IOWA CITY — Coaches have combed through the entire roster in recent weeks, but Iowa’s football depth chart for 2019 remains written in pencil at this time of year.
Always has been, always will be, coach Kirk Ferentz suggested last week.
“If somebody can beat (third-year starting quarterback Nate) Stanley out, welcome to it,’’ Ferentz said. “Shame on Nate if it happens, but the point we make to everybody is that if Nate Stanley is not a better player next year than he was this year it’s probably not going to be good for our football team.’’
The addition of graduate transfer punter Michael Sleep-Dalton to the roster is a reminder of that as well.
Ferentz said during his signing day news conference last Wednesday that the Hawkeyes need an upgrade in the punting game, where Iowa ranked 107th among 129 Football Bowl Subdivision programs with a net punting average of 35.54 yards last season.
He expects Sleep-Dalton to push returning two-year starter Colten Rastetter and back-up Ryan Gersonde to improve.
“Both (Rastetter and Gersonde) are right in the thick of it. I haven’t seen Michael yet perform in person, but I think both of the guys who are here are capable. It’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen for them.’’
Those expectations extend to Iowa’s kicking positions, where the Hawkeyes will search this spring for a replacement for Miguel Recinos.
Keith Duncan, a starter as a true freshman in 2016, and Caleb Shudak return but can expect a challenge from Lucas Amaya, a walk-on from Wisconsin who like Sleep-Dalton will arrive on campus this summer.
“Just like the punter, the guys on campus have the first and probably the best shot at it, but whoever joins our team, we’ve got until the end of August really to figure this whole thing out,’’ Ferentz said. “It will be an open competition.’’
Back on campus: After completing their first year in the NFL, Chicago Bears offensive lineman James Daniels and Green Bay Packers defensive back Josh Jackson are back on campus.
Both are working out at the Hawkeyes’ training facility and taking classes, Daniels in person and Jackson online as they work toward their degrees.
“Josh just wanted to get back into the environment and I think James feels the same way,’’ Ferentz said. “I think that says something and me personally, I’m very happy about it. (Baltimore offensive lineman Marshal) Yanda’s blue truck will be out there soon, funky blue truck, and he’ll be out there training hard.’’
Ferentz appreciates that Iowa’s former players feel at home training in Iowa City with Hawkeye strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Doyle and his staff.
“I think it’s great our players feel welcome coming back and that they want to be back knowing Chris in that room will help them move forward as pros,’’ Ferentz said.
Status undetermined: The future of sophomore defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon with the Iowa football team remains undetermined.
“We’re still hoping he’ll be on our football team here,’’ Ferentz said. “That’s our goal and our hope. We will just let time dictate.’’
Ferentz last month indicated that Nixon’s arrival at Iowa from Iowa Western Community College with some unspecified conditions that he had to meet.
Nixon practiced with the team during a portion of the regular season last fall, but did not participate in bowl preparations.
The long haul: Ferentz suggested he believes Pro Bowl long snapper Casey Kreiter has a long future ahead in the NFL.
“Might play until he’s 50, realistically,’’ Ferentz said of the Denver specialist and former Hawkeye from Central DeWitt. “He takes care of himself and he’s really good at it. Plus, they’re not allowed to hit those guys. It’s a really good position.’’
Think spring: Details have not been finalized, but Iowa will hold the first of its 15 spring practices during the final week of March.
The Hawkeyes will wrap up spring drills during the final week of April, but no date has been set for any public practice sessions.