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IOWA CITY, Ia. – A harsh winter has passed, and the wounds of last fall have begun to heal inside the Iowa football program. Now comes the spring cleaning.

Heart-and-soul engines Brandon Scherff, Louis Trinca-Pasat and Mark Weisman are no longer in the garage. The two-year starting quarterback, Jake Rudock, has been wheeled to the curb in the recycling bin — maybe he'll turn up somewhere else. The coarse sand that was a disappointing 7-6 season has been swept away.

Spring practice opened Wednesday, and for Kirk Ferentz's 17th Hawkeye team, there are plenty of areas to address in four short weeks.

With so much to do and so little time, here's a 10-item checklist for Ferentz before spring practice ends April 25:

Establish rainy-day QB

With Rudock being kept outside the program as he explores transfer options, the quarterback job is C.J. Beathard's to lose for the next two seasons. But with Rudock — who threw for 4,819 yards and 34 touchdowns in 25 Hawkeye starts — all but gone, so is Iowa's luxury of proven depth at football's most important position.

So if a day comes without Sunshine (Beathard's nickname), the rainy-day option is Tyler Wiegers. He's No. 2 because, for now, no other scholarship quarterback is in camp.

If Ferentz is going to redshirt incoming freshmen Ryan Boyle and Drew Cook as he hopes, Wiegers — a former Rutgers commitment from Lake Orion, Mich. — needs to be game-ready. That means an accelerated spring regimen.

Ferentz likes the 6-foot-4, 222-pounder's development but acknowledges the required urgency.

"How fast can we move him forward and get him caught up?" Ferentz said. "He's been in all the meetings, he's traveled to every game.

"But as far as taking reps in our offense and having him make checks, audibles — all that that stuff that quarterbacks have to do — it's easier to do it sitting in a chair than with everybody watching you."

'Tweak' the run game

It's almost criminal that Iowa had the Big Ten's seventh-ranked rushing offense despite potential NFL draft picks at both offensive tackles, including Outland Trophy-winning Scherff.

Maybe that stat spurred Ferentz to create a new role for his son, fourth-year assistant Brian Ferentz. Kirk downplayed the promotion to run-game coordinator Wednesday, saying it was "probably more of a title than anything else."

But he did say Brian would be deployed to "tweak" the run game, with offensive coordinator Greg Davis still calling the plays. By late April, it'd be nice to see progress in whatever scheme Brian implements. But expectations should be kept significantly below "Oregon."

"Really, the way we operate won't change an awful lot," Kirk Ferentz said.

Intense backfield evaluation

Weisman did nice things during his Hawkeye career, piling up 2,602 yards on the ground and 32 rushing touchdowns, one shy of a school record. But the former walk-on was essentially a fullback lining up at running back for three years as Ferentz came up dry searching for a consistent, backfield game-changer.

Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels Jr. are now the co-No. 1s at running back. They bring injury histories and upside.

Canzeri (5-9, 192) provides an extra gear, as he proved with a season-best 120 yards in the TaxSlayer Bowl on 12 carries. Bowl prep, Ferentz revealed, was the only stretch all year where Canzeri was "really right" because of injuries.

Daniels (6-0, 225) has the girth to be an every-down back like Shonn Greene was in 2008, the last time Iowa posted a 1,000-yard rusher, but he's coming off foot surgery.

"Both those guys did a good job in December, and I think they're going to have to play well," Ferentz said, "and I'm confident they will."

With uncertain durability, Ferentz needs other options. That's why defensive back Marcel Joly (5-11, 185) and receiver Derrick Mitchell Jr. (6-1, 205) became running backs this spring. It's also time to re-examine what Akrum Wadley (5-11, 185), who dazzled with 105 rushing yards vs. Northwestern but struggled with ball security, and C.J. Hilliard (5-10, 195) can do.

Wideout skill search

We've all seen the video of Tevaun Smith making an unofficial world-record 41 one-handed catches in a minute. And in August, receivers coach Bobby Kennedy said Smith (6-2, 205) "can be maybe as good … as anybody I've had at that position."

So the question in Iowa's receiving corps becomes, who can flank out opposite of Smith?

Senior Jacob Hillyer (6-4, 212) and junior Matt VandeBerg (6-1, 185) are the de facto opening options.

"Jake Hillyer, to me, is a guy that we probably don't talk enough about," Ferentz said of the Somerset, Texas, native, whose single-game high for catches is two. "He's done a lot of really good things and, very quietly I think, has improved."

Jonathan Parker (5-8, 185) will get looks at receiver after specializing in the jet sweep a year ago as a running back. In bowl prep, Iowa players marveled at the progress of senior Andrew Stone (5-11, 175). And Ferentz mentioned sophomore Andre Harris (6-0, 185) as an up-and-comer.

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Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz weighs in on how the Hawkeyes will address key positions going into spring practice.

Eligible tackles

Replacing Scherff and right tackle Andrew Donnal on the depth chart are unproven sophomores Boone Myers (6-5, 300) on the left side and Ike Boettger (6-6, 300) on the right.

Ferentz seems prepared to throw both guys into the fire, as he did with eventual No. 2 NFL draft pick Robert Gallery in 2000. Cole Croston (6-5, 295) and Keegan Render (6-4, 305) are their backups. Ferentz is also bringing in a slew of freshmen linemen in August, so a lot could change before Sept. 5.

"We're the few, the proud, the free up there right now," Ferentz said. "Basically, you could draw names out of a hat."

Hold that edge!

Either via changes in personnel or scheme, Iowa needs to upgrade its containment of outside running plays.

Maryland, Minnesota and Tennessee torched the Hawkeyes for 134 points (44.7 per game) behind read-option rushing attacks. The TaxSlayer Bowl score was 28-0 early in the second quarter as the Hawkeyes failed to keep up (or make tackles) against the Volunteers' athletic rushing attack.

Iowa's spring depth chart revealed a personnel shake-up: Ben Niemann (6-3, 225), who played mostly on special teams as a true freshman, is the new No. 1 outside linebacker.

"We think the potential is there," Ferentz said of Niemann.

There's a need at defensive end, too, outside of third-year starter Drew Ott. Redshirt freshman Parker Hesse (6-3, 240) has switched to end from linebacker.

Nate Meier (6-2, 252) is a senior incumbent at left end, but he struggled on the edge and in the pass rush (two sacks, 13 starts). If redshirt freshman Matt Nelson, a Cedar Rapids Xavier alum, can accompany his attractive size (6-8, 270) with productivity, he might not be Meier's backup for long.

Restock run-cloggers

There's good competition to replace outgoing defensive tackles Carl Davis (a potential high NFL draft pick) and Louis Trinca-Pasat (second-team all-Big Ten).

Although you haven't heard much about sophomore Nathan Bazata (6-2, 284; pronounced "Budget-uh"), the Howells, Neb., native seems to be next man in, along with junior Jaleel Johnson (6-4, 310).

"I would argue Bazata is probably more physically ready to play than Louis was two years ago in 2012," Ferentz said. "Louis got knocked around a little bit, then he started knocking guys around the next two years."

Of course, two guys can't play every snap in today's fast-paced college game. If Darian Cooper (6-2, 282) can make it back by fall, he'll provide much-needed depth. Cooper was the top backup to Davis and Trinca-Pasat before August knee surgery.

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The junior-to-be spoke after the TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Tennessee. He will be a third-year starter at cornerback this season.

Find your No. 2 safety

Iowa returns three starters in the secondary, but only two are secure: cornerback Desmond King and free safety Jordan Lomax. Greg Mabin (6-2, 200), who had a rough TaxSlayer Bowl and was benched, is No. 1 for now. But Maurice Fleming (6-0, 205) and Sean Draper (6-0, 190) will challenge him.

Strong safety is the most intriguing competition at the back of Iowa's defense, as Ferentz seeks a replacement for two-year starter John Lowdermilk.

Miles Taylor (6-0, 195) played sparingly as a true freshman and is the starter but, as Ferentz put it, "he's the name on the depth chart just because it's spring ball."

Junior Anthony Gair (6-2, 210), a two-year letterman, is in the mix. Don't be surprised if redshirt freshman Brandon Snyder (6-1, 210) — the Register's 2014 high school male athlete of the year from West Lyon of Inwood — ends up starting.

"We'll try to get the best two safeties on the field," Ferentz said.

Punt-game corrections

A hallmark early in the Ferentz era was buttoned-up, solid special teams. That seems like forever ago when examining two sobering 2014 statistics.

Iowa ranked 117th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in net punting. The abysmal 33.4 yards per exchange is a concern, considering Iowa has spent two scholarships on punters. Connor Kornbrath is listed ahead of Dillon Kidd. The seniors-to-be shared 64 punt attempts a year ago and were equally ineffective.

Iowa was last in the Big Ten (and 104th nationally) in punt-return average — 5.1 yards, and it would be worse without blocked-punt-return TDs by Ott and Niemann. Out of 85 scholarship players plus walk-ons, Ferentz needs to identify one that provides reliability and at least moderate explosiveness.

Generate April optimism

The phrase "Ferentz Fatigue" is making the rounds, with the coach's middling 34-30 record since his 2009 Hawkeyes won the Orange Bowl.

Ferentz made slight adjustments in coaching responsibilities — no firings. He's down to one proven quarterback, must replace irreplaceable seniors and faces a skeptical fan base that received letters offering $70 of free concessions for season-ticket renewals.

The Hawkeyes need to generate public momentum and show signs of improvement between now and the spring-ending April 25 scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium.

"I feel great about the folks that are here, and I think we have every opportunity to have a successful season this year," Ferentz said. "That's really what we're working towards now."

DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

Pos.

No.

Name

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

SE

4

Tevaun Smith

6-2

205

Sr.

17

Jacob Hillyer

6-4

212

Sr.

LT

52

Boone Myers

6-5

300

So.

64

Cole Croston

6-5

295

Jr.

LG

79

Sean Welsh

6-3

288

So.

59

Ross Reynolds

6-4

300

Fr.

C

63

Austin Blythe

6-3

290

Sr.

58

Eric Simmons

6-2

295

Sr.

RG

65

Jordan Walsh

6-4

290

Sr.

74

Mitch Keppy

6-5

300

Jr.

RT

65

Ike Boettger

6-6

300

So.

69

Keegan Render

6-4

305

Fr.

TE

80

Henry Krieger Coble

6-4

250

Sr.

87

Jake Duzey

6-4

248

Sr.

WR

89

Matt VandeBerg

6-1

185

Jr.

20

Andrew Stone

5-11

175

Sr.

QB

16

C.J. Beathard

6-2

209

Jr.

8

Tyler Wiegers

6-4

222

Fr.

RB

33

Jordan Canzeri

5-9

192

Sr.

29

LeShun Daniels, Jr.

6-0

225

Jr.

FB

42

Macon Plewa

6-2

244

Sr.

38

Adam Cox

5-11

234

Jr.

PK

1

Marshall Koehn

6-0

200

Sr.

2

Mick Ellis

5-10

180

So.

DEFENSE

Pos.

No.

Name

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

LE

34

Nate Meier

6-2

252

Sr.

96

Matt Nelson

6-8

270

Fr.

LT

67

Jaleel Johnson

6-4

310

Jr.

56

Faith Ekakitie

6-3

290

Jr.

RT

99

Nathan Bazata

6-2

284

So.

61

Kyle Terlouw

6-4

288

Jr.

RE

95

Drew Ott

6-4

272

Sr.

40

Parker Hesse

6-3

240

Fr.

OLB

44

Ben Niemann

6-3

225

So.

36

Cole Fisher

6-2

236

Sr.

MLB

43

Josey Jewell

6-2

230

So.

39

Travis Perry

6-3

234

Sr.

WLB

41

Bo Bower

6-1

228

So.

36

Cole Fisher

6-2

236

Sr.

31

Aaron Mends

6-0

202

Fr.

LC

13

Greg Mabin

6-2

200

Jr.

28

Maurice Fleming

6-0

205

Jr.

SS

19

Miles Taylor

6-0

195

So.

29

Brandon Snyder

6-1

210

Fr.

FS

27

Jordan Lomax

5-10

205

Sr.

12

Anthony Gair

6-2

210

Jr.

RC

14

Desmond King

5-11

200

Jr.

7

Sean Draper

6-0

190

Sr.

PT

98

Connor Kornbrath

6-6

242

Sr.

16

Dillon Kidd

6-2

215

Sr.

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