New spring football format awaits Hawkeye fans and players

BY BEN ROSS | APRIL 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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For the first time in the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa will treat fans to a spring game as part of its pre-fall football festivities. Not a controlled, 15-minute scrimmage. Not an open practice. But four full quarters of what Hawkeye fans hope will be honest-to-goodness Iowa football. The game will even feature unique scoring.

Beyond the traditional touchdowns and field goals point-scoring method, the offense will gain a point by executing three first downs in a row. A run play of 12 or more yards and a pass play longer than 16 will also give the offense added opportunities to score.

The defense also has its own scoring. The unit can pick up 3 points by forcing a turnover. A three and out gives the defense a point, while a sack is 2, and a red zone turnover is worth 4.

“It’s a pretty good way to have an offense play the defense and everybody gets some points,” Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said.

Normally, the final practice of the spring is left open to the public, with a short, untimed, scrimmage capping the day at Kinnick Stadium. But an open practice in Des Moines on April 14, and the tightest quarterback battle in recent memory at Iowa begged for a revamped conclusion to spring football.

Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol, and C.J. Beathard are deadlocked in a battle to replace the departed James Vandenberg  as Iowa’s signal caller. Each of the three potential quarterbacks should get the opportunity to conduct a drive with each of Iowa’s offensive units, creating what the coaches hope to be a competitive atmosphere that helps make selecting a gunslinger for 2013 simpler.

“We want guys who make big plays.  Those are things that we’re talking to them on a daily basis,” Davis said. “Here is what happened in yesterday’s practice. Here are your mental mistakes. Here are your explosive plays. Here is this and that.  There’s a whole litany of things that they are aware of that we’re trying to evaluate.”

Players seem receptive to the new format, too.

“We’re excited; we watch other teams around the country, in the Big Ten, having games, and we always pushed for that. We wanted a game,” wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “It brings a little more reality, a little more excitement to the field.”

Saturday will also give Iowa fans the first chance to see any tweaks Davis has made to Iowa’s offense.

Because all of Iowa’s running backs are healthy, that creates an opportunity for last season’s premier ball-carriers — Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman — to potentially be on the field at the same time, whether they both are in the backfield or Bullock in the slot as a receiver. Iowa’s spring two-deeps also feature a new “YB” position on offense, with tight end Jake Duzey filling in at the spot.

The event will be a nice change of pace for Iowa fans and more so even for the players, who seem to be champing at the bit to get the opportunity to get back on the field.

“It will be tough for a scorekeeper to keep a tally on us,” Weisman said.

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