Iowa Football — Notes from West Des Moines

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On a cold, windy day at West Des Moines Valley Stadium, the Hawkeye faithful got their first look at the 2015-16 iteration of the Iowa football team at the annual open practice.

The team, of course, didn’t show too much, but a few questions were still answered.

Line

Iowa’s current first-team offensive line (left-to-right) is Cole Croston, Boone Myers, Sean Welsh, Keegan Render, and Ike Boettger. As a whole, the unit looked solid, though it was not a full contact practice, making it hard to get a grasp on what the group will look like when all is said and done.

Welsh is still a work-in-progress at center and had several low snaps, though not enough to be a cause for panic — after all, it’s still about five months until Miami (OH) visits Kinnick Stadium for the season opener. With James Daniels out with an injury and Austin Blythe having graduated, its not a surprise the position is a bit of a question mark.

Depending on how Welsh progresses, Daniels may end up slotted into Render’s guard spot instead of going to center. Render has the least experience of the group and might be the odd man out once the talented Daniels returns.

On the other side of the line, Matt Nelson did not practice due to a rolled ankle suffered a few days ago. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz did not seem particularly worried by the injury and the 6-foot-8 Cedar Rapids product should be back soon.

Jaleel Johnson and Nate Bazata started at defensive tackle, with Parker Hesse at the other end spot.

Backs

Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels split reps with the first team as expected. Each will be critical to Iowa’s success this season.

Derrick Mitchell Jr. remains injured and Marcel Joly led the second team, but there seems to be a bit of depth at the position once again this season.

Drake Kulick is currently the first-string fullback and looks like he has bulked up considerably. He’ll be taking over a position that was held down by Adam Cox and Macon Plewa over the past two years and has some very big shoes to fill.

Ferentz also went out of his way to mention Brady Ross, another fullback, several times and it wouldn’t be a shock if he sees some time this year as well.

Beathard, receivers

Iowa’s starting wide receivers were also as expected: Matt VandeBerg, Jerminic Smith, and Riley McCarron.

However, several other receivers also saw time with the first-stringers.

In fact, one of the highlights of the day was a nicely thrown deep ball from Beathard to wide receiver Jay Scheel. Emmanuel Ogwo and Jonathan Parker also saw significant snaps and there is obviously a bit of competition at the position.

George Kittle is firmly entrenched as the starting tight end, but behind him things start to get interesting. Jameer Outsey, the second-stringer behind Kittle in the initial spring depth chart, didn’t get any reps. Instead, Iowa went to Peter Pekar and Jon Wisnieski when it switched to a double tight end formation.

The Hawkeyes were also playing around with Kittle as part of a trips formation, which the team utilized last year as well. Extremely athletic, he seems well suited for the part.

Defensive secondary, linebackers

One of the biggest impressions from the day was defensive back Josh Jackson’s continued development.

Wearing a red no-contact shirt, Jackson made quite a few nice places throughout the course of the practice, including a nice interception of Beathard. He should be in the running for playing time when the season rolls around.

Anthony Gair and Brandon Snyder were solid at the safety positions. Desmond King was Desmond King.

At linebacker, Iowa went with Bo Bower, Josey Jewell and Aaron Mends. Bower did not look particularly good and will likely be overtaken by a healthy Ben Niemann.

Favorite drill.

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Special teams

Both Mick Ellis and Miguel Recinos kicked, each getting four attempts in the scrimmage portion of the practice.

Ellis hit from 37, 46, and 47 yards, missing from 52. Recinos made the 37, 47 and 52-yard kicks, failing to convert the try from 46.

Colten Rastetter seems to have the punting job locked down for now, though it was hard to draw any real conclusions with how gusty the wind was.

King is still the primary punt returner and should be a lock for that position as well.

Other stuff

Drew Ott’s decision is expected within the week, according to Ferentz.

There’s apparently only one conversation left to have with the NCAA and that will be the final decision. With the draft three weeks away, the clock continues to tick as Ott tries to figure out his future.

Ferentz also had a little to say about the ending of satellite camps and apparently was not a huge fan of them.

Iowa will now continue it’s spring practice schedule, which will wrap up in a few weeks with the April 23 spring game.

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