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Hawk Talk

Hawkeye spring football
Quarterback Jake Rudock hands off to running back Damon Bullock with Mark Weisman out in front during a recent University of Iowa spring football practice. (photo by Don Lund)


This is the second part of a look at Hawkeye football and spring practice.
Last week I talked about the depth and experience of the offensive line.
This week I’ll look at the tight ends, wide receivers and a new position called Y-back.
The Y-back will be a combination of tight end and blocking fullback.
The tight end position should be as good and deep as the offensive line.
Zach Derby is the only graduate, but when you talk about senior C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-7, 265) as your starting tight end, you are in pretty good shape.
There was some talk about C.J. going pro but he’s back and he led the tight ends with 45 receptions, 433 yards and one touchdown.
For Iowa to have a winning season, C.J. has to increase his yards and add at least five more touchdowns.
Junior Ray Hamilton (6-5, 252) is the No. 2 tight end. Ray played in 11 games but only caught two passes for 20 yards. He was a top-rated recruit coming out of high school and the Hawks need to get him involved more in the offense.
Jake Duzey and Henry Krieger-Coble are one and two at the Y-back position. Both are sophomores and both are listed at 6-4, 245.
Jake played in 11 games and caught three passes while Henry played in nine games and caught four passes, including a touchdown.
Jake and Henry will also play tight end.
Keenan Davis finishes up his Hawkeye career as a two-year starter at wide receiver. He had 50 catches and four touchdowns as a junior and 46 receptions and one touchdown as a senior.
Kevonte Martin-Manley (6-0, 205), who will be a senior, led the team in receptions last fall with 52 catches for 571 yards and two touchdowns.
Jordan Cotton (6-1, 185), also a senior, had 12 receptions for 172 yards and scored a touchdown on a kickoff return.
Both need to add touchdowns catches for the Hawks to be successful.
Sophomores Tevaun Smith (6-2, 200) and Jacob Hillyer (6-4, 205) are the top two split ends. Tevaun played in nine games and caught three passes while Jacob played in 12 and had one reception.
Senior Don Shumpert (6-3, 200) should be in the mix. Don played in 10 games last year and caught six passes.
One or two of these guys needs to step up. They all have experience and can make big plays.
Look for one or two freshmen to get some playing time next fall, plus junior college transfer Damond Powell (5-11, 180).
Damond caught 41 passes and scored 14 touchdowns at Snow Community College in Utah. He also led the nation in yards per reception (30.0).
In Iowa’s new offense the big key will be if next year’s receivers can make big plays after the catch.
The Hawkeyes will use a fullback in some formations.
When the media went to practice last week Mark Weisman (6-0, 237) was playing fullback and Damon Bullock was at running back.
“I think we have a great combination with Mark and Damon,” said new running back coach Chris White last week. “It’s been such a joy to watch both of them.”
Mark came out of nowhere last year, played in 10 games, led Iowa with 815 yards (5.1 per carry) and scored eight touchdowns. Not bad for a walk-on.
Mark is a good blocker and also caught 15 passes, one for a touchdown.
Backups at fullback include Macon Plewa (6-2, 234) and Berkley Grimm (5-11, 235). Both are sophomores.
Macon, who played linebacker last year, was named conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Franklin, Wis.
Berkley, who played at Regina, started out at North Dakota State and played one year before transferring to Iowa.
You could also ask what would have happened if Damon Bullock hadn’t gotten dinged up in the UNI game in the second quarter, the third game of the season, and only played in three more.
Damon (6-0, 200) had 280 yards in 2-1/2 games and finished the season with 540 yards and scored three times. He also caught 18 passes, which was fourth on the team.
You could throw Mark in there for a power back or bring in some speed with Jordan Canzeri (5-9, 180).
Jordan, who was recovering from a knee injury and red shirted last year, probably could have played at the end of the season but the coaches decided to hold him out.
Redshirt freshman Barkley Hill (6-0, 218) and Mike Malloy (6-0, 215) add some depth and could play on special teams.
The final piece of the puzzle on offense is quarterback.
Two year starter James Vandenberg is gone and the race is wide open, said Kirk Ferentz.
Sophomore Jake Ruddock (6-3, 200), junior Cody Sokol (6-2, 205) and red shirt freshman C.J. Beathard (6-2 195) are the three competing for the job.
Most Iowa fans know that the Hawks were the only D-1 school to play only one quarterback all season.
Jake has been waiting his turn after leading his team to a 15-0 record his senior year in high school and was named South Florida Player of the Year. He passed for 2,827 yards and 36 touchdowns that year.
Cody took the junior college route and passed for 3,807 yards and 43 touchdowns.
C.J. might have the best arm and led the state of Tennessee in passing yards, completions and touchdowns as a junior and senior in high school. He completed 64 percent of his passes as a senior.
I look for Jake to get the first shot at starting. He’s a smart kid and said the offense is easier to understand this spring.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Cody moved up if Jake isn’t sharp. Playing in junior college is not the same as D-1 but he does have a good arm and can move around in the pocket.
Kirk Ferentz made an interesting comment when he was an offensive line coach in 1987. He said that coming out of spring practice he thought Chuck Hartlieb was running number three behind Tom Poholsky and Dan McGwire.
Chuck not only won the job but was All-Big Ten his junior and senior years.
Chuck still holds the Iowa record for pass attempts (460), completions (288), and yards (3,738) in one season.