Iowa City, IA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge aren't done blindsiding ball-carriers. They're just done doing it for Iowa.
Jovon Johnson and Antwan Allen still hope to shadow split-ends. But not while wearing black-and-gold.
The graduation of exceptionally experienced seniors left some Kinnick Stadium-sized holes on the defense, especially at linebacker, where the departures of Greenway and Hodge robbed Iowa of the Big Ten's most effective tacklers.
Coach Kirk Ferentz doesn't need any tissues however, at least not publicly. On Wednesday, the first day of spring practice, he said the Hawkeyes have some "great players" ready to fill the linebackers' shoes.
"The biggest thing we're not sure of is how we're going to line them up," Ferentz said. "We're going to toy around a little bit, move some guys around. We're going to probably experiment with Ed Miles back inside, take a look at Mike Humpal outside. We're not sure of the combinations; we're not sure where everybody's going to end up, but I think we like what we see."
At the start of spring ball, the depth chart lists junior Mike Klinkenborg in the middle, with Miles and Humpal as the two outside men. But nothing's guaranteed for the trio, as a horde of Hawkeyes will be pushing for a starting spot.
Ferentz said senior Zach Gabelmann, who is listed as the backup middle backer, is "right in the middle of things." Junior-college transfer Bryon Gattas didn't earn a scholarship to sit on the bench. And juniors Chris Kuehl and Chris Brevi, sophomore Gavin McGrath, and redshirt freshmen Pat Angerer and B.J. Travers will also push for an appearance in the two-deeps. Angerer and Kuehl are tentatively penciled in as the backups at the outside.
An even bigger riddle may be at cornerback, where Allen and Johnson both started three-plus seasons. Junior Adam Shada and Charles Godfrey begin spring practice as the front-runners at the position, but Godfrey is still learning it, after switching over from safety.
"Both these guys, Charles and Adam, are very good, athletically," Ferentz said. "They don't have a ton of game experience, obviously, at the corner position, so it's going to take some time. It will be interesting to see how they pick things up."
If they drop the ball, both literally and figuratively, senior Ma'Quan Dawkins and sophomore Bradley Fletcher will be hunting for starting spots. But Dawkins is recovering from surgery, and Fletcher, Iowa's biggest corner at 6-2, 195-pounds, is still "kind of raw," Ferentz said. Outside shots to climb the depth chart this spring might be redshirt freshman Justin Edwards, senior Khaliq Price, or true freshman Lance Tillison.
Seniors Marcus Paschal and Miguel Merrick are probably entrenched at safety, but potential challengers might come from freshmen Marcus Wilson and Chris Rowell, as well as sophomore Harold Dalton and senior Devan Moylan.
And in an twist from last year when four starting spots had to be replaced, defensive line could be Norm Parker's deepest and most dangerous position. Even after Ted Bentler and Anton Narinskiy switched to offensive line and Tyler Blum transferred to tight end, Iowa returns six experienced lineman. Juniors Kenny Iwebema and Bryan Mattison, up to 270 and 272 pounds, respectively, anchor the end spots, while Alex Kanellis and Justin Collins will chase them for playing time.
Sophomores Matt Kroul and Mitch King, at 271 and 264, are the favorites to return at defensive tackle, ahead of Ryan Bain, Vernon Jackson, and Travis Meade. But the depth charts are hardly set in ink, this early in the spring.
"We're trying to rank our guys one through 100, get an idea of who's who," Ferentz said.
Chances are, those rankings will change considerably before the fall.
(C) 2006 The Daily Iowan via CSTV U-WIRE