1. Is holding a practice in West Des Moines a good thing, or too much of a distraction?
Saturday’s open workout at Valley Stadium is a win-win. Veteran players will tell you spring workouts can drag, but a two-hour detour to Central Iowa helps to beat the monotony. It’s also a nice public relations move in the state’s biggest media market. Coach Kirk Ferentz seemed to view last year’s visit as a success, and the mood this time around should be more upbeat following an 8-5 bounce-back season.
2.Who is an under-the-radar player worth keeping an eye on?
Offensive lineman Sean Welsh. The Hawkeyes could be imposing up front, but Welsh is an X-factor. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman from Ohio is listed as a starter at left guard, ahead of sophomore Ryan Ward. “That job is really wide open,” Ferentz said. “Sean is certainly a guy who impressed us.”
3. Should Big Ten schools schedule FCS opponents such as Northern Iowa?
The problem is, not all FCS programs are created equal. The Panthers, who open the season Aug. 30 at Kinnick Stadium, are traditionally comparable to MAC teams such as Toledo or Akron. But with an emphasis on strength of schedule, UNI will eventually be squeezed out. And that’s unfortunate.
4. Who will be under more scrutiny in 2014: Greg Davis or Phil Parker?
Davis, because he has more pieces in place. Things got off to a bumpy start when he joined the staff as offensive coordinator in 2012. The Hawkeyes averaged 19.3 points and quarterback James Vandenberg regressed. They improved to 26.3 points last season with Jake Rudock, and more will be expected in 2014. With eight returning starters, fans will want Davis to add variety to his play-calling. Parker’s defense boasts a stout front four, but the back seven is being retooled.
5. What are the potential ramifications of Northwestern’s possibly unionizing?
The greatest source of stability in college athletics comes from the fact there are profits to be made, especially when it comes to television. I believe the Kain Colter case or the Ed O’Bannon case will eventually lead to concessions. It might also put a greater financial burden on smaller schools. But as long as there is money to be made, games will be played.
THE WORD FROM HAWKEYE NATION
Last week’s reader question: Who is the most indispensable Hawkeye, the player Iowa can least afford to lose? Here’s what @Footballlefty had to say, via Twitter: “Quinton Alston, Brandon Scherff … Confident but not deep (at middle linebacker). Could be devastating if (Alston) goes down. (James) Morris’ freshman year comes to mind, where he wasn’t ready.”
This week’s question(s): In light of Jordan Lomax moving to free safety, is there another position change that would make complete sense for the Hawkeyes? Who would you move where, and why? Send your responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter (@AndrewMLogue).
BIG TEN BUZZ
Eric Lueshen, a former Nebraska kicker, is lobbying state legislators to pass a bill that would ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation. Lueshen says his teammates knew he was gay, and it never caused any division. … A federal investigation has grown to include the University of Michigan and its handling of an alleged 2009 rape involving former kicker Brendan Gibbons, as part of a Title IX complaint. Investigators are scheduled to visit Ann Arbor next week. … A dislocated shoulder will keep Purdue tight end Dolapo Macarthy out of action for two or three months. The injury occurred when Macarthy was hit while making a catch during Saturday’s scrimmage. … The best one-liner of the spring may have been spoken by Ohio State line coach Ed Warinner. He told a gathering of Buckeye supporters, “If you’re worried about Wolverine fans, just move to Pasadena. You’ll never have to deal with ’em.” … ESPN announced that an Oct. 11 game between Penn State and Michigan will air in primetime. It will be just the third night game in the history of Michigan Stadium, and the first against a Big Ten opponent. … The Wisconsin offense has struggled in recent scrimmages, prompting some to wonder if quarterback Joel Stave might lose his starting job. “The quarterbacks were very average,” coach Gary Andersen told the Wisconsin State Journal, “whoever was in there.” Stave completed 61.9 percent of his passes last season for 2,494 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The Badgers finished 9-4.