Spring football practice has officially began, and it is way too early to be talking about depth charts and playing time.
But I am going to take a stab at it anyway.
Several surprising players find their way onto the two deeps every year and 2012 will be no different. Here is a list of five players to watch this spring. All five will likely see some kind of action. The only question now is how much action will they get?
1. Safety Nico Law, sophomore
Law saw time on special teams last year and has picked up plenty of praise from the Iowa coaching staff already this spring.
New Iowa secondary coach Darrell Wilson even said that the coaches have to tone him down a bit at practice.
“We had to tell him that we have to play controlled violence,” Wilson said. “Everything he wants to do, he just wants to rip your head off. Nico is definitely not lacking confidence. We had to turn him down a bit. But that is OK. I would rather have to turn them down than try to turn him up.”
There is no doubt that Law will play some kind of role on special teams again this year, but the more and more he plays in spring ball, the more and more his chances of starting at one safety grow.
2. Cornerback B.J. Lowery, junior
Another secondary member that Wilson is high on is Lowery. He saw some action last year as a sophomore but has yet to become a consistent starter in the lineup.
This year may be the time for the Cincinnati, Ohio, native.
“I am really excited about him,” Wilson said. “He is going to be a tremendous football player for us. And his hand is healing so now he is able to play more press coverage for us. He is a guy that can press a guy and then run with him and break all of the different routes.”
It’s early in the game, and no true freshman have hit campus yet, but the favorites to win jobs in the secondary are Law and Tanner Miller at safeties and Micah Hyde and Lowery a cornerbacks.
3. Defensive Tackle Darian Cooper, sophomore
Cooper was highly regarded out of Dematha Catholic High School and some are wondering why he did not see the field more last year as a true freshmen.
No one may ever know the truth behind that statement, but a theory could be that Kirk Ferentz just does not like to play true freshman. He is a true developer of talent. He believes in and always will.
This season promises to be a big one for Cooper though. He is a favorite to win a starting job, but even if he does not, he expects to play plenty of snaps on defense.
4. Offensive Guard Austin Blythe, sophomore
There were rumblings yesterday that Blythe was in with the starters at right guard during practice. He also was highly regarded out of high school in Williamsburg, Iowa, and has the frame to be the next great Iowa lineman.
He is big, nasty and a former state champion wrestler, which is what Ferentz likes. His technique also is great.
There is a lot to be settled up front, but it wouldn’t be too far-fetched if we saw Blythe lineup at starting right guard this year. He should definitely get meaningful snaps and will most likely make the two-deeps this season.
5. Tight End Ray Hamilton, sophomore
Hamilton got high praise all year last season but it was going to be very hard breaking through at tight end as a true freshman.
And even this year will be tough with returners Zach Derby and C.J. Fiedorowicz expected to be impact players.
But Hamilton has what it takes to compete for playing time, including size and plenty of skills. Derby and Fiedorowicz likely continue to garner most of the playing time, but expect Hamilton to make some kind of splash this season.