Iowa CITY, Ia. - Continuing our quest to touch on questions regarding the 2011 Iowa football team as we go through spring practice, we're back with Nos. 9-12.
9. Is Marcus Coker the real deal?
The DC area back certainly set himself up for some lofty expectations with his MVP performance in the Insight Bowl. He plowed ahead for 219 yards on the ground, including a 62-yard touchdown burst.
Coker actually looked the part of a Big Ten feature back during his all of his opportunities as a true freshman last fall. He finished the season with 622 yards on 114 carries (5.5 ypc) and averaged 89 rushing yards a game.
The only question is if he can handle being The Guy. Opponents will have him scouted heading into '11 and will attack areas they perceive to be weaknesses.
Coker will have to do a better job of blocking and understanding blitzes. He'll need to work on pass receiving to add that threat to his game.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said he expected true freshmen to come in and push for time alongside Coker. That would be a lot more scary if we hadn't seen what Coker, Shonn Greene and others have done in there first year at Iowa.
10. Is C.J. Fiedorowicz ready for prime time?
The Illinois native arrived in Iowa City with a lot of hype and many on-lookers thought there was a good chance he'd be a regular on offense. His contributions mostly came on special teams, however.
I spoke with the departed Allen Reisner at the Insight Bowl. He offered high praise for Fiedorowicz. The veteran tight end said his understudy just needed to sharpen things up in the blocking game.
He'll be asked to do a lot of that this season if he wins the No. 2 spot behind true senior Brad Herman. Herman made strides in blocking last season.
It will be interesting to see if Herman and Fiedorowicz can provide the necessary blocking their positions require. If not, watch out for walk-on Zach Derby and incoming freshman Ray Hamilton to push the Top 2.
11. Will Micah Hyde move to safety from corner?
Ferentz talked about the possibility on Wednesday and said the Insight Bowl's defensive standout could wind up in a position switch. The coach also said Jordan Bernstine could find himself at safety or corner.
It could take a while for the coaches to settle on a starting secondary. As we talked about previously, it won't be easy replacing Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood. The staff will find the best combination of four and luckily they have versatility.
Hyde's move to safety also could be determined by the advancement of true sophomore corner B.J. Lowery. If he can prove capable on the edge, that would free up Hyde for the back end, which seems more like his natural position.
12. At what positions do veterans have the most to prove this spring with strong true freshmen coming in for August camp?
Well, we touched on this at running back. Opportunity is there for guys like Rodney Coe, Mika"il McCall, and others. That means a guy like redshirt freshman DeAndre Johnson needs to state his case during the next month.
We also just talked about the defensive backfield. If guys like Bernstine, Tom Donatell, Jack Swanson, Colin Sleeper and the rest of the group don't take a step forward, Nico Law, Jordan Lomax, Torrey Campbell and Cole Fisher would be happy to help out.
Linebacker also is a position where new guys could come in and see time in a reserve role and on special teams. Iowa is not deep at the position and that could open things up for a guy like Quinton Alston.
The same can be said for defensive tackle. Keep an eye on Darian Cooper.
The players who really need to show off their stuff are those guys trying to grab spots on special teams. Ferentz seems to be less tolerant of mistakes in this phase as time goes on as evidenced by him playing so many true freshmen there last year.