A few spring notes . . .

Published: April 12 2011 | 4:56 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 2:27 pm in

Nebraska is the shiny, new object drawing a lot of attention this spring. The Huskers begin their inaugural season in the Big Ten this fall.

Nebraska was front and center during Tuesday's Big Ten spring football teleconference.

"I think it's exciting and most people are excited about the expansion," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. "On a bigger picture front, I think everyone is enthused by what Nebraska is going to bring to the Big Ten.

"It's a high-caliber institution with a tremendous football program. That part is exciting."

The Iowa-Nebraska rivalry has been dormant since 2000, when the Huskers finished off a home-and-home sweep of the Hawkeyes with a 42-13 victory. Before that, Iowa and Nebraska met from 1979-82. Before '79, it was 1946. Nebraska leads the series, 26-12-3.

History says it's not a rivalry, at least not yet.

"More locally, our most requested opponent has been Nebraska, at least the last 12 years as I have traveled across the state," Ferentz said. "When you go to events, people are always asking if you're going to be picking them up in a non-conference game. Outside of playing Iowa State, which is a traditional in-state rival, that's been the most-asked question. I think locally there'll be a lot of enthusiasm in Iowa. Towards western Iowa they are obviously closer to Nebraska’s campus than ours."

On the football front, Ferentz was asked about new QB James Vandenberg, who isn't exactly new, but he begins his run as "the man" with Saturday's spring game.

"He's hardly a grizzled veteran. He came in relief for Ricky in one game and then started the next two," Ferentz said. "That was a great experience. I thought he did an admirable job in a very tough circumstance in Columbus two years ago. Then it was a whole different experience one week later at home against Minnesota.

"That's all going to help. The thing I was most impressed with was how James prepared last year. I think all of us had total confidence had he been called upon and he would have done a nice job. I just look at him as a good football player. Sometimes in your career, you get stuck behind another good football player. Ricky [Stanzi] had a tremendous career here and will go on and play for years to come. We're all excited to see him perform this year. I think all of us are excited to see what James can bring this season."

Sophomore Marcus Coker is the only experienced running back in spring practice. Junior Jason White and redshirt freshman De'Andre Johnson will likely see most if not all the carries in Saturday's scrimmage.

Ferentz was asked who's behind Coker.

"It's a pretty short list right now," Ferentz said. "Marcus is a guy that we had good feeling about last year and unfortunately he got hurt early in camp. When we saw him come back, it was a credit to him because he had missed so much time and gained ground in a short amount of time.

". . . To answer your question, we have two top guys. We have Jason White, who will be a 5th year senior [White is listed as a junior in the spring prospectus and was listed as a sophomore in the Insight Bowl media guide]. Jason has done a real nice job and I think he has really improved with every opportunity.

"Also DeAndre Johnson, who was hurt in his senior year of high school with an ACL injury. He wasn’t at full speed in the fall. It was tough to evaluate him because he wasn't in good shape and his knee wasn't strong yet. He looks like a totally different player now. He just missed so much valuable time last fall and this's a really important time for him to get caught up on things."

Ferentz also offered a bit of an update on O-lineman Dan Heiar, who remains hospitalized after a weekend single-vehicle accident. Here's a link for that post.

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