IOWA CITY – Iowa concludes spring football practices today with a rarity, a controlled scrimmage featuring four 15-minute quarters instead of the drill-heavy format used in recent years.
“It will be a chance for us to get out and show everybody what we can do, a good way to wrap up the spring," running back Mark Weisman said. “Everybody likes to compete."
The 2 p.m. scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium is free, but fans are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to the ANF Food Bank Drive. Seating is limited to the west and south grandstands, and there will be no post-scrimmage autograph session.
Iowa, which is coming off a 4-8 season, returns 14 starters – six on offense and eight on defense – but plenty of competition is taking place this spring as players jockey for spots on the depth chart. Check out five things, including the battle at quarterback, to watch during today's scrimmage on Page D3.
Coaches say the race to replace James Vandenberg at quarterback remains too close to call.
None of the candidates, sophomore Jake Rudock, junior Cody Sokol and freshman C.J. Beathard, has taken a snap in a Hawkeyes game, and all are beginning their second year working with offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
“There is a whole litany of things they are aware of that we are trying to evaluate," Davis said.
Iowa has spent most its spring practices rotating quarterbacks every third snap no matter the situation on the field. The rotation continues today, but it is likely all three will be given the chance to lead the offense from start to the completion of a drive.
Davis expects the competition at quarterback to extend into fall camp and perhaps into the early weeks of the regular season.
WHO’S CATCHING ON
Kevonte Martin-Manley caught a team-leading 52 passes last season, and aside from one start by senior Jordan Cotton, he is the only Iowa receiver who has significant experience on his resume.
Senior Don Shumpert and sophomores Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer have been among the most competitive receivers this spring, although the trio combined for a total of three receptions last season.
It is possible that key members of Iowa’s 2013 receiving corps won’t be in uniform today. Five newcomers will compete for playing time once fall camp begins, although Davis said realistically, “maybe one or two of those guys, hopefully, will be able to come in and offer some help."
ON THE EDGE
Reese Morgan doesn’t wear a lab coat, but the Iowa defensive line coach has used spring ball for plenty of experimentation.
Dominic Alvis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, sidelined this spring after having rotator cuff surgery, give Iowa two returning starters on a defensive front that is expected to rotate up to eight players.
Tackle Carl Davis, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound junior, has drawn praise for his work this spring and defensive coordinator Phil Parker likes the growth he has seen from an otherwise young group of linemen, including sophomores Drew Ott, Riley McMinn, Darian Cooper and Melvin Spears as well as redshirt freshmen Faith Ekakitie, Jaleel Johnson and Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara.
Austin Blythe, a freshman all-American at guard last season, is moving to center. Junior college transfer Eric Simmons also is competing at the spot.
Tackles Brett Van Sloten and Brandon Scherff return the most experience on an offensive line that includes four other players with starting experience. Redshirt freshmen Ryan Ward, Mitch Keppy and Cole Croston continue to fill spots on the depth chart.
Playing behind a group of three senior linebackers, Iowa returns three starters in the secondary, but a number of young players are looking for opportunities beside safeties Tanner Miller, Nico Law and cornerback B.J. Lowery.
Sophomores Jordan Lomax and Sean Draper are vying to replace Micah Hyde at the open cornerback position, while junior John Lowdermilk shares the top spot on the depth chart at strong safety with Law.
Three redshirt freshmen, cornerback Maurice Fleming and safeties Ruben Lile and Anthony Gair, have worked their way into the mix.