WHAT: Iowa Football open practice
WHEN: Friday, April 7, 2017
START TIME: 6:30 PM CT
WHERE: Valley Stadium (West Des Moines, IA)
ONLINE: http://www.hawkeyesports.com/watch/ (free?)
The first of our two publicly accessible glimpses of Iowa football takes place tonight in West Des Moines at Valley Stadium, where Iowa is
invading er, swarming Des Moines to bring Hawkeye football a bit closer to fans in the central and western parts of the state. It's just a practice -- one of about 15 total this spring -- and it's not even clear how much scrimmage-type action will take place (there figures to be more of that activity at the actual spring game in Iowa City in two weeks, on April 21). But hey -- this is one of our only looks at Iowa football until the season gets underway in September, so we might as well see if we can learn much from this appearance. (More information about the open practice and the promotions for fans is available here.)
Speaking of that... here's a few things we're curious about tonight.
1) Who's catching passes?
It's a hallowed Hawkeye fan tradition to anoint Spring Game Superstar status to some lucky receiver; we'll wait until the actual spring game in a few weeks to do that for this year's squad, but maybe we'll get a few hints at who it might be during this open practice. More importantly, though, how are the receivers looking? Are they getting open? Are they actually catching the ball? Has Jerminic Smith been able to find that elusive measure of consistency? Devonte Young is a possible breakthrough candidate for Iowa this fall -- how's he looking? What about JUCO guys like Ronald Nash, Dominique Dafney, Yale Van Dyne, and Nick Easley? Spring is usually their time to shine.
2) Who's getting carries?
We won't see much of Akrum Wadley tonight, which is just fine. We all saw the games last year; we know exactly how he can use and abuse defenses. Just keep him healthy 'til fall. But the better question is which backs are getting carries and how they're looking. Someone is going to shoulder the rushing load with Wadley next year after all. Toks Akinribade and Toren Young are the favorites for that duty -- so let's see what they can do to get us excited.
3) What's the defensive line doing?
There were questions aplenty on the defensive line to begin with after the departures of Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie last year and the injury that's been limiting Nathan Bazata this spring, but recent injuries to some of Iowa's defensive ends has made things even murkier in the defensive trenches. The good news is that whatever DL Iowa rolls out on Friday will almost certainly be replaced by something different -- and better -- by fall (assuming good health). In the meantime, this should give us an early look at the guys battling for time at defensive tackle as well as the depth behind the Nelsons and Parker Hesse at defensive end.
4) How's the secondary look?
Iowa's also got a lot of new faces in the secondary, with two senior cornerbacks gone and a new(ish) face at strong safety. That said, many of the new faces there aren't all that "new" -- Miles Taylor has started several games at strong safety in His Iowa career and Manny Rugamba had a celebrated string of starts at cornerback to end the regular season last year. Even Joshua Jackson has seen semi-regular duty at cornerback over the last few years. But this is still a chance to see how they're all settling into their starting roles.
5) What about the quarterbacks?
Nathan Stanley is the widely-presumed starter -- does his performance back that up? How does Wiegers look? Are Cook or Boyle challenging for a spot on the QB depth chart at all? The QB picture at Iowa has been dominated by Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard for four years now, but now we're going to see something brand new, which is exciting.
As always, this disclaimer applies to pretty much everything: it's just one practice. A good performance (or a bad performance) may be a sign of a consistent trend -- or it may be a one-off aberration. So we should probably include a few handfuls of salt with all of our observations.
Feel free to post your thoughts and observations in the comments below, whether you're attending the practice, watching it online, or just musing about Iowa football.