8 takeaways from Iowa's defensive showcase at Kinnick

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Don't judge us too harshly, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and other offensive players said Saturday after the last public viewing of Hawkeye football until Sept. 5.

Roughly 90 minutes of 11-on-11 scrimmage action was dominated — completely dominated — by the defense. Beathard was unofficially "sacked" (aka touched, which means the play was blown dead) eight times out of 35 or so drop-backs.

"Today, I think the defense got us. Obviously, they played better than we did today," Beathard said. "They brought better intensity. But you know, maybe tomorrow or the next practice, we'll get them. That's just kind of how it is during camp. We kind of flip-flop back and forth."

What does it look like when the offense wins?

"Bigger plays. Not so many three-and-outs," Beathard said.

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We'll have to take his word for it, because in three open practices in 2015 — at Valley Stadium, the spring game and Saturday's Kids Day — the first-team offense didn't score a single touchdown against the first-team defense.

"They know our signals. But that's no excuse," Beathard said. "We wish we would've played better today as an offensive unit. But it's also good to see that when your defense is doing that well, defense is going to keep you in games if the offense is going to struggle."

Seven other takeaways and observations from a scorching-hot Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium:

Dominant Drew: Drew Ott looked like Richard Dent of the 1985 Chicago Bears on Saturday, completely overwhelming new left tackle Boone Myers. Ott got to Beathard on the first play of the day and batted down his third pass attempt.

"It gets annoying sometimes, obviously," Beathard said. "But Drew's a really good player. You're just glad to have him on your team."

Myers' mental state: Breaking in two new sophomore offensive tackles has been perhaps the biggest storyline and concern for the 2015 Hawkeyes. After Ott beat Myers about midway through scrimmage action on a sack, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz's displeasure was audible throughout the stadium.

Of Myers, head coach Kirk Ferentz had this candid takeaway: "Right now, it's a mental thing in my mind, a little bit. An older brother, younger brother thing (vs. senior Ott), if you will. It's technique, that's what it really gets down to. … When he uses it correctly, he's pretty good. He's a better football player than he thinks he is right now, but that's part of practice."

Injury updates: Two senior starters, right guard Jordan Walsh and free safety Jordan Lomax, weren't in pads Saturday. Ferentz said Lomax has a bone bruise and Walsh a soft-tissue injury. "Hopefully by next week, early in the week, we'll have them both back," Ferentz said.

Iowa needs both. Brandon Snyder worked with the starters at free safety, and Eric Simmons slid to right guard in Walsh's place, with Sean Welsh taking most of the first-team reps at left guard; true freshman James Daniels worked with the 1s as well.

Kittle killing it: One of the day's offensive stars was No. 2 tight end George Kittle, who began to turn the corner in spring ball. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound junior is softening concern about starter Jake Duzey missing up to four games while recovering from knee surgery. Kittle corralled a deep middle pass from No. 2 quarterback Tyler Wiegers for a 41-yard gain late in the day. He finished with three catches for 66 yards.

New face on returns: Iowa coaches are giving their top cornerback, Desmond King, a chance to return punts this season. And now the team's top receiver, Tevaun Smith, is involved in kickoff returns after expressing his desire to coaches. "I'd love to," he said Saturday. Special teams is an extremely high priority for Ferentz, even if that means risking injury to his top players in the return game.

"Anybody that can help our special teams, they'll be in there," Ferentz said. "If we've got to rest them offensively, defensively, we'll do that. But we're not losing ground on special teams. That doesn't work. We've paid too big a price in recent history."

Beathard still looks good, Wiegers better: Unofficially, Beathard finished 10-for-24 for 106 yards in 11-on-11 Saturday. But the junior still made his mark with his best throw of the day. With Ott closing in, Beathard fired a dart down the left sideline to Matt VandeBerg, who was under blanket coverage from King. Still, Beathard dropped the ball into an almost impossible window for a 29-yard gain.

Wiegers looked more comfortable than he did in the spring, but remains inconsistent. He was unofficially 14-for-25 for 205 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown to backup fullback Drake Kulick. He also telegraphed a pass that Sean Draper turned into a pick-six.

Clogging the run: The longest run the first-team defense allowed Saturday was six yards to Derrick Mitchell Jr. Even if the offensive line is struggling and the defense partially knows what's coming, that's an encouraging sign after some of last season's run-game struggles against Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Tennessee. Defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson has turned heads with his physicality.


Note: These were compiled by The Register; Iowa does not provide stats for practices.

Passing—C.J. Beathard 10-for-24, 106 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT; Tyler Wiegers 14-for-25, 205 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Ryan Boyle 2-for-3, 7 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT; Drew Cook 1-for-3, 7 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT.

Rushing—LeShun Daniels Jr. 2-(-2), Jordan Canzeri 2-(-4), Akrum Wadley 16-51, Derrick Mitchell Jr. 12-35, Marcel Joly 5-17, Eric Graham 4-10.

Receiving—Jerminic Smith 4-28, George Kittle 3-66, Matt VandeBerg 3-37, Drake Kulick 2-54, Riley McCarron 2-24, Jay Scheel 2-21, Tevaun Smith 2-19, Nate Wieting 2-8, Peter Pekar 1-19, Henry Krieger-Coble 1-12, Jonathan Parker 1-8, Derrick Mitchell Jr. 1-8, Nate Vejvoda 1-6, Jacob Hillyer 1-3.