Ferentz focuses on new arrivals, not Coker

LUKE MEREDITH AP Sports Writer Published:

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- For the second year in a row, Iowa fans waited for national signing day to hear coach Kirk Ferentz address a topic at least as pressing as his latest recruiting class.

This time, Ferentz kept the focus on the 24 newest Hawkeyes.

Ferentz on Wednesday refused to get into further details about the departure of star running back Marcus Coker, who was suspended for last month's Insight Bowl for unspecified misconduct and has since left the program.

Ferentz was forced to use last season's signing day press conference to address concerns over a workout-related illness that sent more than a dozen players to the hospital. He said Wednesday he would discuss non-recruiting topics next week.

"We wish him all the best. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I think Marcus is a tremendous young guy," Ferentz said about Coker. "Anything else, we'll be happy to talk about it next week."

With Coker gone, the Hawkeyes signed a pair of running backs who might see playing time as early as next season.

Leading the way is Greg Garmon, a 6-1, 200-pounder from Erie, Pa., who was a first-team all-state pick and notched 2,859 career rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. Iowa also landed Cedar Falls running back Barkley Hill, who spurned Iowa State to sign with the Hawkeyes.

Garmon and Hill be thrown into a mix that includes returnees Jordan Canzeri, Brad Rogers and De'Andre Johnson as Iowa searches for a combination that can come close to matching the 1,384 rushing yards and 15 TDs Coker put up in 2011.

Ferentz also announced that reserve back Jason White will return for his senior season.

"That was one of the obvious positions of need for us. We really thought it was critical," Ferentz said. "Once we had commitments from Greg and Barkley we felt comfortable moving forward with those two guys."

Though Iowa is set at quarterback next season with returning senior starter James Vandenberg, the depth chart is slim behind him.

The Hawkeyes will bring in a pair of quarterbacks next season to compete with redshirt freshman Jake Rudock for the starting job in 2013 and beyond.

Cody Sokol is a rare junior college player to sign with Iowa, a sure sign of the urgency the Hawkeyes have this offseason. Sokol, who was born in Des Moines, threw for 3,087 yards and 43 touchdowns at Scottsdale Community College (Arizona) last season.

Iowa also landed Tennessee native C.J. Beathard, who'll be a true freshman and a likely redshirt candidate. Sokol could also redshirt next season, according to Ferentz.

The Hawkeyes struggled along the defensive line last season. They signed a pair of highly touted recruits in end Faith Ekakitie and tackle Jaleel Johnson, both from Illinois high schools.

Iowa also ventured into Illinois for offensive tackle Ryan Ward, a 6-5, 275-pounder considered one of the top prospects at the position in the nation.

The Hawkeyes loaded up in the secondary with five defensive back signees. They also landed four offensive linemen, four defensive linemen and three wide receivers.

Iowa signed more players from Illinois, five, than any other state, and brought in just three in-state players.

Though Ferentz wouldn't make any promises about which of his latest recruits will see the field in 2012, clearly they'll all have a chance to do so after Iowa finished just 7-6 last season.

"We're a really young team right now moving forward. I don't think we have a lot of returning All-Americans or All-Big Ten guys. So to me it's open season. Everybody is going to compete," Ferentz said. "We told every guy on this list that if they can come in here and help us, we're all for it."