Important spring ahead for Hawkeyes
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will open his 19th spring camp with a new offensive coordinator who is looking for a new starting quarterback.
This might be among the most pivotal springs in Ferentz’s tenure with the Hawkeyes.
Iowa (8-5 in 2016) promoted Brian Ferentz, the coach’s son, to lead the offense shortly after the season ended, highlighting a number of changes to the staff on that side of the ball. Brian Ferentz has never run an offense before, which is partly why the Hawkeyes brought back former coordinator Ken O’Keefe as the quarterbacks coach to help their sputtering attack find some footing.
“Our passing game was not where it needed to be at the end of last year,” Ferentz said.
Here are some of the key story lines as the Hawkeyes get set to open spring workouts on Wednesday:
Nathan Stanley was just a freshman in 2016, but the coaching staff thought enough of his abilities to burn his redshirt and make him the No. 2 quarterback ahead of redshirt junior Tyler Wiegers. Stanley will have to build on the promise he showed in fall camp and in practice last season because it’s not like the Hawkeyes are going to just hand him the starting job this fall. Wiegers has had plenty of previous chances to become C.J. Beathard’s successor and yet couldn’t capitalize on them. Ryan Boyle worked as a wide receiver last season but is back at quarterback, albeit fourth-string right now.
“We will have a new quarterback. We’re not sure who that’s going to be right now,” Ferentz said. “None of them have seen much game action.”
The most important receiver Iowa has won’t be ready to compete this spring: Matt VandeBerg is still recovering from a broken foot that cost him most of 2016. But that should give inexperienced receivers like Devonte Young and Nick Easley — a junior college transfer — more chances to fight for playing time. The Hawkeyes struggled mightily at receiver last season, which helped lead to former assistant Bobby Kennedy’s departure.
“We’ll watch it closely,” Ferentz said. “It’s wide open for everybody.”
IN A CORNER
Iowa will need to replace two multi-year starters at cornerback in Desmond King and Greg Mabin. Manny Rugamba impressed as a freshman before a shoulder injury knocked him out of the Outback Bowl, but Ferentz said Monday that Rugamba is cleared to participate. Junior Joshua Jackson enters spring practice atop the depth chart on the other side, with redshirt freshman Cedric Boswell and Michael Ojemudia as the backups.
The Hawkeyes have elevated sophomore Cedrick Lattimore to replace Jaleel Johnson at defensive tackle. Lattimore won’t complete his first academic year until May — but at 6-foot-5 and 295 pounds he’s already built like a Big Ten lineman. Like Stanley, Lattimore played as a freshman at a spot where Iowa coaches typically like to redshirt guys.
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH
Ferentz announced Monday that former star linebacker Levar Woods, a longtime staff member, will coordinate Iowa’s special teams in 2017.