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Hawkeye football back at it

BY JOSHUA BOLANDER | MARCH 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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There are two very distinct sides to Kirk Ferentz, and just past the noon hour on Wednesday afternoon, inside the comfortable confines of the players’ auditorium in the Hayden Fry Football Complex, both could be seen as the Iowa head football coach addressed members of the media to kick off spring practice.

First up to the mike was the intellectual, the former English teacher who carefully answered questions regarding his program. A team that returns 14 starters from a unit that ended its season with a loss to LSU in the 2014 Outback Bowl.  

But the Ferentz media members packed the room to hear from was the football mind, the calculated, competitive, dean of Big Ten football coaches. Ferentz didn’t disappoint them, with plenty to say about both sides of the ball heading into Iowa’s first practice of the spring.

Quarterbacks will compete, offense ‘experienced’

Despite Jake Rudock throwing for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, Ferentz hinted that the junior quarterback, who started all 13 games for the Hawkeyes in 2013, will be pushed by sophomore signal caller C.J. Beathard for a chance to run the Iowa offense.

“I’m not going to say, it’s just like last year, because it’s not just like last year in that it is they’ll both compete,” Ferentz said. “We’ll let those guys compete and it should be great competition.”

Both quarterbacks will have plenty of weapons in their offensive arsenal. Ferentz currently has nine running backs at his disposal, hinting that Damon Bullock could see time in the slot and Mark Weisman may return to his natural fullback position during certain situations this season. All four tight ends on the roster are expected to see playing time in 2014 as well.

Linebacker a concern

Even with eight returning letterman on defense, the void left at the linebacker position by the departures of James Morris, Anthony Hitchens, and Christian Kirksey is Iowa’s biggest concern heading into the spring.

“The biggest thing, especially in the initial stages, is to encourage guys to play aggressive, not be afraid to make a mistake,” said Ferentz about his newest crop of potential starters. “We’re not going to lose a game in the spring.”

Senior Quinton Alston is expected to lead Iowa’s linebacking corps in 2014, something the veteran is more than comfortable with heading into the first practice of the new season.

“If James [Morris] wasn’t here last year, I would have had all the confidence in the world he would have played really well,” Ferentz said. “The transformation he’s made in 12 months gives you a lot of confidence.”

Expanded roles

Several players will be thrown into new or expanded roles in 2014.

Jordan Lomax, who lost his starting corner position to true freshman Desmond King after an injury in the season opening loss to Northern Illinois, is listed as the starting free safety on the latest two-deeps. Lomax’s natural athleticism and instincts should make the transition fairly seamless for the junior.

“We worked with him last year at that position,” Ferentz said. “Seemed like he took to it pretty naturally. Seems like right now he’s the best person for that job.”

While Ferentz jokingly admitted that juco transfer and big-play threat Damond Powell didn’t exactly know what he was doing all the time after missing spring practice last year, he is intrigued by the wide receiver’s progress and is ready to see more of that potential (24.3 yards per catch in 2013) translate to the field in 2014.

“He’s got real energy to him. He’s a very vivacious guy and high-energy player. It’s been fun just to watch him in the off-season program,” Ferentz said. “He looks like a college player now, instead of a skinny kid.”


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