IOWA CITY — As the Iowa football team prepares for its first public appearance of the spring today, Brandon Scherff believes he has as much to prove as a redshirt freshman hoping to work his way onto the two-deep roster.
Named the Hawkeyes’ most valuable offensive player while earning first-team all-Big Ten honors last season, Scherff bypassed an early exit for the NFL because the left tackle saw room to grow during his senior year.
“I came back to improve myself in all aspects of football,’’ Scherff said Wednesday. “Pass blocking, run blocking, finishing at the second level, just playing faster and smarter, I can improve.’’
Scherff hopes those improvements show today when the Hawkeyes hold a 1 p.m. public practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, the second straight year Iowa has taken a mid-spring workout to Central Iowa.
One of eight returning starters on offense among a collection of 14 returning starters overall, Scherff has another objective as he returns for his senior season.
“I want to become a better leader,’’ he said. “We had great leadership from the seniors last year and those guys are gone. We’ve got to find some new guys to step up. That’s my goal and hopefully, it is a couple other people’s goals to step up with me.’’
Iowa moves beyond the midpoint of its 15 spring practices with today’s practice, working toward a 2 p.m. spring game on April 26 at Kinnick Stadium.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said the Hawkeyes remain a work in progress.
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“It’s always an interesting time of year, a good teaching period and a chance to see how guys have progressed,’’ Ferentz said. “It’s great to be on the field and it will be interesting to see what kind of stories might develop in the next couple of weeks.’’
Iowa coaches have worked to develop a competitive atmosphere during the spring, some they believe allowed the Hawkeyes to turn around a 4-8 season in 2012 to an 8-5 record last fall.
From linebacker, where Iowa has three starters to replace, to attempting to sort out depth among experienced and inexperienced players at the offensive skill positions, today’s practice is part of that process.
The work even extends to special teams, where Connor Kornbrath now faces competition as the starting punter from junior-college transfer Dillon Kidd.
“We felt like Connor needed to be pushed, and it has helped him,’’ Iowa special teams coach Chris White said. “… We’ve got great competition. Our guys are really driven. They’re hungry, and I think that is what we want to take the next step forward.’’