IOWA CITY, Iowa — The final week of Iowa spring football is here. Yes, it’s almost over. It’s hard to believe considering spring weather has yet to arrive for more than just the occasional glimpse on campus.
With the spring game set for Friday, here are five questions for the these final days of practice.
1. What growth does Brian Ferentz see?
The biggest event leading up to the game is the press conference with the coordinators on Tuesday.
For Ferentz, the offensive coordinator, the most important question is if he is seeing improvement in an offense that was inconsistent last season. Essentially, that means if he’s seeing the necessary growth from the skill positions.
Wide receiver was a major problem holding back the offense the last two seasons. Growth there is a must. Running back is inexperienced, full of potential and must replace two-time 1,000-yard rusher Akrum Wadley.
Saying Iowa’s offense will go as its skill position players go is oversimplifying things. Finding interior offensive line replacements for center James Daniels and guard Sean Welsh is important.
But the play of the wide receivers limited the ability of the offense in recent seasons. Iowa can’t afford the skill positions to do it for a third one.
2. What is Brandon Smith doing?
This is an offshoot of the first question. By all accounts, Brandon Smith is following up an impressive winter with just as impressive of a spring, with wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland calling him a “force to be reckoned with.”
Even though consistency is still an issue, Smith appears on the verge of the breakout the Hawkeyes desperately need.
Is Ferentz seeing the same things as Copeland? How does he plan to utilize his 6-foot-3, 219-pound sophomore? How will Smith perform during the spring game?
3. What’s going on at linebacker?
Replacing all three starting linebackers is the biggest question the defense faces. The press conference with defensive coordinator Phil Parker on Tuesday is the first time he’ll speak on what he is seeing.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said five linebackers — Aaron Mends, Jack Hockaday, Amani Jones, Kristian Welch, Nick Niemann — have played well during a Big Ten teleconference on Wednesday.
What have they done? What more do they need to do? Is the unit making enough progress?
Parker can shed some light on the situation.
4. How excited is Brian Ferentz with his quarterbacks?
Quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe was subdued when discussing his quarterbacks last week, but his comments on starter Nate Stanley going from student to teacher indicated a possible breakthrough for the signal caller.
What is Brian Ferentz seeing from Stanley? Will he open up the offense more for Stanley in 2018? Will his comments about Stanley be as interesting as O’Keefe’s?
5. Will the spring game take place?
After a slew of Midwest programs canceled its spring game, the question needs to be asked.
The Kinnick Stadium construction is already limiting what the Hawkeyes can do with the spring game. Only 70 or 80 yards of the field will be usable on Friday.
Bad weather is the biggest issue in contesting it. It’s why programs such as Iowa State, Wisconsin and Michigan didn’t host spring games this past weekend.
The early weather returns are positive. No rain is in the forecast and temperatures are to be in the 50s. The worst-case scenario likely involves Iowa moving its workout into the indoor facility.