The good, the bad and the ugly from today’s Iowa football open practice, the first impressions left by the Hawkeye team which is nine practices into the 15 it is allowed this spring:
Iowa’s depth is as advertised, improved, never a bad thing in the Big Ten.
The situation is leading to increased competition throughout the Hawkeye roster this spring and a situation where players no matter how experienced understand that playing time is up for grabs.
Iowa is particularly well stocked at the offensive skill positions although two redshirt freshmen running backs coaches hoped to get a good look saw little or no time during the two-and-a-half hour workout. Akrum Wadley saw the field ever so briefly because of a slight injury, while Jonathan Parker was excused from practice to attend a funeral.
The absence allowed Iowa’s receivers to shine. Greg Davis wasn’t simply a tall-talking Texan when he heaped praise in December on the progress he was seeing from four freshmen receivers who redshirted last season.
Derrick Willies, Derrick Mitchell and Andre Harris all had their moments Saturday, taking turns leaving the Hawkeye secondary red faced with a collection of big plays throughout the workout.
Coach Kirk Ferentz was quick to temper enthusiasm about the group, saying that the needed consistency from one day to the next and even the ability to fully grasp and perform within the structure of the offense remains a work in progress for the group.
Their ability to grasp that between now and the end of fall camp will determine just how much playing time those individuals will see, but there is reason to believe that at least one and possibly more will provide contributions to an expanded passing game in the fall.
Among other quick thoughts, Iowa’s three new starters at linebacker had solid days and the defensive front is solid.
On offense, the Hawkeyes’ quarterback depth chart and depth on the offensive line remains unchanged. Jake Rudock looks like a quarterback with a year of starts under his belt. He spent most of the day working with the starting unit, while C.J. Beathard and Nic Shimonek worked with reserves. Beathard is showing growth as well and like Rudock, seems to have a better under understanding of the short passing game.Shimonek has as strong of an arm as advertised and throws a beautiful spiral. On experience alone, he lines up behind the two more experienced arms on the depth chart but he has a bright future in Iowa City with continued growth.
I’ll clean this up, but at one point late in today’s practice assistant coach LeVar Woods took several steps on the field and yelled in the direction of the defense, ‘Would somebody make a $%*@! tackle?” and the suggestion didn’t seem too far out of line.
For nearly every big play a Hawkeye receiver made, a blown coverage or missed tackle opportunity was a factor.
Iowa’s defense did not have one of its better days collectively and it’s clear that both players and coaches weren’t pleased with the effort.
Ferentz mentioned that Iowa probably made as many mistakes Saturday as it had in its previous five practices combined.
Iowa’s secondary remains a work in progress, with Desmond King and Sean Draper opening at the cornerback spots and Jordan Lomax and John Lowdermilk taking the field at the safety positions with the No. 1 defensive unit.
It was an area where some experimentation was anticipated this spring after Tanner Miller competed his eligibility and at least from this one glimpse, it remains a segment where the work continues.
Winds were a factor today, howling out of the south throughout much of the workout to create some chaos in the kicking game.
Punter Connor Kornbrath does appear to be make some strides as he is challenged by Dillon Kidd.
Iowa did have a kick blocked, drawing one of the bigger responses of the day from the crowd. Marshall Koehn and Alden Haffar handled the kicking duties, but breakdowns up front allowed one of the uglier plays of the day to occur.
The latter was simply a reminder that it is April, not August, and performances now – or lack of performances now – will lead to the lineup that will eventually take the field when UNI shows up at Kinnick Stadium.
Ferentz was less-than pleased with today’s performance, probably a sign that he’s seen better in the eight practices leading up to Iowa’s public debut.
There will be five more closed-door workouts before the public gets its next look at Iowa during the April 26 spring game at Kinnick Stadium.
It’s safe to assume that Ferentz and Iowa coaches will be looking for a more consistent performance, particularly on defense, when the Hawkeyes take the field that day.