The Iowa football team held its annual Kids Day yesterday. This also happens to serve as an open practice, and is the public’s first opportunity to see the how the Hawkeyes look heading into the season. Our BCDivide was running a booth at the Adel Sweet Corn Festival so we were unable to attend the open practice, but the following notes provide a cliff notes version of updates out of the event:
- Nathan Stanley appears to be running away with the #1 position at QB. If you listen to the coaching staff then you would be led to believe that this is a still a competition. Even though both Stanley and Tyler Wiegers were splitting reps with the first group yesterday it was pretty clear that Stanley is the better option. He was always the first player to get reps with the ones, and when he had his chances he was much more effective. Stanley threw 3 TD passes during the scrimmage portion of practice including one deep ball to WR Devonte Young. Wiegers struggled most of the day, and kept having issues with getting balls batted down at the line of scrimmage.
- James Butler looked sharp. Akrum Wadley didn’t get a lot of touches (I’m sure this is by design). They did show several formations where Wadley was split out into the slot. This is encouraging news. Beyond Wadley and Butler it appears the Hawks have a couple other encouraging options in the backfield. Toren Young continues to look good, and true freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin has been impressive. So impressive in fact that it appears he may have jumped Toks Akinribade on the depth chart.
- The TE position continues to look like a strength. Fant, Hockenson, and Beyer all made plays yesterday. It’s clear the Hawkeye coaching staff plans to make them a cornerstone of this offense.
- There was a lot of shuffling around on the offensive line. The coaching staff is trying to figure out what is the best combination of players to use up front. Keegan Render and Ross Reynolds are two young guys who appear to have inserted themselves into the competition for playing time. This comes as a bit of a surprise to me. This is the same offensive line that returned four starters from a year ago… a year in which they won the Joe Moore award that goes to the best line in the country. It’s pretty impressive if a couple of younger guys are competing for playing time with such a vaunted group of experienced players returning.
- AJ Epenesa is a BEAST. The 5 star freshman phenom appears poised to make an immediate impact at the defensive end position. Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse were getting reps at the DT position yesterday. Both of these guys have been defensive ends their entire career. The coaches are trying to get their best players on the field, and if Epenesa is pushing for playing time at defensive end then Hesse and Nelson could be moved inside. The Hawks could have quite a pass rush in 3rd and long situations with Epenesa, M. Nelson, Hesse, and Anthony Nelson all on the field at the same time. The bottom line here is that Epenesa is going to be special. Not once in my time as a Hawkeye fan have I seen a true freshman player look as ready to go as he is.
- Jewell, Bower, and Ben Niemann were all swarming to the ball. They are going to be a special group to watch. Hawkeye fans have really been spoiled with their team’s linebacker play over the years. It sure looks like it’s going to be more of the same this year.
- Manny Rugumba and Josh Jackson both played well at CB. True freshman Matt Hankins also appears to be putting himself in position for playing time. At safety, Miles Taylor and Jake Gervase appear to have the starting positions locked down. Noah Clayberg, Amani Hooker, and true freshman Geno Stone are all impressing.
- Miguel Recinos had a much better day than Keith Duncan. It’s a safe bet that he has earned the starting role at kicker. This is a bit of a surprise as Duncan was widely believed to be the favorite going into the season.