Spring Practice Primer: Iowa Hawkeyes

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

College football never ends. And during the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Iowa Hawkeyes and what they'll be working on this spring.

Alabama and Virginia Tech will play for the
Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes endured their worst season since 2000 in 2012. (USATSI)

Spring practice begins: March 25

Spring game: April 27

2012 record: 4-8

Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense)

The Least You Should Know About Iowa This Spring

-- The offense has no choice but to improve. If not for Illinois, the Hawkeyes would have finished last in the Big Ten in just about every offensive category of note last season. In fact, even with Illinois, an Iowa team that's always been known as a good run team finished dead last in the conference with 123 yards rushing per game at only 3.65 yards per carry. The Hawkeyes had seven passing touchdowns. There were 11 quarterbacks who threw more than that by themselves in the conference last season. So, as you can tell, Iowa's offense struggled mightily in 2012 and it would require more effort for it to be worse in 2013 than better.

-- Speaking of the passing game, there's a new quarterback. After a terrible senior season James Vandenberg is no longer the quarterback in Iowa City, and this spring will feature a competition for his replacement. The participants will be sophomore Jake Rudock, former junior college transfer Cody Sokol and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard. If you had to pick a favorite, Rudock is probably that, but the truth is none of these three have seen the field in an Iowa uniform, so this might be one of the most open quarterback competitions in the country.

-- Whoever the new quarterback is, he's going to need help. Iowa did not get a lot of production at its skill positions last season, and it would be nice to see some playmakers emerge at the wide receiver and running back positions this spring. Mark Weisman was a bit of a revelation last season, but he had problems staying healthy as is the case all too often with Iowa running backs. However, along with Damon Bullock, Jordan Canzeri and Barkley Hill all competing for time in the backfield, it's possible the Hawkeyes could have a solid running back committee this season.

Where the real work needs to be done is at wide receiver. Iowa lacked a big-play receiver last season and Keenan Davis will not be back in 2013. Kevonte Martin-Manley led Iowa with 52 receptions for 571 yards and two touchdowns last year, but that's just not enough.

-- The Hawkeyes need to find a pass rush. If you were to just look at the numbers you might think Iowa's defense was bad last season, and while it wasn't a great unit, the numbers can be a bit misleading. Plenty of blame can be placed on an Iowa offense that could not stay on the field.

However, a larger portion of the blame can be placed on an Iowa defense that registered only 13 sacks and 53 tackles for loss. Both of those numbers were the worst in the Big Ten, and it was not a close contest. Seven starters return on this unit, but those starters need to get better at disrupting opposing offenses if the Hawkeyes are going to win more than four games in 2013.

 
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