Iowa let the fans and media in on an open practice before the usual one spring snapshot we normally get and this time they took their show on the road. 8,000 Iowa fans filed into Valley Stadium in West Des Moines to watch Iowa practice.
Here’s the obligatory ‘it’s only one practice so you can’t draw any real conclusions’ disclaimer.
MVP’S: If I had to pick a few names who jumped out at me, they’d be Jordan Canzeri, Riley McCarron and anyone playing tight end.
Canzeri looked real good out there and probably ran better than any of the running backs in Saturday’s practice. He was cutting well, showed good vision and hit the hole with acceleration. You certainly couldn’t tell that he tore his ACL less than 13 months ago. If you wanted to play a prop bet game as to who gets the most carries this year between Canzeri, Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman, I’d probably lay my Monopoly money on Weisman given the kind of runner he is, but Canzeri is going to get some touches as he and Bullock will spend some time in the slot, too.
Riley McCarron is a 5-9/182-pound freshman from Dubuque who caught nearly everything thrown his way and from the sounds of it, he’s done that all camp long. He played mostly in the slot in a Wes Welker-style way. I am not drawing comparisons there, but that’s just what comes to mind probably because he wears 83 and is pasty just like Welker, too. If he keeps it up, you’d have to think he gets some reps this year at a position where no one really distinguished themselves on Sunday.
Every Iowa quarterback found CJ Fiedorowicz on Sunday and CJ caught a handful of balls 20-plus yards. That was a nice change from what we saw last season where he caught just one of those in a game, against Nebraska in the season finale. Ray Hamilton made some nice plays, too as Iowa is just loaded at this position and most of the tight ends showed their skills.
Speaking of tight ends; Iowa showed a lot of full back on the day with Adam Cox getting several looks along with Mark Weisman in when Bullock carried the ball. Bullock didn’t do much of anything on this day and changed over to #5, too. There were very few things on offense that didn’t look familiar. In fact, I can’t think of anything.
QUARTERBACKS: If I were forced to make a pick for the opening game starter, I think it will be Jake Rudock. From the one day look we had on Sunday, I don’t think there is a great deal that separates Rudock and CJ Beathard, but again this was just one practice. Beathard has the best arm of the three (Cody Sokol being the third) and his throws have more velocity. I think he has the most upside, but then again I once thought the same of Jake Christensen as it related to he and Ricky Stanzi. Translation; take it for what it’s worth. At least from this day, Sokol was the three but none of the quarterbacks inspired confidence. That said, the wind was pretty strong which was pushing the throws when it was in their backs and knocking them down going the other way. When it came to the live drills, Iowa practiced with the wind at their back.
Rudock: Seems mechanical, towards the robotic side. How does he react when something breaks down? Can he throw on the run after the rehearsed footwork has to be abandoned? Throws the best spiral of the three.
Beathard: Biggest upside, at least in my opinion. Doesn’t always throw the best spiral, but his throws get to where they are going in a hurry if he wants to, yet he shows enough poise to ease off the gas on the underneath throws.
Sokol: Has improved his throwing motion but can easily fall back into his old habits of his three-quarters and sometimes a sidearm delivery.
We knew this would be a position of concern going into the spring session and it remains so. I would think Iowa will play more than one quarterback this season.
NOTES: The offensive line looked good, and they are a solid group. The defensive line still has a lot of room to grow before the year begins, but at least the players on the inside look the part physically. Faith Ekakitie was out at end and he is a big fella there. Jaleel Johnson eats up space but isn’t going to turn your head laterally at this point in time. Linebacker is the best position on the defense but the line is going to have to improve to keep the offensive linemen off of Iowa’s backers.
Iowa added Chris White as running backs coach and he also assists with special teams. He was the special teams coach of the Minnesota Vikings and you could tell he has already made an impact, at least with some new drills Iowa was running. There were more punting/return drills than I can recall Iowa running at these practices and they were turned into competitions…one on one gunner and blocker competitions and then two on one gunners vs return man competitions. That keeps things fresh and I am sure the players enjoy that level of competition.
Valley High School officials estimated 8,000 fans showed for the open practice. There were some early sprinkles and dark skies and the rains came back again late in the day, but it was a good showing for the event.