IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa's defense was back among the nation's elite last season.
The Hawkeyes' offense failed to follow suit.
Getting both units to play at an equally high level will likely be crucial to Iowa's hopes of competing for a Big Ten West title.
The Hawkeyes, who wrap up spring practice Saturday with a scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium, will be among the league favorites because they have a lot of returning starters and what appears to be a manageable schedule.
But Iowa will need to score more than the 26.3 points it averaged a year ago to aid a defense coming off one of the better seasons in school history.
Quarterback Jake Rudock believes the unit's continuity will be a big plus next season.
"We've all gotten more comfortable with (the offense)," Rudock said. "Now there are really no excuses when we make mental mistakes. We should know better."
Iowa's defense still has major holes to fill at linebacker and some open spots in the secondary.
But for the most part, the Hawkeyes appear to be in good shape with spring ball set to close.
Senior Quinton Alston has solidified his hold on middle linebacker, according to defensive coordinator Phil Parker. The lone open spot along the defensive line has apparently come down to ends Mike Hardy and Nate Meier, and returning starter John Lowdermilk has been working to hold off fellow senior Nico Law at strong safety.
Those position battles, along with Jordan Lomax's transition to free safety, will likely carry over to practice in August.
But it appears as though Alston has proven he's ready to anchor a linebacker corps down three starters from last season.
"He's done a great job up to this point of being the leader and he's kind of the guy that takes control of the huddle," Parker said.
Though the numbers weren't great, Iowa's offense also improved greatly from a disastrous 2012 — when it ranked among the nation's worst in a number of categories. Iowa has a chance to moving forward again in 2014, provided it can keep Rudock upright.