For quick reference, here are the links to the “Four Downs” series. Covers just about every scholarship player on the roster.
This season, the big mystery is the coaching staff and what, if any, changes come to the Iowa offense or defense, with offensive coordinator Greg Davis and new-old defensive coordinator Phil Parker at the controls. Well, as much as a coordinator can be in control under head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Quarterbacks — You weren’t completely satisfied with James Vandenberg, but you can’t pinpoint what about his performance that didn’t work. A 7-6 record is a 7-6 record. There were road difficulties. In Iowa’s losses, Vandenberg’s numbers were losing numbers. In ’12, WR Marvin McNutt won’t be around to lock in on. That could be good or bad.
Running backs — This spring it’s Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock, with maybe a surprise appearance by De’Andre Johnson. Next fall, Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill join in. Ferentz said he isn’t locked into finding a 200-carry back right now, but a solid performance this spring would make it harder for a true freshman to break into the lineup in the fall. (A true freshman is going to break into the lineup in the fall.) This could be an RBBC situation.
Wide receivers/tight ends — It’s showtime for Keenan Davis and C.J. Fiedorowicz. Davis has been the “other guy” to Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. In ’12, it’s his turn. His immediate thought after the Insight Bowl was he can’t drop passes. Fiedorowicz grabbed the tight end position by the facemask last season. Iowa tight end play has to be better in ’12, and Fiedorowicz should be a year better.
Offensive line — Iowa needs two new tackles. That’s not a comfortable position, but if sophomores Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal and junior Brett Van Sloten hit, new O-line coach Brian Ferentz will have his tackles for two seasons. There should be plenty competition around center James Ferentz, who’ll be a three-year starter.
Defensive line — Three redshirt freshmen dot the spring two deep. That will change when junior end Dominic Alvis is given the green light. He’s recovering from ACL surgery. If sophomore tackle Carl Davis recovers from a knee issue — and gives the Hawkeyes a technically sound 305-pounder — Iowa might be better off here than anyone is saying right now.
Linebackers — James Morris begins his third year as a starter. He’s probably the middle linebacker. Probably. Is Anthony Hitchens a better weakside linebacker than sophomore Quinton Alston is middle linebacker? That could change things for Morris. Junior Christian Kirksey should continue to grow and thrive at OLB.
Secondary — Micah Hyde will be a three-year starter at corner. Free safety Tanner Miller is in the second of what should be a three-year run as a starter. B.J. Lowery takes over and is on the rails to be a two-year starter. Strong safety is open, and sophomore Nico Law is first in line this spring.
Special teams — This sets up to be Mike Meyer’s redemption year. Actually, that’s probably too strong of a word, but the junior knows the pressure is on to improve on 70 percent field goals (14 of 20) and touchbacks (four). Punter is open, with sophomore Jonny Mullings and senior John Wienke battling it out this spring. Will true freshman Connor Kornbrath factor when he arrives in the fall? As far as the units go, everyone knows consistency is needed across the board.
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