Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz will meet with the Iowa media members on Tuesday, March 23rd as the Hawkeyes kick off spring practice.
A preliminary two-deep roster will be released at that time, and many of the faces that you will see in the fall two deep will be there.
Here is a look at the two-deep at the start of spring drills last year:
Clinton Solomon would not make grades and was not around for 2003. Barkema had back issues and Larsen had lateral release surgery on both knees last summer. Brian Ferentz was not listed pre-spring, but emerged as co-#1 with Rothwell. Felder would have neck stinger issues last year. True frosh Mike Jones was obviously not listed, nor was Drew Tate. Calvin Davis was also not listed, but later played due to an injuries to Brown and Hinkel.
MLB: Worthy or Hodge
WLB: Greenway or Worthy
Dodd would not make grades for the fall. Ma'Quan Dawkins performed well last spring and worked his way onto the depth chart early in the season at CB before getting hurt against Michigan. Babineaux would go down for the year in the Ohio State game, while Clauss and Steen would miss time due to ankle injuries. Luebke would step up late in the year, and Smith would spell an injured Sanders early in the season as well.
So what can we expect the pre-spring two deeps to look like?
Here is our projection, based on things we have heard in talking to people close to the program:
TE: Jackson or Follett
WR: Townsend/Melloy or Holloway
FB: Mickens/Davis/AJ Johnson
Brian Ferentz and David Walker would be #1's were they not injured. This will give Elgin and Cronin extra snaps at center while giving extra snaps for Larsen and Felder at other positions. We feel there are three solid #1's on the OL right now: Gray, Jones and McMahon.
Hinkel is a sure-handed route runner and we expect him to be a #1 coming out of the spring, but this could be a time where James Townsend really makes strides and cements a starting spot. Hinkel did that in the spring of 2002, having a great spring and spring game. He was the favorite target of Brad Banks in that game, hauling in more than 100-yards receiving. Matt Melloy is a solid #2 that can come in and fight for time with Calvin Davis as the #3 in three WR sets.
We all know the QB battle is going to be hotly contested. We give the edge to Drew Tate at this time, based of his ascension of the depth chart last fall. But one has to think that Jason Manson and Eric McCollom will have been working hard as well this offseason, as the starting spot is up in the air. If Manson can make strides with his level of comfort in the offense and with his decision-making, he could be a formidable candidate to emerge this spring. At this time, he might possess the most raw tools of any of the three QB's, with McCollom a close second. But it's Tate's quick decision making ability that earned him the #2 spot last fall.
Another interesting spot will be at fullback. Carl Jackson said at FanFest back in February that Champ Davis might be too talented to keep at fullback. Champ will get a look at TE this spring. If he would make that move, look for Tom Busch to perhaps move over to fullback. Also, Scott Chandler may make that move as well. Both players are listed at 237-pounds coming into the spring. AJ Johnson has also put on some pounds and is at 234. He may make the move to FB as well. A lot of that depends on what happens with Champ Davis.
OLB: G. Lewis/Humpal/Miles
The defense has a solid eight man rotation up front, as long as Iwebema, Mattison and Eshareturi can hold their own as RS frosh. The five players ahead of them have all seen playing time in crucial situations during their careers. Roth and Babineaux will vie for all Big Ten honors. The five veterans can also play both inside and outside, and each has done so in his career, including Roth (MSU, 2002).
Two LB positions are held down by one of the best LB duos in the nation in Hodge and Greenway. The fight will be on for the OLB position, but we see Lewis emerging. We don't expect to see Kyle Williams on the field in 2004. The staff is very high on Mike Humpal. Edmond Miles will report to spring drills at 6-1, 222. He is a hard hitter with exceptional speed, and if he didn't have a player the likes of Greenway ahead of him, he could be the started at the WLB.
In the secondary, some people have told me that Belleus has at least pulled even with Allen at LC based on seven on seven drills. He will certainly push Allen for time and add more depth to the secondary. Another interesting battle will be at SS between Paschal (205-pounds), Brevi (212-pounds) and Merrick (197-pounds). Paschal and Merrick will be on the two deeps, its just a matter of where. If things are even between the two, the job might fall to Paschal, as some people feel that Merrick will be groomed to take over the FS position in 2005. Both are heavy hitters.
One area of concern this year will be how Kyle Schlicher performs. And heaven forbid that he gets injured, as there is no one behind him.
As for possible true freshman making an impact on the two-deeps in the fall, the farther away they are from the ball, the better the chance they might have to play. Bradley Fletcher is a name that I have heard who might have a chance to play next year, but a lot of that will depend on what happens at WR in the off season. Fletcher is a super athlete and the Iowa coaches feel that he might be able to play multiple positions. But we doubt any true freshman will make a big impact in 2004.
OTHER NAMES TO REMEMBER
Herb Grigsby at WR...listed now at 170, and is very, very fast. Has a chance to really emerge as a dangerous weapon for Iowa...perhaps on special teams this year in the return game. Same might be said of Marques Simmons in the return game.
If Ma'Quan Dawkins is back to 100%, he will be in the mix on the two-deep in the secondary.
Alex Willcox could work his way into the DL mix, and it will be interesting to see if Marcus Schnoor moves to the defensive backfield, as playing time at RB seems unlikely if everyone stays healthy.
Iowa lost two of its best long snappers in Steen and Worthy...who will be the replacement? Greenway? Kyle Kesselring?