College football is inching closer and closer to making its full-fledged return. The season itself will get underway three weeks from last night (August 31), while Iowa's season will officially kick off three weeks from tomorrow (September 2). We've almost made it through another offseason, folks. For Iowa, training camp continues apace and Saturday offers the public its one and only real look at the team until the season opener against Wyoming. As ever, it's just a practice, one of several this month, so drawing grand conclusions is not advisable. But it's still a chance to see Iowa football in some sort of action, so hey.
Gates open at Kinnick Stadium at 11 AM CT tomorrow, with the practice scheduled to start around 12 PM. Further information available here.
Here are a few things we're wondering ahead of the open practice.
1) What's Going On In The Quarterback Competition?
Is Nathan Stanley pulling away? Is Tyler Wiegers looking more comfortable? Do either Ryan Boyle or Peyton Mansell have a ghost of a chance? The answer to that last question is probably "no," but it won't stop of us from wondering a bit. But more important will be seeing if either Stanley or Wiegers has earned any separation in this QB race; the longer we go with the starting QB situation up in the air, the more nervous we get.
2) How Are The New Faces Looking?
Iowa has added a lot of exciting new talent this offseason and Saturday will be the first chance for Joe and Jill Q. Fan to see them take the field. That means getting to see super-frosh recruits like A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs, who have looked good in practice so far, per media reports and comments from the coaches. Epenesa is a lock to play this year and Wirfs seems to be pushing for action as well. In addition to stud freshmen, though, this is also an opportunity to take in Iowa's exciting grad transfer talent, James Butler and Matt Quarrels (officially at Iowa now), and get a glimpse of what they have to offer. Butler may not run too much (Iowa tends to treat its primary running backs with kid gloves during practices), but this is still the only chance fans will have to see him until September.
3) Who's Standing Out in the Passing Game?
Speaking of Quarrels and the receivers... I don't think he's been on campus too long yet, so expectations should probably be kept appropriately low for him, but any catches or moves he can flash will be welcome. Likewise, how are Iowa's other newbie receivers like Brandon Smith, Max Cooper, Ihmir Smith-Marsette progressing? Davonte Young and Adrian Falconer have garnered some praise from the coaches -- are they looking ready to contribute at receiver this year? We're curious to see the tight ends, too -- has Noah Fant leveled up? Is T.J. Hockenson ready to give Iowa a dynamic 1-2 punch at tight end? More than anything, we just want to see some signs of hope from the passing game.
4) Who's Popping on Defense?
In particular, we're really curious to see who's looking good in the secondary and how the defensive line is progressing. The linebacking unit (at least the starters) is a pretty known quantity, but there's some uncertainty elsewhere on defense. It will be useful to see how Cedrick Lattimore is looking at defensive tackle. Defensive end brings some of Iowa's most experienced performers (Parker Hesse, Anthony Nelson, Matt Nelson) but also some of its most intriguing options -- and not just Epenesa. Iowa brought in a slew of young defensive linemen last year and now they've had a year in the program (and the weight room); they shouldn't feel so overwhelmed, so it might be a chance to see who else could contribute on the line this year. Meanwhile, the secondary has a lot of questions and we're very interested to see how they're being answered so far.
What about you? What are you curious about at this year's Kids Day open practice? Hit up the comments and let us know.