Ferentz to write Iowa's depth chart in pencil

Like many coaches, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz releases a Week 1 depth chart about 10 days before each season opener.

Here's a tip: Don't take this year's version too seriously.

Iowa will have no shortage of position battles when preseason camp begins in August. The three-man quarterback race between Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard will get most of the attention, but Iowa is unsettled at spots like wide receiver, right guard, defensive end and cornerback. The Hawkeyes return several familiar names at running back, and the competition there should be spirited.

Eventually, Ferentz will fill out a depth chart for the Aug. 31 opener against Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium. He'll do so in pencil.

"When you go 4-8, there aren't a lot of incumbents," Ferentz told ESPN.com this week. "I'm not a big one for incumbents anyway, but everybody's got a chance to compete. In fairness to our team, at every position, we'll make those decisions as we go along in August."

Iowa officially returns six offensive starters and eight defensive starters from 2012, including all three linebackers and Mark Weisman at running back. But the Hawkeyes are looking for difference- makers to emerge on both sides of the ball, as they hope to spark a passing attack that ranked 99th nationally in 2012 and a pass rush that struggled for much of the fall (113th nationally in sacks, 105th in tackles for loss).

Although preseason camp should provide some clues, the true answers might not come until the games begin. The Hawkeyes who start against Northern Illinois might not be the same ones who start the Big Ten opener Sept. 28 at Minnesota.

Ferentz, always prepared with a historical reference, recalled the 2008 season -- the start of Iowa's mini renaissance -- when quarterback Ricky Stanzi and linebacker Pat Angerer didn't emerge as starters until late September. Stanzi and Angerer played key roles as Iowa went 17-3 between Oct. 11, 2008, and the end of the 2009 season.

"I could see a lot of that going on with our team right now," Ferentz said. "We're a young team. The quarterback [race] is prominent because that's what any guy on the street is going to ask about, but we have a lot of those situations on our football team right now, a lot of different positions where we have some interesting competition."