PEOSTA†ó Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz remains committed to an open competition at quarterback, nearly one month after spring practice concluded.
Ferentz, who talked to The Gazette before speaking Tuesday at an I-Club banquet at Thunder Hills Country Club, said red-shirt sophomore Jake Rudock has a slight advantage over junior Cody Sokol and red-shirt freshman C.J. Beathard. Rudock's two years with the Iowa program have earned him the edge but no guarantees entering summer workouts.
"I said a month ago that if we were playing tomorrow, it would be Jake," Ferentz said. "Heís more experienced. I think in fairness to all three guys, we need to let them compete. Thereís no need to make a decision right now. To me nobodyís really separated from the pack. We have time available. Why not let them compete and see what happens?"
None of the quarterbacks have taken a snap at Iowa. Both Sokol and Beathard red-shirted last year in their first season at Iowa. Rudock was James Vandenberg's back-up in 2012 but didn't see any action.
Ferentz said he's not delaying any kind of announcement just to placate the players or prevent one from leaving the program.
"This isnít by design," he said. "This is how itís playing out. So if one guy did separate, weíd go ahead and say that. It hasnít happened. Thatís not in a negative way. Iím pleased with a lot of things all three guys are doing. But that being said, all three of them have things they need to work on, too, like every position."
ON NEW DIVISION
Iowa will compete in the Big Ten West Division beginning in 2014. Iowa's division will include longtime rivals Minnesota and Wisconsin plus Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue. It's a change from the current Legends Division, which includes Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern.
"First of all, I understand what division weíre in," Ferentz said. "I like that. Itís a lot easier to remember. But itís a good thing. It makes perfect sense from the fansí standpoint, and I think from a competition standpoint."
Iowa's series with Wisconsin will resume annually in divisional play after skipping the 2011 and 2012 seasons. When the Big Ten added Nebraska as its 12th team, Iowa and Wisconsin were placed in opposite divisions and scheduled to meet just six times over a 10-year period. Iowa and Wisconsin had played 72 of the previous 74 seasons, and the series is tied 42-42-2.
"The first expansion part, we knew there was no way to make it all perfect," Ferentz said. "Itís always difficult and a little challenging not to be playing your border states. But thereís no way to make that whole mathematical equation work. At least as we move forward weíre going to have that opportunity, and I think thatís a good thing. Certainly, you'd hate to drive to Rutgers or drive to Maryland every-other year if youíre a fan rather than going to one of our bordering schools."
ON THE DEFENSE
Iowa's defense was depleted last year, which bore the results of a 4-8 season. But the unit showed improvement in Iowa's spring game, and Ferentz said experience is crucial toward returning the defense to respectability.
"Weíre a little more veteran than we were," Ferentz said. "Not totally, but for the most part. Weíre not there yet, but weíre making progress. Thatís minus (defensive tackle) Louis Trinca-Pasat, who was not playing. But I think there were a lot of guys doing some good things and weíve got three veteran linebackers, and I think theyíre playing like veterans and that helps, too. All three of those guys are four-year guys, which would have been nice if we could have red-shirted them, but we didnít have that opportunity."
All three linebackers (Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens, James Morris) are seniors, and they'll stay at linebacker, Ferentz said.
"James could play a couple of spots, but heís our middle linebacker," Ferentz said.
Ferentz also touted the secondary's improvement this spring under defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who coached the secondary from 1999 through 2011. Parker will lead the secondary as well as coordinate the defense this year."Phil from day one has been a tremendous secondary coach," Ferentz said. "I think the guys certainly have responded to his coaching this spring. Iím not saying anything about the past, either, because I think they all...we have several new guys coaching positions, and I think they respond to all of our guys, Phil included, and thatís a positive."