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Wrapping up the spring

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Random thoughts and observations from the Hawkeyes’ spring-ending workout Saturday at Kinnick Stadium:

– Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said freshman A.J. Derby and junior John Wienke are “neck and neck’’ for the backup quarterback job, but Derby looked much, much better in Saturday’s workout. He has a stronger arm and seemed to make better decisions. In fact, he probably looked better than starter James Vandenberg.

– Keenan Davis was the clear standout among the receivers but walk-on Steve Staggs looked like he could be a solid possession receiver comparable to Colin Sandeman.

– Three players were back fielding punts during the workout – Keenan Davis, Micah Hyde and freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley. Based on the way he looked on two interception returns for touchdowns last season, Hyde may be the favorite to win the job.

– Hyde was used at free safety this spring on sort of an experimental basis and looked good enough that it seems probable he will stay there in the fall. That sets up a major battle for his old cornerback job between veteran Greg Castillo and upstart B.J. Lowery. Those two had the only interceptions of Saturday’s controlled scrimmage.

– Neither of the two kickers – Mike Meyer or Trent Mossbrucker – looked very good in the work-out, but the cold and the wind weren’t exactly conducive to quality kicking.

– Several linemen – Thomas Nardo, Steve Bigach and Nolan McMillan – disappeared off the depth chart between the start and end of spring drills with very little explanation from the coaching staff. None of them suited up Saturday although all still are listed on the roster. They apparently are either injured or still recovering from winter workouts.

– Senior punter Eric Guthrie looked very erratic Saturday, alternating booming kicks with weak wobblers. Don’t be surprised if Australian-born freshman Jonny Mullings steals the job from him in the fall.

A look at the specialists

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Projected starters – Punter Ryan Donahue (6-3, 190, sr.); kickers Daniel Murray (5-10,185, sr.) or Trent Mossbrucker (6-0, 204, so.); deep snapper Andrew Schulze (6-5, 255, sr.)

Top reserves – Eric Guthrie (6-6, 245, jr.), Charlie Knipper (6-4, 230, fr.)

Futures – Jonathan Mullings (6-3, 210, fr.); Mike Meyer (6-2, 175, fr.)

Donahue is another of those unsung heroes, a guy who doesn’t get much publicity or attention but who is highly valued by the coaching staff for his work ethic and consistency. His punting average fell slightly to 40.9 yards last season, but he dropped 27 punts inside the 20-yard line and had a career-low five touchbacks. He also did not have a punt blocked all season.

Murray is the incumbent place-kicker, but he may have a hard time holding off Mossbrucker, who redshirted last season after some very impressive moments as a freshman in 2008. Mossbrucker was 13 for 15 on field goals and set Iowa’s single-season freshman scoring record before being inexplicably replaced by Murray late in the season. Murray was OK last season – 19 for 26 with a long kick of 48 yards – but head coach Kirk Ferentz never seemed fully satisfied. This may be the most competitive position battle of the fall.

Schulze enters his fourth season as the regular long snapper and one of the most intriguing stories on the Hawkeye roster is Mullings, a 22-year-old Australian rugby player who launched an 85-yard punt for Ottumwa High School last fall. And there’s also another capable kicker waiting in the wings if both Murray and Mossbrucker flop. Meyer, a former Dubuque Wahlert star, looked pretty good in last week’s Kids Day scrimmage.