This item was authored by HawkeyeGameFilm, a former BCS conference football player and a person who has done scouting work for high school, college and professional football teams. What follows are his thoughts on Iowa’s offense during their final Saturday practice.
I was in attendance at the Iowa spring scrimmage on Saturday and took some notes. No doubt the biggest change we saw from the offense was the consistent no huddle approach. Iowa was hustling up to the line and was getting lined up quickly. It’s a clear break from the past where Iowa would only use the hurry up approach for a series or two. Overall it feels like a good change and Iowa should be a well conditioned team that is able to be fresh in the 4th quarter of games. I liked the hurry up change up paired with the decision to have an actual scrimmage as well. Let’s look at the skill guys and how things looked from my view.
Depth Chart: Rudock/Sokol/Beathard
The QB battle looked to be alive and well in Kinnick on Saturday and all three QBs had some bright spots. Rudock looks the best on the set routes and pre-determined throws to the outside. Sokol looks to be the best at throwing on the move and also looks good using his legs to create when no one is open. Beathard showed some excellent touch and timing on throws down the seam and was able to churn out some plays with his legs as well.
As far as ability to lead drives, both Sokol and Rudock shined to me. Rudock showed pretty good command in the no huddle but isn’t as big of a threat to keep the ball in the zone read as Sokol is. Sokol looks very comfortable in the zone read and also showed good instincts as to when to escape the pocket. It may seem like a small thing, but I thought the timing and velocity on bubble screens was excellent from all three QBs in this scrimmage. In particular, I liked the way Sokol got up to the line quickly after 1st downs and got everyone lined up and zipped a bubble screen out on the edge for an easy 7-8 yard gain. Plays like that will help Iowa’s WRs gain confidence and keep the chains moving on drives.
As far as mistakes, all three QBs made some. Rudock & Sokol each had a fumble; Rudock was stripped by McMinn from the blind-side and Sokol had a fumbled exchange w/back up Center Tommy Gaul. Rudock threw a dangerous deep stop route that almost resulted in an INT. Beathard missed some reads and at times took his eyes off receivers down the field. Beathard also surprisingly under-threw a couple of deep balls. Sokol also struggled to see the field a few times & had a few too many throws batted down. Overall I was pretty impressed with the lack of big mistakes from the QBs and the mistakes they did make look pretty correctable.
The way I see the QB battle: Rudock is your best QB in the pocket and on schedule; Sokol is your best QB off schedule and out of the pocket. Beathard has a lot of raw talent but looks like he isn’t ready just yet. He should continue to progress and his time will come, but this Spring he looks a step behind the other two QBs. As to who you start? If there were a game tomorrow I would guess both Rudock and Sokol would see time, but we’ve still got fall camp ahead where either guy could take control. The good news is, Iowa looks to be deep at QB and will not be short of options in 2013.
Depth Chart: Weisman/Bullock, Canzeri
Iowa doesn’t have that one clear cut option at RB, but appears to have a nice RB by committee setup going into ’13. I’ve thought for awhile that Canzeri would emerge as the strongest option at RB and he made some big time plays in Kinnick Saturday. Canzeri may be undersized, but he darts in and out of traffic and can get lost in the wash. He also has incredibly quick feet and does a great job dodging penetration in the backfield; a key attribute when facing B1G opponents who will often slant DTs & crash LBs trying to stop Iowa’s zone running game.
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Mark Weisman and Bullock are the guys everyone knows from their work in ’12 and both should be able to contribute heavily in 2012. Weisman’s biggest struggles come at dodging initial penetration and he becomes very limited in what he can do if it has to stop and start multiple times. Weisman’s strength will always be those downhill plays where he can get a clean lane to build up speed to become a living hammer.
Bullock doesn’t have the level of quickness Canzeri does or the power Weisman does, but he does show good vision, a little wiggle to his style, and he is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. So much so that Bullock is still being considered to take some reps at WR. If that change were to be made it’s likely that it would be done because the coaching staff has confidence in Michael Malloy as an option at RB.
I thought Malloy looked pretty strong in the scrimmage and showed some serious burst and acceleration. He runs a bit high at times but builds speed quickly looks to have the long speed to take it to the house. He did break some tackles when he got his pads down but he doesn’t appear to be a real pile mover at this point. Mallow looked like he needs a clear lane to get started but it’s nice to have a 4th option at RB with this kind of ability. All in all the RB position looks like it will be strong and should help whoever the new starting QB is to settle in.
Rest: Shumpert, Wilson, Haluska
The WR situation continues to be a little murky and there are definitely reps up for grabs. The starters were KMM & Tevaun Smith, the same as with the Des Moines open practice. KMM had a solid day and was able to make some plays in the short passing game. Smith however struggled to make plays in even the short passing game and dropped a deep ball that he got both his hands on. Smith has been a WR I’ve been waiting to break out since fall camp of last year; he’s an excellent blend of speed, size and body control but just hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. He earned reps at the end of ’12 and has the tools to be a play maker but has struggled to emerge thus far.
As far as the rest of the WRs go, I thought Jake Hillyer had some nice plays. He worked with the first team offense mostly and looks to be a step or two quicker than he was in ’12. He has excellent size and is a big physical WR. Hillyer is also an excellent blocker and that could be big in the bubble screen game. Hillyer had a block to spring Canzeri for his 46 TD reception during the scrimmage as well.
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Cam Wilson had an excellent day and caught everything thrown his way. He also was coming up with plays down the field which is an area Iowa’s offense desperately needs some help. Wilson ran excellent routes in the scrimmage and was showing excellent fluidity and was tempo-ing his routes well. Towards the end of the scrimmage he had consecutive big plays on a deep dig/broken off route, and a post corner. The dig was an off-schedule throw from Rudock who had rolled out of the pocket and extended the play. For Iowa’s offense to be successful these are the kinds of plays they will need.
I thought Blake Haluska had some good plays out there, including a spectacular juggling catch along the sideline. Haluska got behind the defense numerous times but Iowa’s QBs weren’t able to connect with him on the deep ball. Once it looked like he was over-thrown but on the other he slowed down on his route and wasn’t able to catch up to it. He also seemed to have a pretty good handle on when to break off his routes as well, which is very important in Greg Davis’s system. Overall Haluska needs more consistency but looks like he might get a shot to contribute.
All in all it wasn’t a great day for the WRs but it wasn’t all bad either. The lack of a proven down-field threat on the outside is still a pretty glaring weakness for this group. Iowa needs to find a way to back teams off the LOS and it’s an awful lot easier if you have a big play WR who is a threat to hit a home run at any time.
Y: CJF, Hamilton
H: Duzey, HCK
Overall it was a pretty quiet day for the TEs, but they did see more targets when the team was in the red zone.It was also nice to see Ray Hamilton get some looks on the waggle and play action passing game as well. The routes for the TEs was pretty much what you’d expect: Y-stick, drags/under routes off PA, slow-block out off PA, an occasional corner route, and some seam routes. The lone TD of the day for the TEs came on a seam route by Jake Duzey who broke wide open as he cleared the LB who as trying to match up with him. I did focus on this group in terms of the blocking, especially on the edge. I thought Iowa’s use of the move TE to open the edge on their stretch and outside zone looks was some good scheming. Several times Iowa was able to get the edge with a TE leading the way vs a CB. Both Duzey and HCK were able to do this a couple of times and open the lane. After seeing them twice this spring, this TE group has a lot of ability and should be a strength for the offense in ’13.