Where's Sean Welsh? Plus, takeaways from Iowa's open practice

Chad Leistikow

Tevaun Smith pulls in a pass ahead of safety Jordan Lomax (27) during Saturday’s open practice at Valley Stadium. Smith is the Hawkeyes’ top receiving option.

WEST DES MOINES, Ia. – Saturday's Iowa football open practice at Valley Stadium was a chance to size up position battles, gather impressions and take care of a little housekeeping.

First, the roster stuff.

Only one player on the spring two-deep was absent — starting left guard Sean Welsh. The sophomore also was missing from an April 1 workout open to media members. Eric Simmons, a senior from Madrid, has replaced Welsh on the No. 1 offense.

Coach Kirk Ferentz said Welsh, who started nine games at both guard positions as a freshman, was still with the team but "taking care of some things, non-football items" and expected him to return at some point.

"He's just got to take care of a few things. Tremendous guy," Ferentz said. "He'll be a welcome addition when we get him back."

Reserve defensive back Jalen Embry was missing Saturday with what Ferentz called an academic issue.

"When he gets that done, he'll be with us," Ferentz said.

Other observations from Saturday's 2-hour, 40-minute practice:

  • Starting quarterback C.J. Beathard packed a notable zing on his passes. In one-on-one drills — wide receiver vs. defensive back — he connected on deep balls for touchdowns to Tevaun Smith and Andre Harris, soliciting oohs and aahs from the thousands in attendance on a 70-degree day. During the scrimmage portion, Beathard launched a gorgeous ball about 50 yards that beat triple coverage and went right through Matt VandeBerg's arms for an incomplete pass. He also overthrew Smith in the end zone on third down.

  • Backup quarterback Tyler Wiegers has work to do, but that's not a surprise — he's still a true freshman. He stumbled to the ground a few times off the center snap, and he frequently stayed locked in on his first receiving option. He served up a pick-six to Cole Fisher. He's young. Beathard's the guy.

  • LeShun Daniels Jr. looked like the power/speed back Iowa needs, showing both on one stretch play to the left side, where he cut nicely upfield then carried the pile for extra yardage. He and co-No. 1 Jordan Canzeri were allowed to be tackled for the first time this spring.

  • Akrum Wadley hits the hole hard and is the clear No. 3 running back, while Derrick Mitchell Jr. — the converted wide receiver — was the obvious No. 4. Ferentz likes both — Wadley still is working on ball security, and Mitchell is learning the position. They shared most reps with the second-team offense.

  • At tight end, Henry Krieger-Coble wore the red "no-contact" jersey while recovering from his shoulder injury, so former Dowling star Jon Wisnieski got a lot of reps with the No. 2 offense. Wisnieski, a sophomore-to-be, was a favorite target of Wiegers, and at a solidly-built 6-foot-5, 247 pounds, he looks every bit the part of a classic Iowa tight end.

  • Speaking of physical specimens, former Cedar Rapids Xavier star Matt Nelson rotated in with the No. 1 defense at times. The 6-8, 270-pound freshman is the backup left end to Nate Meier. Nelson roared in once for a would-be sack of Beathard (who also wears the no-contact jersey as a QB).

  • Ferentz said the battle to be Iowa's starting strong safety will likely continue through August between sophomore Miles Taylor and freshman Brandon Snyder. Taylor got more No. 1 reps Saturday. Snyder flattened new wide receiver Jonathan Parker on one pass over the middle, drawing raves from the crowd. Parker made the catch.

  • Marshall Koehn showed the best height and distance in a small sample size of punting drills — outkicking seniors-to-be Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath. Koehn is the Hawkeyes' placekicker. Afterward, Ferentz said "whoever's best at any of those jobs will be the guy."

  • A notable takeaway overall Saturday was Iowa's lack of depth, and the head coach agreed — particularly on the offensive line. "We don't have a lot of depth on the 2s," Ferentz said. "A lot of our 2s right now are 3s, quite frankly, on both sides of the ball."