Iowa football bowl practices provided more opportunities to young players. Who stood out?

NASHVILLE - Saturday's Music City Bowl against Kentucky (Saturday at 11 a.m. on ABC) comes with plenty of benefits for the Iowa football team. It's an opportunity to end the 2022 season with a win, and veteran leaders such as linebacker Jack Campbell, tight end Sam LaPorta and cornerback Riley Moss have been vocal about maximizing one last opportunity to play for the program.

But another notable benefit is the chance for the coaching staff to develop younger talent with the extra allotment of bowl practices. Though there's not a specific number prescribed by the NCAA, bowl-bound teams usually utilize 15 extra days of practice ahead of the final game. Senior defensive lineman John Waggoner noted on Tuesday that the format is similar to spring practice.

"You have to look at it like a mini spring ball and see how many strides you can take," senior defensive lineman John Waggoner said. "Coaches always talk about good stories in bowl prep about guys that take big strides."

Moss noted that bowl practices are much different in 2022 than during his freshman year in 2018. Then, players exiting via the transfer portal and bowl game opt-outs weren't as prominent. This year’s Hawkeyes had nine transfer portal exits and one bowl game opt-out (All-American safety Kaevon Merriweather). While less depth means the practices aren't as physical, it provides the perfect opening for young players to receive more reps.

"That's kind of the best part of bowl prep," Moss said. "You have so much opportunity for these young guys to get some reps and grow as players."

More:Iowa football held an open viewing period during Tuesday's practice. Here's what we saw.

Iowa defensive back Deshaun Lee has been a stock riser during the team's bowl preparation. He was seen with the second team defense during Tuesday's bowl practice.

Defensive back was one of the hardest-hit positions in terms of off-season attrition. In addition to Merriweather, two other backs in the two-deep, Reggie Bracy and Terry Roberts, entered the transfer portal. Moss said a pair of cornerbacks have taken advantage of the extra reps.

"I think (true freshman) Deshaun Lee is doing a great job and stepping up," Moss said. "Another guy who deserves credit is (sophomore) AJ Lawson. He's been doing a great job of really listening and understanding the defense more on a conceptual level which is good."

Elsewhere on Iowa's defense, Waggoner pinpointed several defensive linemen who've made strides, all true or redshirt freshmen: Brian Allen Jr., Caden Crawford, Aaron Graves, Max Llewellyn and Jeremiah Pittman.

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Quarterbacks Joe Labas and Carson May have seen their roles increase as they've assumed starter and backup duties for Saturday's game. True freshman running back Jaziun Patterson is seeing more reps, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Gennings Dunker earned praise from teammates, and senior Nico Ragaini noted two young players in the receiver room.

"If I had to highlight anyone I'd say (true freshmen) Reese Osgood and Jacob Bostick," Ragaini said. "They're two young guys who've continued to grow, they were traveling (on road games) from the middle of the year until now so just seeing them mature, grow in the offense and taking advantage of the opportunity with guys leaving is big."

It's more likely that of the two sides of the ball, the offensive newcomers will have bigger roles during Saturday's game. But the importance of building a foundation for next season cannot be understated. With a successful bowl prep season wrapping up, several young players are expected to enter the off-season with momentum.