It’s eight days until the return of Iowa football and the starters look to be set for the week one clash against No. 17 Indiana.
Starting on the offensive side of the ball, there isn’t much different from the depth chart released after spring practice. As expected, Spencer Petras is QB1 and his starting pass catchers will be Tyrone Tracy, Jr., Nico Ragaini and Sam LaPorta.
“I’m prepared, I’m ready to take another step in the right direction,” Tracy Jr. said of being the number one receiver this season. “I have some young guys below me that I’m trying to bring up. Overall, I’m just ready to take the field and let everyone know we have a good wide receiver group.”
Tyler Goodson is the starting running back and the team is expecting a lot from him this year.
He’s more experienced now,” said Moon Family Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz. “He’s a little bigger, a little stronger, probably in a little better condition than he would have been as a young guy. I don’t know how well he can do this year, but he’s certainly one of the guys we’re counting on.”
And he’s ready to carry that weight.
“You always got to work for that spot,” Goodson said. “That’s something I pride myself on. I take practice seriously and I think me going out there practicing hard is what really gave me the confidence in me knowing I would be able to be in that spot on day.”
The biggest change comes on the offensive line and not for reasons Hawkeye fans wanted to hear. Sophomore Justin Britt takes over at right guard for Kyler Schott, who injured his foot while bailing hay at his family’s farm the week before camp started.
“I think he’s the first guy, at least in 23 years, I can remember that got injured bailing hay,” Ferentz said.
There’s good news though. Coach Ferentz did say Schott is only expected to miss some time at the beginning of the season.
Schott would have been the second most experienced starter on the line with nine career starts, so the injury was a tough blow to the young group.
Britt has dealt with plenty of those himself, so this preseason has been particularly important for him
“He’s missed a lot of time, I say a lot of time, significant time during the course of his career with injuries,” Ferentz said at media day. “So it’s tough to get better when you’re not out working, but the good news right now is he’s gotten a lot of quality work in these seven or eight days that we’ve practiced, and every snap is so valuable for him.”
The rest of the line features a trio of juniors, headlined by All-American Tyler Linderbaum at center, Cody Ince at left guard and Jack Plumb at left tackle. Sophomore Nick DeJong will start at right tackle.
The defense looks identical from the post-spring depth chart.
Regardless of who got the starting nod on the defensive line, that group was always going to be an inexperienced one. Three fourths of that unit in junior end John Waggoner, junior tackle Noah Shannon and redshirt freshman tackle Yahya Black combine for just one career start. A challenge, but not one they’re afraid of.
“We have a great coaching staff, a great culture and a lot of talented guys,” said senior end Zach VanValkenburg. “A lot of guys that don’t have game experience, but they’ve been working hard everyday, so I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a problem.”
VanValkenburg brings some experience, having started last year.
Jack Campbell, who put on 35 pounds this offseason, will start at middle linebacker. Seth Benson and Dane Belton are the outside linebackers. All three contributed last year and are looking to take on an even bigger role this year.
“Knowing the play before it happens, I feel like that’s my biggest development,” said Campbell. “There’s a lot of guys that can physically do it, but mentally being able to do it and having that edge, that’s what’s going to push me over the top.”
The secondary brings tons of experience to the table. Seniors Matt Hankins and Riley Moss are the starting corners. Behind them are a couple of younger guys in sophomore Jermari Harris and special teams star junior Terry Roberts.
Senior Jack Koerner and junior Kaevon Merriweather are the safeties. Both started last season and Koerner ended up being named Second-team All-Big Ten. With some youth up front, its a group that the defense will lean heavily on during a grueling two game stretch to begin the season.
“I think we understand what we have to do on the back end,” said Merriweather. “We have to make sure we lock down our receivers, pay attention to our keys and make sure we do what coach Parker expects us to do. If we do that, we can help out the d-line and linebackers as much as we can.”
No surprises on special teams either. Senior Caleb Shudak takes over at place kicker and they have confidence in him.
“It literally was almost flipping a coin between he [Shudak] and Keith Duncan. They’ve practiced — especially last year. They were on each other’s tails,” Ferentz said.
Sophomore Tory Taylor will handle the punting. After a great freshman season, this year, he’s poised to be even better.
“He’s improved,” Ferentz said. “He’s in better shape now. He’s been in the program for over a year, and he’s got a great attitude.”
Austin Spiewak will be snapping he ball to Taylor and Charlie Jones will return kicks.
QB: Spencer Petra (Jr.), Alex Padilla (So.)
RB: Tyler Goodson (Jr.), Ivory Kelly-Martin (Sr.)
WR: Tyrone Tracy, Jr. (Jr.), Nico Ragaini (Jr.), Keagan Johnson (Fr.), Charlie Jones (Sr.)
TE: Sam LaPorta (Jr.), Luke Lachey (R-Fr.)
LT: Jack Plumb (Jr.), Mason Richman (R-Fr.)
LG: Cody Ince (Jr.), Tyler Elsbury (R-Fr.)
C: Tyler Linderbaum (Jr.), Matt Fagan (Jr.)
RG: Justin Brit (So.), Josh Volk (R-Fr.)
RT: Nick DeJong (So.), Connor Colby (Fr.)
DE: Zach VanValkenburg (Sr.), John Waggoner (Jr.), Joe Evans (Jr.), Deontae Craig (R-Fr.)
DT: Noah Shannon (Jr.), Yahya Black (R-Fr.), Lukas Van Ness (R-Fr.), Logan Lee (So.)
Cash/Leo: Dane Belton (Jr.), Jestin Jacobs (So.)
MLB: Jack Campbell (Jr.), Jay Higgins (So.)
WLB: Seth Benson (Jr.), Kyler Fisher (So.)
CB: Matt Hankins (Sr.), Riley Moss (Sr.), Jermari Harris (So.), Terry Roberts (Jr.)
SS: Kaevon Merriweather (Jr.), Sebastian Castro (So.)
FS: Jack Koerner (Sr.), Quinn Schulte (So.)
K: Caleb Shudak (Sr.)
P: Tory Taylor (So.)
KR: Charlie Jones (Sr.)
LS: Austin Spiewak (Sr.)
The Hawkeyes kick off against the Hoosiers on September 4th at 2:30 p.m.