What to Watch: Fall Camp Edition

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The Iowa Hawkeyes officially started Fall Camp on Wednesday when all the incoming freshmen reported for duty. Yesterday, the remaining players reported and a team meeting was held, followed by ice-cream. Today, though, marks the real beginning of camp as the players will take the field for the first practice of the fall. In addition, today is Iowa's media day where a good number of players and coaches will be open to the media and Ferentz will hold a press conference. Between today and September 4th the team still has some questions to answer and those are the stories I'll be following.

Position Battles

I'll start off with the defense and get it out of the way because I don't think there are too many spots up for grabs. Only 3 starters from last year are gone and all of their replacements seem locked in to place. I think Micah Hyde is definitely the #2 corner and Jeff Tarpinian and Tyler Nielsen are the two new linebackers. There will be a spot open on the defensive line week one with Broderick Binns' one-game suspension, so it will be interesting to see if they shift Christian Ballard over to end to make room for Mike Daniels at tackles. Or, keep the tackles in place use Lebron Daniel (or someone else) to replace Binns.

Offense provides many more opportunities for new faces to see the playing field. The most important position battle in my mind is for the starting center. Since the beginning of spring, James Ferentz and Josh Koeppel have been in a dead heat for the spot. The depth charts always list them with an "or" and the coaches have consistently said they two are even. It's important for the offensive line's cohesion that one of these guys separates himself (preferably early in camp). I still think Ferentz will get the nod.

The other position on the offensive line that I think is up for grabs in at right guard. Adam Gettis has been holding that spot the entire off season, but I don't think he has a death grip on it. If a young and rising star (a la Riley Rieff last year) proves himself worthy in practice, the coaches are going to get the best 5 guys on the field, and Gettis may not be one of them. I could even see the loser of the Ferentz/Koeppel battle taking the spot. Some other names in the mix are Nolan MacMillan, Woody Orne, and converted defensive lineman Cody Hundertmark.

Moving right along, the other big battle is for the second tight end, which in Iowa's offense is practically a starter. Iowa has 9 tight ends on the roster, so you'd figure one will step up. The mostly likely candidates are Brad Herman and incoming freshman C.J. Fiedorowicz.

Finally, the starting running back spot is still open between the trio of Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher, and Jewel Hampton. I don't think it really matters who is the starter, as there will likely be some sort of rotation, but it will probably matter who is number 3. Hampton will start at the back of the pack with a one-game suspension, but I think he could quickly rise to the top.

Take off that red shirt

Over the past couple of years Ferentz has shown an increased willingness to play true freshmen. In 2009, 3 saw the field: Keenan Davis, Brandon Wegher, and Micah Hyde. I think we'll see a similar number of freshmen on the field this fall.

Linebacker has relatively little depth, so I think there may be a backup spot open, or the coaches may want to get someone experience on special teams for next year. I think James Morris is the most likely candidate, though Jim Poggi would be another name to throw in there. Previously mentioned Fiedorowicz will almost certainly see the field unless he doesn't pick up on blocking. And, a safety will likely see the field too as that is another position with little depth. Tanner Miller and Don Shumpert seem the most likely.

Rumors

There have been a few rumors going around lately and though Ferentz pretty much denied all of them on Monday, there could still be some truth to them. The first is the A.J. Derby will be moving to linebacker from quarterback. The rumor goes, he wants to see the field as soon as possible, and since Stanzi and Vandenberg have a pretty strong lock on the top 2 QB spots, linebacker is a better option. The other rumor is that Norm Parker will retire at the end of this year. We'll see if either is addressed today...I'm sure the questions will be asked by the media.
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