Five position battles to watch in Iowa spring game

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz made an admission a few weeks ago that, "a lot of our 2s right now are 3s, quite frankly, on both sides of the ball."

But while many first-stringers aren't in danger of losing their spots (think QB C.J. Beathard, C Austin Blythe, DE Drew Ott), there will still be some notable position battles to track during Saturday's 1 p.m. spring game at Kinnick Stadium.

Here are five of them to watch:

Iowa's Dillon Kidd punts the ball during the Hawkeyes' game against Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014.


This will be interesting. Can senior walk-on (for now) and starting placekicker Marshall Koehn beat out two senior scholarship punters to take that job, too? He said he would have no problem handling both, and special-teams coach Chris White raved about Koehn's leg strength. The Solon native is not just there to push unimpressive incumbents Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath. The punting situation was so dire in 2014, Ferentz has said simply he'll put the best punter on the field.

Strong safety

This one will probably go deep into August, but keep an eye on sophomore Miles Taylor (No. 19) and freshman Brandon Snyder (No. 37) as both battle to replace the departed John Lowdermilk. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker also brought up the name of Anthony Gair (No. 12) in the safety mix but wasn't naming a clear starter Wednesday. "The last practice I saw some stuff I liked out of Brandon Snyder," Parker said. "So we'll see. It's still a long ways to go."

Iowa linebacker Bo Bower practices with teammates at the indoor practice facility on Wednesday, April 1, 2015.   David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen


This is one position where Iowa has options. Although sophomores Ben Niemann (outside) and Bo Bower and Josey Jewell (inside) are the starters on paper, the return of senior Travis Perry from injury has him in the mix as well. Senior Cole Fisher had a pick-six in the Valley practice, and freshmen Aaron Mends and Jameer Outsey have impressed position coach Jim Reid.

Iowa wide receiver Tevaun Smith has emerged as Iowa's No. 1 option at receiver. Last season Smith caught 43 passes for 596 yards, which ranked just 16th in the Big Ten.

Wide receiver

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said there's a clear top three among wideouts in seniors Tevaun Smth and Jacob Hillyer and junior Matt VandeBerg. But who's next? Somebody needs to break through at No. 4. Sophomore Andre Harris (No. 84) has been up-and-down; sophomore Jonathan Parker (No. 10) is learning a new position; Riley McCarron (No. 83) and Andrew Stone (No. 20) have experience but lack size; and freshman Jay Scheel (No. 3) isn't completely right after a knee injury.

Iowa linemen Mitch Keppy, right, and Eric Simmons run a drill as assistant coach Brian Ferentz observes at Saturday’s open practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines.

Offensive line/center

Position coach Brian Ferentz said last week that the search was on for a backup to Blythe at center. And with injuries and attrition, the line altogether remains thin. He's raw, but one guy to watch in the trenches is true freshman James Daniels (No. 78). Brian Ferentz warned that it's tough to play offensive line as a first-year player, but Daniels — pegged as either a center or guard — enrolled for the spring semester so he's already getting more reps than the typical rookie.