IOWA CITY, Iowa — Twelve practices into training camp, Iowa football officials allowed the public to take its annual glimpse of the team in a scrimmage setting on Kids Day at Kinnick Stadium.
It’s easy to overanalyze the practice and make sweeping generalizations about players and position groups. For the coaching staff, the day isn’t treated any differently from a normal practice. So when a player or two is withheld from practice, that doesn’t mean more or less than a regular practice.
But unless coaches allow media to review practice daily, this one will get dissected more than any other. So here are five takeaways from the open practice Saturday and what it means for the rest of training camp.
Iowa’s QB competition stays open
The quarterback competition remains open and probably will for the next week or so. Sophomore Nathan Stanley moved the ball more effectively on Saturday and tossed 3 touchdowns during scrimmage situations. Based on what we saw, Stanley is more polished than junior Tyler Wiegers. However, coach Kirk Ferentz said the competition will continue.
“We’ll just let it play out,” Ferentz said. “We’ll see what happens this week. We’ve got another scrimmage on Friday night, which is another big night for us. Hopefully we’ll make a lot of strides in the next 5-6 days here and maybe the thing will be a little bit more clear then.”
A best guess is that the coaching staff reviews the results from the Friday scrimmage and makes a decision on a starter by the following Sunday (Aug. 20).
Hawkeyes found an RB in James Butler
Graduate transfer running back James Butler is a real find for Iowa. Butler showed power, shiftiness in the hole and rare acceleration in his action against the first and second units.
Butler, who played three seasons at Nevada, unofficially ran for 57 yards on 11 carries and 2 scores in scrimmage action. He’s the perfect complement to starter Akrum Wadley, and both players could split their carries evenly.
“It was good to see him run,” Ferentz said. “I thought when we went to a live period, he even looked more impressive. So he’s definitely going to help our football team.”
Additionally, Iowa showed flexibility by moving Wadley to the slot in certain passing situations. On the second unit, freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin lined up in that position. Iowa coaches are finding ways to get their best players on the field, which can only help the offense.
Iowa LBs show tenacity
Iowa’s veteran trio of linebackers showed that their instincts match their toughness, and both were on display.
Middle linebacker Josey Jewell was used sparingly, but he and weakside linebacker Bo Bower flowed to the football like the veterans they are.
“With experience, I think, comes a little bit of anticipation,” Jewell said. “I think what we all can do is anticipate what’s coming and I think we all see mostly at the same time.”
Bower posted the biggest hit of the day when he shot through the gap on a blitz and flattened running back Toks Akinribade. Rather than collect the sack — which was whistled without contact — Bower stopped when Akinribade was on his backside.
Freshmen make impact
Several freshmen will make an impact this year. Defensive end A.J. Epenesa competed with the first and second units and collected 3 sacks. He showed both quickness and burst getting around Iowa’s tackles. Other freshmen working with the second unit on defense were free safety Geno Stone, cornerback Matt Hankins and former safety now linebacker Djimon Colbert.
On offense, freshman offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs was injured in practice Thursday and did not participate on Saturday. Ferentz said the injury was nothing serious. Others rotating in with the first and second units include Kelly-Martin, wide receivers Brandon Smith, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Max Cooper and Henry Marchese and tackle Mark Kallenberger.
Expect to see at least six freshmen play this season, including as many as three at wide receiver and three in the secondary. It’s doubtful an offensive lineman sees action unless there’s an emergency, but Epenesa will receive plenty of snaps.
“He’s impressed us,” Ferentz said of Epenesa. “He definitely belongs on the varsity.”
Iowa D-line movement
With an abundance of talent at defensive end, the Hawkeyes have shifted a few players inside. Defensive end Matt Nelson, who started last season, logged all of his time at defensive tackle. On obvious passing downs, starting defensive end Parker Hesse moved inside to rush the quarterback.
“You’ve got a lot less space, things happen a lot quicker,” Hesse said of playing inside. “That’s kind of what I’ve been noticing.”
Statistics and lineups
Alongside Marc Morehouse of The Cedar Rapids Gazette, we kept track of the statistics and lineups for the practice. Here’s a look inside:
FIRST OFFENSE (first play): LT — Ike Boettger; LG — Ross Reynolds; C — James Daniels; RG — Keegan Render; RT — Sean Welsh; TE — Jon Wisnieski; WR — Devonte Young; WR — Adrian Falconer; Slot — Akrum Wadley; RB — Toren Young; QB — Tyler Wiegers
OTHERS: QB — Nathan Stanley; LT — Boone Myers, Alaric Jackson; C — Render; WR — Matt VandeBerg, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith, Dom Dafney, Max Cooper; RB — Wadley, James Butler, Ivory Kelly-Martin; TE — Noah Fant, Peter Pekar, Shaun Beyer, T.J. Hockenson; FB — Drake Kulick, Brady Ross
DNP — WR Nick Easley
SPECIAL — Young was the only wide receiver in the two-back, two-tight end set
FIRST DEFENSE (first play): DE — Anthony Nelson, Parker Hesse; DT — Cedrick Lattimore, Nathan Bazata; OLB — Ben Niemann; MLB — Josey Jewell; WLB — Bo Bower; CB — Manny Rugamba; LCB — Joshua Jackson; FS — Jake Gervase; SS — Miles Taylor
OTHERS: DT — Matt Nelson, Hesse, Brady Reiff, Jake Hulett; DE — A.J. Epenesa, Sam Brincks; MLB — Kristian Welch; NB — Michael Ojemudia
DNP — LB Jack Hockaday, S Brandon Snyder
SPECIAL — On passing downs, Hesse moved inside to play defensive tackle
SECOND/THIRD OFFENSE (first play): LT — Mark Kallenberger; LG — Cole Banwart; C — Spencer Williams; RG — Landan Paulsen; RT — Alaric Jackson; TE — Pekar, Beyer; WR — Smith, Smith-Marsette; RB — Kelly-Martin; QB — Ryan Boyle
OTHERS: QB — Wiegers, Stanley, Peyton Mansell; RB — Butler, Young, Toks Akinribade; WR — Cooper, Brandon Bishop, Dafney, Cam Harrell, Henry Marchese; TE — Drew Cook, Nate Vejvoda, Jacob Coons; RB — Marcel Joly, Kyshaun Bryan; FB — Austin Kelly; T — Myers, Banwart; G — Myers, Kyler Schott;
DNP: OL — Tristan Wirfs, Levi Paulsen
SECOND/THIRD DEFENSE (first play): DE — Epenesa, Chauncey Golston; DT — Garret Jansen, Reiff; MLB — Welch; WLB — Aaron Mends; OLB — Kevin Ward; CB — Ojemudia, Matt Hankins; SS — Amani Hooker; FS — Geno Stone
OTHERS: DE — Brandon Simon, Romeo McKnight, Jack Kallenberger; DT — Hulett, Jake Newborg, Daniel Gaffey, Austin Schulte; MLB — Kyle Taylor; WLB — Djimon Colbert; OLB — Nick Niemann, Barrington Wade; CB — Josh Turner, Trey Creamer, Cedric Boswell, S — Noah Clayberg, Wes Dvorak, John Milani, Jack Koerner
DNP: LB — Nate Wieland; DL — Levi Duwa
SPECIAL: Rugamba played nickel
FIELD GOAL: Snapper — Tyler Kluver; G — Welsh, Landan Paulsen; T — Render, Jackson; E — Brincks, Boettger; WB — Hockenson, Pekar; Holder — Colten Rastetter Kicker — Miguel Recinos/Keith Duncan
KICKOFF RETURN: Front row (left to right) — Gervase, Welch, Beyer, Hooker, Ward; Middle row — Pekar, Jones, Hockenson; Upback — Ross; Returners — Wadley/Devonte Young, Rugamba/Toren Young, Butler/Smith-Marsette
PASSING — Stanley 13-25-0-163, 3 TDs; Wiegers 7-13-0-65; Boyle 4-6-0-62; Mansell 2-5-0-49
RECEIVING — Devonte Young 2-74 (2 TDs), Brandon Smith 3-13, Butler 3-9, Beyer 2-53, Hockenson 2 for 33 (drop), Fant 2-18, Falconer 2-15 (drop), Kelly-Martin 1-25, Smith-Marsette 1-4, Cooper 1-4 (1 TD), Cook 1-4, Toren Young 1-4, Wadley 1-0
RUSHING — Butler 11-57 (2 TDs), Kelly-Martin, 9-41, Toren Young 9-25, Wadley 4-23, Joly 7-17, Akinribade 2-6, Bryan 2-2, Smith-Marsette 2-0 (fumble), Wiegers 1-8, Boyle 1-4
PENALTIES — 7 false starts, 2 holding calls, 1 delay of game
SACKS — Epenesa 3, Bower 2, Hankins, Anthony Nelson, Golston, Reiff, Bazata, Hulett, Team
FIELD GOALS — Miguel Recinos (9-9); Keith Duncan (5-9)