IOWA CITY — Everywhere Kirk Ferentz looks, he sees construction.
On the field and off, rebuilding will be a constant this spring for the 14th-year Iowa coach and his football program.
The Hawkeyes have multiple holes to fill on the defensive and offensive lines and open starting positions at receiver and running back.
As part of an offseason shake up of the staff, new offensive coordinator Greg Davis introduces new schemes and terminology that both players and coaches will work to embrace during Iowa’s 15 spring practices which begin Saturday and lead up to an open practice at Kinnick Stadium at noon on April 14.
The Hawkeyes will see a lot of their home field this spring.
Permanent lights have been installed on four poles at Kinnick Stadium, where Iowa will hold all of its practices this spring as construction of a new indoor practice facility consumes space the team has worked out on in the past.
“There is a lot going on right now, a lot new, and that creates a lot of positive energy, a lot of excitement, and I think we’re all anxious to get going,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “We certainly have a lot of work to do.”
The Hawkeyes return five starters on defense and six on offense from a 7-6 team which finished 4-4 in Big Ten play for the second straight season.
“We have a very young football team. The one thing we talked about with our team is the need to grow,” Ferentz said. “We need to grow as a staff. Every player needs to grow. The veteran guys, the guys who have been out there and competed, have a chance to do good things and need to play their best.”
On defense, Iowa will be particularly green on the line.
The Hawkeyes must replace three starters up front and two of the most experienced returning players, Dominic Alvis and Carl Davis, will miss most if not all spring drills as they continue to rehab following knee surgery.
Returning tackle Steve Bigach is surrounded by three redshirt freshmen, tackle Darian Cooper and ends Dean Tsopanides and Riley McMinn, on the initial spring depth chart.
“We’re counting on Steve Bigach to lead the group. Joe Gaglione is another senior capable of doing some good things and this is his time to step up,” Ferentz said. “After that, we’re a very young group. Some of them have done a very nice job on the scout team. Now, it’s a chance for them.”
Ferentz sees the same opportunities on offense, where Iowa has two vacant line spots to fill in addition to the openings at wide receiver and running back, where Marvin McNutt and Marcus Coker had their hands on 2,914 of the Hawkeyes’ 4,842 yards of offense a year ago.
Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley top the depth chart at receiver, while Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock run 1-2 at running back.
Ferentz said he told his team Tuesday morning that all spots on the depth chart are very fluid at this point.
“What we always try to do is figure out who our best players are, who can help us move the football and score points. Then, we’ll try to come up with an attack that suits our personnel,” he said.
Senior James Vandenberg returns at quarterback, but the transition at the other skill positions comes as Iowa adjusts to a revamped scheme which blends the thoughts of Davis, who spent his past 13 years in the game as the offensive coordinator at Texas, and the rest of the Iowa staff.
“It’s been a process and it’s been a lot of fun,” Ferentz said. “Had we not had any changes staff-wise, I think we were at the point where we taken things apart and looked them over closely. With the changes we’ve had, we’ve examined everything and I’m really comfortable with the path we’re going down right now.”
Ferentz said that includes a lot of new nomenclature that players and coaches will learn together.
“Even the old dogs are trying to learn some new tricks,” he said. “The bottom line is that we’ve been 4-4 (in the Big Ten) the past two years and we want to move forward. At this time, we’re looking at a lot of things. It’s been fun and invigorating, but it was going to happen regardless of what happened with our staff personnel-wise.”