Iowa's offense works on run-pass option plays during Tuesday's football practice in Nashville

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register

NASHVILLE − After a month headlined by heavy transfer portal activity and a busy early signing day, Iowa football is in Tennessee preparing for Saturday's Music City Bowl against Kentucky (11 a.m., ABC).

Most of Iowa's December practices were held in Iowa City. Now they Hawkeyes are putting the final touches on the game plan at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, shown during the Nov. 25 game against Nebraska, is one bowl win shy of tying Joe Paterno for most bowl wins as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Ferentz has a 9-9 bowl record at Iowa.

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Iowa held a 20-minute open viewing period for the media on Tuesday morning, the first of two (the second will be held on Wednesday). It allowed for a glimpse of how the team is preparing for the Wildcats just a few days before kickoff. Here are a few observations:

  • Quarterback-center exchanges were a focus early on. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz called out handoff plays for the quarterbacks to execute both under center and out of shotgun. Joe Labas was paired with starting center Logan Jones, Carson May was with backup Mike Myslinski, and the surprise No. 3 quarterback: tight end Sam LaPorta, paired with Tyler Elsbury. Wide receiver Diante Vines also took some snaps under center.
  • Injured quarterback Spencer Petras stayed near the young quarterbacks, offering support and additional coaching alongside Ferentz.
  • Wide receiver Brody Brecht was not a participant in pads. He was hampered early this season by a soft tissue injury.
  • LaPorta and defensive back Cooper DeJean were full participants on offense/defense and special teams. They sustained late-season injuries but are expected to play Saturday.
  • The starting offensive line went as follows (left to right): Mason Richman, Connor Colby, Logan Jones, Gennings Dunker and Nick DeJong.
  • The second-string offensive line featured Jack Dotzler, Tyler Elsbury, Mike Myslinski, Beatu Stephens and Jack Plumb.
  • Iowa's first- and second-team offense focused on run-pass option plays against the scout-team defense. The majority of the formations were two- and three-tight end sets. The first-team wide receivers were Nico Ragaini and Diante Vines, and the second-team receivers were Jacob Bostick and Jack Johnson.
  • The first- and second-team defense also worked against the run versus the scout-team offense. Linebackers coach Seth Wallace stressed to the safeties about the importance of filling the gaps to prevent big runs. True freshman cornerback Deshaun Lee appears to have moved up the depth chart; he was one of the second-team corners along with fellow freshman TJ Hall.
  • Special teams were on full display. During one period, there were two punt units operating on each side of the field with two groups of blockers/gunners rotating.
  • The viewing period ended with ball security drills. Offensive players went through a circuit keeping the ball secure from strips while defenders worked on creating turnovers within their respective position groups.