IOWA CITY, Iowa – This year’s training camp schedule had Iowa holding its eighth practice Saturday at the annual Kids Day in Kinnick Stadium. It’s usually workout 12 for this event.
As you would expect, with four fewer practices behind them, the Hawkeyes experienced some struggles. If there weren’t a record number of penalty flags thrown, it had to be in the ballpark.
At a time of year when the defense usually holds the upper hand on the offense, that scales were tipped even more that way. Iowa had very little flow in moving the ball.
Still, it was good to get our first and only look at the Hawkeyes working out before kicking off the season Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois. There were plenty of positives coming out of the practice, providing hope that it could be a successful fall if things continue coming together.
Here are my notes and observations from the day:
-Head coach Kirk Ferentz hasn’t seen much, if any, separation in the race for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind starter Nate Stanley. Redshirt freshman Peyton Mansell and true freshman Spencer Petras, who enrolled in January, received a fairly even amount of reps on Saturday.
It was only one practice (and this should be noted in all of these observations), but Mansell looked better on this day. He threw some nice passes, showing both arm strength and touch, and also appeared more comfortable than did Petras in running the offense. They both worked with the second and third teams, so their surrounding personnel was similar.
-It looked like Nick Niemann and Amani Jones are well in the lead for starting linebacker spots. The other position appeared open. Ferentz said Kristian Welch, Djimon Colbert and true freshman Seth Benson were in the mix for it. They all worked with the first and second teams on Saturday.
-As we said, it’s good to keep things in perspective when watching only one practice. It really is a small sample size.
That said, we received our first look at the true freshmen. Benson played well and didn’t look like he just recently showed up on campus. The same can be said for fellow linebacker Dillon Doyle, who arrived in January. I think there’s a good chance we see them on special teams, at least.
Outside of Benson and Doyle, cornerback Julius Brents stood out the most among first-year players. He appeared to be in the thick of the race for the next man in behind starters Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia. D.J. Johnson also saw some second team reps along with redshirt freshmen Josh Turner and Trey Creamer.
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Tyler Linderbaum from Solon worked with the No. 2s at defensive tackle. Ferentz said he’s in the mix for playing time. Noah Shannon took some second-team reps on the defensive line interior as well. He and Linderbaum both looked physically capable of seeing action.
Henry Geil showed up as the fourth team running back behind Toren Young, Ivory Kelly-Martin and Mehki Sargent. Fellow true freshman Samson Evans appeared to be No. 5 and looked natural at the position despite playing option quarterback in high school.
Keep an eye on Nico Ragaini at wide receiver. He received the most reps among the first-year players at the position.
-On the offensive line, Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson worked as the starting tackles despite being suspended for the season opener. Levi Paulsen backed up Wirfs on the right side with Mark Kallenberg behind Jackson on the left.
Ross Reynolds and Cole Banwart lined up with the first team at left and right guard, respectively. Keegan Render was the No. 1 center with Levi Duwa behind him. Dalton Ferguson and Landan Paulsen were the second-team guards.
-The first-team defensive front featured four in-state products in Anthony Nelson and Parker Hesse at end, and Matt Nelson and Sam Brincks at tackle. Brady Reiff and Cedrick Lattimore, both suspended for the first game, saw a lot of reps on the inside as did Garret Jansen.
A.J. Epenesa played a lot at end. Chauncey Golston worked on the inside and outside.
Iowa showed a third-down package with Golston and Hesse on the inside with Anthony Nelson and Epenesa on the outside.
-We didn’t see much from the punters on Saturday. When asked about them, Ferentz said he could tell us more the next time the media meets with him.
-The kickers missed just one field goal all day. Starter Miguel Recinos showed he’s not in danger of losing the job, though, banging through 50-yarders with ease.
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-The receiver position was led by the foursome of Nick Easley, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Kyle Groeneweg and Brandon Smith. Ferentz acknowledge that the quartet was ahead of the pack right now. He also mentioned Max Cooper as a guy trending up.
-A few players were held out with injuries on Saturday. Backup linebacker Barrington Wade, who is pushing for playing time, was in uniform but limited. Ferentz expected him back on Monday.
Backup defensive tackle Dalles Jacobus was in street clothes as were true freshmen Jayden McDonald (linebacker) and Cody Ince (offensive line).
Second-year running back Kyshaun Bryan was not at practice. Ferentz said he was not among the 105 players invited to training camp but did not indicate he had left the team.
Iowa can go beyond the 105-player limit when school starts a week from Monday.
-Safety is a position in need of developing depth. Starters Amani Hooker and Jake Gervase are solid as is backup Geno Stone.
That trio played well Saturday as did forth man John Milani. After that, we saw true freshmen Kaevon Merriweather and, to a lesser extent, Dallas Craddieth and Riley Moss.