With spring practice set to begin for Iowa Hawkeyes, it's a different year but the same old story in Iowa City. Coming off of a 10-win season, the Hawkeyes return some key weapons, need to replace some key contributors, and will do so within the confines of arguably the most stable and consistent program in the Big Ten.
Related: Spring 2022 Big Ten Power Rankings
Kirk Ferentz and his staff have every reason to believe that they will once again be serious contenders in the Big Ten West. Like every season, however, that journey begins in the spring, and there is plenty for Iowa to work on and work out.
5 Storylines to Watch during Iowa's Spring Practice
1. Quarterback battle
It seems like this is routinely the case in Iowa City. A veteran quarterback who plays a little conservative but wins the games he should win vs. the backup quarterback with what appears to be higher upside and possibly a lower floor. It's safe vs. sexy when talking about the battle between Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla. The battle between the two isn't likely to be settled in the spring. Additionally don't rule out Joey Labas to potentially swoop in and steal the job from both veterans.
2. Shore up the backfield
Tyler Goodson is gone, and with him goes nearly 1,400 yards of offensive production. Kirk Ferentz has not historically shied from using a committee at running back, but he ideally wants that one dependable workhorse to lean on as both a tone-setter and a closer. Leshon and Gavin Williams (not related) appear to be the obvious choices to assume the role, with Gavin heading into the spring session with a leg up in the eyes of the coaching staff.
3. Replacing the interior offensive line
The Hawkeyes lost both starting guard and their starting center from 2021. Guards Kyler Schott and Cody Ince were both solid in the performance, while center Tyler Linderbaum was awarded the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the best player at his position in the nation. Big shoes to fill at three key spots for an Iowa offense that historically breads its butter on the ground between the tackles. The answer at the two guard spots is likely some combination of Connor Colby, Justin Britt, and Beau Stephens. At center, Iowa will look to converted defensive lineman Logan Jones to fill the role. There will be growing pains, but that's what the spring session is for. There's also comfort in knowing that Linderbaum made the same transition early on.
4. Defensive line chemistry
John Waggoner is a pillar of the unit, and he was one of the better edge-setters in the conference a season ago. His continued success will depend greatly on the production Iowa gets on the other side of the defensive line. The Hawkeyes need to find a pass rusher this spring to pair with Waggoner. The leading candidates are Joe Evans, Deontae Craig, and Chris Reames. If he's healthy for spring practice, we could also see Ethan Hurkett in the mix.
5. Find a No. 1 receiver
Regardless of who lands the quarterback job, that guy is going to need a sure-handed, dependable receiver he can look to in crunch time. Conventional wisdom says it could be Keagan Johnson's job to lose, but Iowa is better off moving him around and finding creative ways to get him the ball. He's the most explosive athlete on the Hawkeye offense. As a result, you could see a two-man battle between Jackson Ritter and Brody Becht for that traditional "X" role.
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— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.