovering from a leg injury. Ferentz also said defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat and offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan will miss the majority, if not all of spring practice after coming off of surgeries. Running back Barkley Hill suffered a torn ACL in practice last season, and  he should be good to go as well.

Mark Weisman is listed as the No. 1 running back heading into the spring, a position many thought would be filled by Damon Bullock, with Weisman filling at fullback. That may not be the case, though, as a fullback slot was left out of the latest two-deeps, replaced by a mysterious “YB” position, headed by a tight end in Jake Duzey. Typical of Iowa spring depth charts of past, though, Ferentz said, that won’t necessarily be the case come fall.

“… I think we’re thin a fullback for sure right now. We’d like to develop that position. I envision us playing with a fullback,” Ferentz said. “I envision us with two tight ends at times.  Also three wides, that type of thing, the things that we’ve done in the past.  It’s just a matter of seeing what we can piece together.”

Running back likely was the biggest question mark during all of last season, as Weisman, Bullock, and Greg Garmon filled holes in the position as needed. Unfortunately, Weisman and Bullock were never healthy during the same time to create thunder and lightning in 2012. Garmon left Iowa this off-season, leaving competition open for Weisman, Bullock, and Jordan Canzeri, who sat out all of last season with a torn ACL but started in Iowa’s bowl game against Oklahoma in 2011.

Iowa had success with a three-headed monster at running back in Adam Robinson, Jewel Hampton, and Brandon Wegher, who led the squad to an Orange Bowl win in 2009.

“Now it’s just a matter of all three guys working on things they can do to become better Big Ten backs.  That’s what they’ll be focused on all 15 days [of spring practice],” Ferentz said.

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