WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Already with a competitive situation at quarterback, Jordan Canzeri is doing what he can to muddy the Iowa football depth chart at running back.
The sophomore who missed the 2012 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament ran hard Sunday as the Hawkeyes held a practice away from Iowa City for the first time in the 15 years coach Kirk Ferentz has led the program.
Currently positioned behind Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock on the depth chart, Canzeri was the most consistent of Iowa’s running backs during the 2 1/2-hour workout watched by an estimated crowd of 8,000 at Valley Stadium.
“After sitting last year, I think I appreciate things a little more and I want to get back out there. I don’t take anything for granted,” Canzeri said. “It was a good day, but I need a lot of those. I’m doing what I can trying to get back into the mix.”
Ferentz was impressed with what he saw from Canzeri, who topped the Iowa depth chart at running back before his injury one year ago.
“He practiced well and had a productive day,” Ferentz said. “He’s been working hard, trying to come back from his injury. He had an impressive day.”
Canzeri’s performance came during a workout that concluded with more than an hour of live, full-contact work.
As expected, Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard continued to rotate every few snaps.
All three quarterbacks worked with the first, second and third units as coaches continue to evaluate the candidates to succeed James Vandenberg behind center.
“All three of them are slinging it pretty good,” tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said. “I wouldn’t want to guess how it’s going to pan out.”
Ferentz isn’t ready to make that call, either.
Each struggled with consistency at times Sunday, and Ferentz said the decision to rotate quarterbacks as often as every third snap may be partially to blame.
“They were hit or miss, much like our whole offense is right now,” Ferentz said. “At times it has been tough for them to get into a rhythm with the way we have been rotating them, but all three of them have been doing some good things and all have things to work on.”
Sokol said the quarterbacks have gotten used to the quick rotations over time, and he believes collectively the group is making progress.
“I think it was good for all of us to get out here in front of a crowd and compete,” he said. “I think we all were probably a little nervous early, but we settled in. The coaches are looking for consistency, and that is what we are all working toward. We want to leave them with a difficult decision.”
Iowa has added some zone read opportunities for its quarterbacks on offense this spring, and Sokol welcomed the option to run with the ball at times in an offense that is finding multiple ways to use its personnel.
Bullock, previously used as a slot receiver, lined up on the outside on occasion in addition to lining up at the tailback position.
“We have more guys doing more things right now, and that’s been good for us,” Bullock said. “We’re all finding new ways to contribute.”
Bullock welcomes Canzeri’s return and said all three quarterbacks are bringing different strengths to the Hawkeye attack.
“They can all help us, and we need everybody,” he said.
Ferentz said Rudock, a sophomore who is preparing for his third season in the program, seemingly has the best understanding of the offense he is being asked to run.
“But, it’s still close and all three of them are competing well,” Ferentz said. “They’re all getting better, showing us some things, and it makes no sense to come to a conclusion right now when we don’t need to. We have time to let it sort itself out.”
Tackles Brandon Scherff and Brett Van Sloten, guards Conor Boffeli and Jordan Walsh and center Austin Blythe worked with the starting group on the offensive line, while Drew Ott, Carl Davis, Darian Cooper and Dominic Alvis opened on the defensive front.
Boffeli’s start came on familiar turf.
“It was good to be home,” the senior from West Des Moines Valley said. “I felt pretty comfortable out there.”
Riley McCarron, a redshirt freshman from Dubuque Wahlert, was among Iowa’s most consistent receivers Sunday. Ferentz said McCarron has built on a solid fall he had on the scout team.
Niko Law missed Sunday’s workout because of what Ferentz described as a minor injury. Law, who tops the depth chart at strong safety, is expected to return to the practice field this week. John Lowdermilk worked with the first unit in his absence.
Iowa’s 15 spring practices continue through April 27, when the Hawkeyes will host their annual open workout at Kinnick Stadium.