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Harty: Keep an eye on these 15 Hawkeyes

[ 0 ] April 13, 2013 |

Assuming you find a place to park, here are 15 players to pay close attention to during the Iowa football team’s open practice Sunday at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines.

I bring up the parking situation because trying to squeeze an estimated crowd of 15,000 into a stadium that has a seating capacity of 8,000 has gridlock written all over it.

The threat of rain might keep some fans away, but the response to this unprecedented event has been encouraging, especially after a 4-8 season in which the offense produced just seven touchdown passes.

I chose to highlight 15 players because I wanted to include all three quarterbacks who are competing to replace James Vandenberg behind center and because Kirk Ferentz is in his 15th spring as the Iowa coach. I also wanted to focus on some of the younger players.

Jake Rudock

Quarterback, soph.

His name currently sits atop the depth chart, but Ferentz keeps said it’s still a three-horse race. Rudock has the most seniority of the quarterbacks as a third-year sophomore-to-be. But the Weston, Fla., native also hasn’t taken a snap in a game since high school dating back to 2010. Rudock threw for more than 5,000 yards in high school while surrounded by a star-studded cast of teammates. He is similar in size to Vandenberg at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and has a similar playing style as a pocket passer. Rudock won’t blow you away with his arm strength or with his running ability, so he has to rely even more on being accurate.

Cody Sokol

Quarterback, jr.

The former junior-college standout is probably the closest thing Iowa has to a dual-threat quarterback, but he isn’t the second-coming of Brad Banks by any means. Sokol at 6-2 and 215 pounds is ready from a physical standpoint to compete at this level and probably was last season. He was born in Des Moines and lived there through elementary school, so Sunday’s practice will be a homecoming of sorts.

C.J. Beathard

Quarterback, fr.

I’ve seen enough of the 180-pound Beathard to know that he might have the liveliest arm of the three quarterbacks, but he also weighs 35 pounds less than Sokol, according to the spring prospectus. Beathard has eight months of college training under his belt after being redshirted last season. So it’ll be interesting to see how much he has developed physically since last fall.

Brandon Scherff

Left tackle, jr.

Signs point to the 6-5, 310-pound Denison native being Iowa’s next great offensive linemen. Scherff was on his way to earning that distinction last season before suffering a season-ending leg injury against Penn State in the seventh game. He is now healthy and ready to anchor arguably the strongest position on the team.

“His attitude has been great,” Ferentz said. “He seems to be moving around really well.”

Austin Blythe

Center, soph.

The Williamsburg native earned freshman all-America recognition last season after starting nine games at right guard. He now shifts to center and has the daunting task of replacing departed senior James Ferentz, who was the unquestioned leader of the Iowa offensive line last season.

Mark Weisman

Running back, jr.

I’m as curious to see where he lines up in the backfield as how he performs. One of the big projects this spring for offensive coordinator Greg Davis is figuring out more ways to use the 236-pound Weisman, who led Iowa with 815 rushing yards last season.

Damon Bullock

Running back, jr.

What I said about Weisman also applies to Bullock. They combined to rush for more than 1,300 yards last season, but rarely played at the same time. And the few times they did play together, it was with Weisman at fullback. It’s reasonable to think that Bullock will play a dual role next season as a running back and slot receiver. Sunday’s practice should provide a glimpse of it.

Jordan Canzeri

Running back, soph.

He is entering his third season in the program, but has only appeared in seven games because of injuries. He showed flashes against Oklahoma in the 2011 Insight Bowl, rushing for 58 yards and catching four passes for 28 yards. Canzeri missed all of last season while recovering from a knee injury.

Jake Duzey

Y-back, soph.

He made the list mostly because he’s the starter at y-back, which is a new position. It’s been described as sort of a cross between a tight end and fullback. Whatever the case, it’s something new and different.

Riley McCarron

Receiver, fr.

The former Dubuque Wahlert star is a redshirt freshman and is the only walk-on to make the list. So it could be a case of me buying too much into the hype. But I keep hearing great things about McCarron and how he fits so nicely into Davis’ offense, which features many short timing routes.

Drew Ott

Defensive end, soph.

He is the newest starter at defensive end and whether he can pressure the quarterback could go a long way in determining Iowa’s success next season.

Carl Davis

Defensive tackle, jr.

He reportedly has taken his level of performance up a notch this spring. Davis flashed at times last season, but not nearly enough to be a force.

Jaleel Johnson

Defensive tackle, fr.

The Lombard, Ill., native is listed at 6-4 and 310 pounds and is one of the most decorated defensive linemen to sign with Iowa under Ferentz. Johnson was redshirted last season as a true freshman, but look for him to be in the rotation this fall.

Faith Ekakitie

Defensive tackle, fr.

He joined the team last fall with similar accolades as Johnson and also joined him by taking a redshirt season. Ekakitie grew up in Canada and excelled in basketball while playing for a prep school in the Chicago area. He’s been described as one of the most athletic defensive linemen to sign with Iowa in years.

Jordan Lomax

Cornerback, soph.

He was expected to contribute last fall before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the season. Lomax has been described as having strong ball skills to go along with outstanding speed and quickness. He attended DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland and was an accomplished sprinter in track, running the opening leg on his team’s 4-x400 relay that claimed the national title at the 2011 New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York City.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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