Iowa spring football practice preview for 2017. The Hawkeyes have plenty of new faces on the coaching staff and will have a new starting quarterback following an eight-win season.
Two seasons ago, Iowa completed an undefeated regular season and was one stop away in the Big Ten title game from heading to the College Football Playoff. But 2016 was much different, as the Hawkeyes fell to FCS power North Dakota State and finished 8-5 after getting waxed by Florida 30-3 in the Outback Bowl.
Iowa’s offense sputtered, leading to changes to the coaching staff on that side of the ball. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis retired, and coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t have to go far for his replacement, promoting offensive line coach and son Brian. Wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy and running backs coach Chris White were let go.
Can Iowa get back to an elite level with those changes and compete for the Big Ten West title? Here are three storylines to watch as Iowa’s spring football practice starts Wednesday.
Iowa Spring Football Practice Storylines
1. Brian Ferentz’s offense
Iowa ranked 12th in the 14-team Big Ten in total yards per game last season and 13th in passing offense with C.J. Beathard at quarterback. His limited arm and questionable decision-making led the Hawkeyes to focus more on the running game, which had much more success with LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley leading the way.
Both Daniels and Wadley will be back, but don’t expect Hawkeye Nation to be content with more boring offensive game plans. The younger Ferentz will be responsible for injecting life into the offense and come up with schemes that confuse defenses, rather than letting them know what’s coming with it being so run-heavy.
2. Nathan Stanley time
Kirk Ferentz already has released an early depth chart with sophomore Nathan Stanley listed as the No. 1 quarterback to replace Beathard. Stanley saw action in six games last season, completing 5 of 8 passing after winning the backup job in camp last spring.
Stanley was a 3-star recruit out of Wisconsin who committed to the Hawkeyes way back in 2014. He’s been itching at the chance to be Iowa’s starting quarterback, and now he’s got it. The Hawkeyes hope he can succeed in a new offense following Davis’ retirement and put the ball in the air than they trusted Beathard to do.
3. The secondary
Desmond King finally has exhausted his eligibility after what seems like 10 years in Iowa City. King won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 2015 and earned his second All-Big Ten first team honor last season. King’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the secondary that Iowa will have to fill, as well as his position as a dynamic kick and punt returner.
In fact, the Hawkeyes have to fill both starting cornerback spots. Manny Rugumba is back for his sophomore season after missing the Outback Bowl with a shoulder injury, and he’s expected to fill one starting job. Michael Ojemudia and Joshua Jackson likely will be going after the other.
Iowa’s spring football practice concludes on Friday, April 21 with its annual spring game that will be played under the lights at Kinnick Stadium.