Iowa discovers depth at two key positions in spring game
I OWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa's 15 spring football practices ended with Saturday's scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium, and now coaches will scatter in a monthlong recruiting binge.
When everyone gets back at it this summer, there will be positions of reasonable comfort and concern. Here's a little of each.
FEELING GOOD ABOUT ...
The running backs
The limited usage of LeShun Daniels Jr. and Jordan Canzeri on Saturday was smart, and it allowed Akrum Wadley (80 yards) and Derrick Mitchell Jr. (53 yards) to shine. Coach Kirk Ferentz said Wadley still runs like he's in high school (going for the big play instead of taking a sure 4-yard gain), but there's visible depth here. "With those four guys, we have something to work with," Ferentz said.
Senior backups Travis Perry and Cole Fisher are providing excellent support for sophomore (listed) starters Josey Jewell, Bo Bower and Ben Niemann. Fisher picked off Tyler Wiegers. Jewell looked comfortable in his new role of middle linebacker. Bower was noticeable in run support. "Right now, it's almost flip a coin with all five of the guys in terms of who the starter would be," Ferentz said.
Desmond King didn't get much action Saturday. That's because the third-year starting cornerback was a blanket in pass coverage. Star receiver Tevaun Smith was held to one catch for nine yards, and that was on a screen pass, and Jordan Lomax has taken a step forward in his second year at free safety.
CONCERNED ABOUT ...
The punting game
The punting tryouts will go deep into the summer, Ferentz said, between Dillon Kidd, Connor Kornbarth and Marshall Koehn. It was tough to judge the trio Saturday with wind affecting each punt differently, but Kidd would be the starter if the season started today. He averaged 46 yards on three punts Saturday; he averaged 38.5 a year ago.
Wide receiver depth
Jacob Hillyer committed another drop of a C.J. Beathard pass and only had one catch for nine yards. (Remember the one he dropped in the end zone last year at Purdue?) He is part of Iowa's clear top three at wideout. A sign that the coaching staff is seeking depth: Redshirt freshman Joshua Jackson was switched from defensive back to receiver about 10 days ago. He dropped the only pass thrown to him.
The No. 1 offensive line
The day's longest play was a 24-yard run by Wadley, but that was when the first-team offense was going against a defense of reserves. Beathard didn't have a lot of time to throw when it was 1s vs. 1s. "They got after us a little bit," Beathard said. "Drew (Ott) and Nate (Meier) — the whole defensive line's good. That's good for us, because hopefully they'll be doing it to other quarterbacks when we play them."