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Hawkeyes jittery about QB, receiver positions as practice begins

[ 0 ] August 4, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. It’s hardly a bold statement to say the offense will have to significantly improve from last year if the Iowa football team expects to rebound from a 4-8 record.

There are two major questions on offense, neither of which have answers, as football practice in Iowa City kicks off today:

No. 1: Who will emerge from the three-way race for quarterback?

No. 2: Who will catch their passes?

“But the good news,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz countered, “is we have a fairly veteran line, a group of tight ends that are veteran, and running backs we didn’t have last year.”

After years of injuries and defections at running back, it looks like that position has depth heading into 2013. Mark Weisman, a junior, was a pleasant surprise last season by leading the team with 815 rushing yards.

Damon Bullock, also a junior, rushed for 513 yards last season even though he missed six games with injuries. His steady improvement fuels Ferentz’s optimism for the offense.

“Let’s not forget, Damon Bullock refused to block anybody a year ago. It just looked like he was allergic to blocking,” Ferentz said. “He has improved so much. I think he’s starting to understand the game, and really enjoy the game.”

Iowa’s depth at running back has increased with the return of Jordan Canzeri, who sat out last season after knee surgery. Ferentz wouldn’t rule out having Bullock, Weisman and Canzeri, possibly in the slot, on the field at the same time.

“It’s possible,” Ferentz said. “Jordan had a really good spring. That’s encouraging. At least we have three guys on the field who’ve been tackled in real games and things like that. … That’s a good starting point.”

There is less returning experience at quarterback, where neither C.J. Beathard, Jake Rudock nor Cody Sokol has takent a college snap. At least one of them will be tasked to turn around an offense that averaged 19.3 points a game last season, Iowa’s lowest figure since 2007. The 310 yards per game was its lowest average since 2000.

Iowa plans to add the no-huddle approach to the offense in an effort to improve those numbers and increase the 66 plays the Hawkeyes averaged last season.

Having Weisman, Bullock and Canzeri on the field at the same time would be an interesting twist.

“With our lack of experienced depth at receiver right now, we have to use anybody we can use to move the ball down the field,” Ferentz said.

The running back position is bolstered by Michael Malloy, who was medically cleared for the final week of spring drills; Barkley Hill, also coming back from a knee injury; and incoming freshmen LeShun Daniels, Jonathan Parker and Akrum Wadley.

The guys blocking for them could be a strength this season for Iowa, which opens Aug. 31 against Northern Illlinois.

“Coach Brian (Ferentz) always tells us that there’s five offensive linemen on the field at one given time, but there are very seldom five guys who are playing the receiver position,” starting right offensive tackle Brett Van Sloten said. “It’s a position that leads the group.

“So if we do our job, if we make holes for the running backs, and if we give pass protection to the quarterbacks and allow them the time they need to throw the ball, I think we’ll be successful. We take pride in that.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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