Spring practice starts for Iowa a week from tomorrow (March 22), but Iowa football has already received some bad news on the injury front. As first reported by Blair Sanderson at Hawkeye Report, Matt VandeBerg has suffered a setback:
Matt VandeBerg expected to miss spring practice after re-injuring foot https://t.co/txdOBQAItz— Blair Sanderson (@BlairRIVALS) March 14, 2017
The link in the tweet goes to a paywalled message board but there isn't too much more to the story than the information listed in the tweet: VandeBerg re-injured the same foot that was hurt last fall and will miss spring practice as a result. Overall: ugh.
VandeBerg was injured during a practice after the Rutgers game in September. He missed the remainder of the regular season, as well as the Outback Bowl. (Also absent in the Outback Bowl? The rest of the Iowa offense, at least in the second half. But I digress...) VandeBerg was on his way to a fantastic senior season before the injury -- through four games, he led Iowa with 19 catches for 284 yards and three touchdowns. The rest of Iowa's receivers had only 15 catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns to that point. The really sad news is that despite playing just four games VandeBerg still finished fifth in receiving yards for Iowa last year. Only two receivers had more receptions and passing yards (Riley McCarron and Jerminic Smith) than VandeBerg -- who, again, only played four games last season. Iowa's passing offense -- which already wasn't exactly great -- largely fell off a cliff after the VandeBerg injury.
There's been no word about the severity of this latest setback, but there's still almost six months until the season gets underway next fall, which will hopefully provide VandeBerg with ample time to recover. It does raise some concerns about his durability, though, as well as the specter of him re-injuring it again next fall. More importantly, the injury robs VandeBerg of an opportunity to develop chemistry with Nathan Stanley, Iowa's new quarterback, as well as a chance to get acquainted with whatever changes to the offense (and the passing game, in particular) we're going to see with Brian Ferentz manning the controls.
On the bright side, VandeBerg's absence from spring practice will mean increased reps for Iowa's other receivers. Based on what we saw last year, those guys need all the extra reps they can get, so hopefully Smith, Adrian Falconer, Devonte Young, and the rest of Iowa's receivers use that to their advantage. When healthy, VandeBerg is pretty clearly Iowa's best option in the passing game right now and he'll very likely slide back into the #1 WR role when he's again available. But this spring will be a big developmental period for the other receivers to see who will be available to slot into the other receiver roles in this offense.
Here's hoping for a full and speedy recovery for VandeBerg.