Spring Ball: Back With More Questions

We return with our fourth installment of questions and answers as we travel through spring workouts 2011.

Iowa CITY, Ia. - We continue on with our look at the Iowa football team through questions and answers as we travel through spring ball 2011.

This piece represents our fourth installment of four-question-and-answer blocks. We'll look at 13-16 here on our way to an even 20.

If you missed any of our first three entries, catch up with Part I, Part II, Part III.

13. Is Iowa's offensive line as good as any in the Ferentz Era?

No. Not yet, anyway. And it's got a lot of ground to make up to reach the standard set in 2002. It probably won't happen.

However, this is the strongest unit on the team this spring and there's probably not a close second at this point.

Be prepared to see LT Riley Reiff on a lot of mock NFL draft boards throughout the season. He'll be asked plenty of times if he's going to leave early.

Markus Zusevics quietly enjoyed one of the better first seasons as a line starter in the last decade. He often gave away weight, but he's a technician and put himself in position to have a strong final season. James Ferentz likewise went about his job without much fanfare at center.

Adam Gettis and Nolan MacMillan are quasi new starters at the guard spots, but both have seen playing time and I worry little about them succeeding. They're all-conference caliber.

There's also nice depth here with guys like Brandon Scherff, Conor Boffeli, Brett Van Sloten and Woody Orne, to name a few. Keep an eye on JUCO transfer Dan Heiar, who enrolled in school in January and is taking part in spring drills.

14. Which 2011 Hawkeye will be the first Iowa player taken in the 2012 NFL draft?

Yeah, we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves. But, hey, what the heck?

It appears Adrian Clayborn will be the first Hawkeye off the board in next month's '11 selection process. Christian Ballard also could be a first-rounder.

One probably could have predicted last spring Clayborn's status in this draft. This year, that picture is less clear.

Marvin McNutt? Shaun Prater? Tyler Nielsen? Mike Daniels? How about Riley Reiff? It's not an easy call.

I think Reiff would be the first Iowa player taken if he were to skip his senior season. I think he'd be a first-pound pick.

After that, I'll go with McNutt. He's a tremendous athlete and will be a year better as a receiver after '11.

Prater would be next. He's a lot better than many Iowa fans realize.

Daniels is a beast on the college level, but he's undersized to play inside in the NFL. I like Nielsen's chances at the next level quite a bit. The league likes versatile linebackers who can run.

Will A.J. Derby remain at quarterback all season?

Yes. The kid is determined. I truly believe he waits to see how things play out in 2011. Only after that does he consider a move.

Ferentz has been praising the redshirt freshman-to-be since before he arrived on campus more than a year ago. Last week, the coach said that although he and the Iowa City product have discussed possible position changes, they're both happy with where he is playing and what he is doing there.

Ferentz also talked about Derby's ability to help on special teams now. Maybe we'll get to see a back-up quarterback play on special teams (other than holder) for the first time in memory.

Every year, guys break onto the scene and sparkle. Sometimes it's expected. Sometimes it's a surprise. Who plays that part in '11?

Last year, it was Mike Daniels. The Beast pretty much came out of nowhere to earn starts on a veteran defensive line.

I think Jordan Bernstine will be a guy who finally stays healthy and takes advantage of his immense ability. He may not start right away or at all, but he'll make an impact.

I also like Christian Kirksey stepping in for Jeremiha Hunter at weak side linebacker. He's a great athlete who can run sideline to sideline and make plays.

My pick here, however, is redshirt freshman wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. I've been hearing great things about this kid since he stepped on campus last summer.

Ferentz mentioned him last week and said Martin-Manley could have played last season if he was needed. Graduation has created a need.


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