Each year, the Big Ten Network (or BTN) travels the conference and takes in one practice session leading up to the upcoming season.
This year, Iowa led off the tour with a BTN stop in Iowa City on August 8th. The BTN talent sent out a few weeks during the course of the day, which you can read in total at this link.
My friend Steve Deace and I have joked through the past few years that there is a bit of code breaking work that must be done related to some of these comments. Such as if you see or hear anything remotely negative (or not positive) from the BTN crew, you need to add a few more notches of negative effect to what you are ready, as the BTN crew is not going to rip into anything. If they say something positive, that’s even more tricky when you are trying to apply value to the commentary.
I should say here that I don’t think the BTN should be overly critical of teams or players. That’s not their stated mission and if they did that, their access to practices would be significantly limited.
That said, here is my attempt at deciphering their tweets from Wednesday using my own BTN Rosetta Stone instincts.
JM ROSETTA: No coach is going to say ‘Well, we’re screwed in the running game so we’re going to throw it 70 percent of the time’ at this stage of the game. That said, Shumpert has to emerge this year, as does about every receiver on the roster.
JM ROSETTA: I have been saying this all winter, spring and summer; the Iowa offensive line is going to be just fine and I think it has a chance to be one of the best three in the league. Blythe is battling Conor Boffeli, who is a very good player you haven’t seen play. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Boffeli in the mix at RG if Matt Tobin isn’t consistent. Walsh is also a beast in the making. There is a lot of talent on this line. As for Bullock, I just don’t feel he’s going to be the bell cow this year. More on that in a bit.
JM ROSETTA: This is more of a health status update than anything else. Doing everything in practice means they are not being held up by past injuries
JM ROSETTA: Much improved sounds great and is good to hear, however the Iowa DL in the spring was down Davis and Alvis and was just not a good looking group. I am not as worried about their ability to rush the passer with just four as I am with their ability to stop the run this year. To me, ‘much improved’ is akin to being asked ‘How did the date go?’ and answering ‘she/he has a good personality’.
JM ROSETTA: I didn’t expect Ekakitie to be in the mix, but felt Johnson had a shot. Reading this from Dinardo and adding a few more exponents of negative to it, I don’t know that I will expect to see Johnson out there this year. Perhaps he can really grow exponentially during the rest of camp and early part of September.
JM ROSETTA: Barkley Hill just seems more likely to see more reps early in the year than any other back Iowa has on the roster. At 6-0/210, he is the kind of physical back Iowa likes to pound between the tackles and is also more physically ready to deal with the rigors of pass protection. Garmon is 6-1/200 and more slender, which can also be said for the 6-0/195 Bullock. Remember, these are their weights at the beginning of camp, the most they will weigh all season. I think we’ll see a lot of Hill and Brad Rogers this year, with Bullock and Garmon thrown into the mix for a change of pace here and there.
JM ROSETTA: Running well is what we know this group of linebackers can do. Holding up against the running game is another story yet to be played out.
JM ROSETTA: Good to hear about Lile, a young player who can could play a couple of positions during his career.
JM ROSETTA: Gerry and Howard is what that should read, and it’s just more confirmation of what we pretty much knew was a dead pipe lock going into this year; the defensive line is going to be a concern and Phil Parker is going to have to pull out some tricks to scheme for it. The ‘someone will emerge in backfield’ comment is something I agree with, but you didn’t read ‘someone will emerge on the defensive line’.
JM ROSETTA: It’s good to have a good secondary, which Iowa does. What I think that will allow Iowa to do this year is take more risks with run blitzes and stacking the box. BJ Lowery and Micah Hyde can handle man to man responsibilities. Tanner Miller is now a veteran back there in center field, someone with the discipline you need if your corners are in man. This might allow Iowa to turn Nico Law loose in support of the run game, the way they did in 2000 with a young Bob Sanders. Sanders was hardly great in pass coverage that year, or most of his Iowa career. They told him to find the ball and stop the ball against the run, as Iowa’s DL was overmatched physically in 2000. This is more risky, but might be necessary. Without a secondary you can trust, you just can’t do this.
JM ROSETTA: Every off season nugget I heard related to the Iowa offense said the players loved the terminology and the route variables. It’s not surprising to learn that Vandenberg is more sharp in August than he was in April. I think the Iowa passing game has a chance to really evolve quite a bit in season and look much different in October than it does in early September. This area of the team might evolve farther than any other from August to September. Having a vet like Vandenberg at the helm during a philosophy change is as much as you can ask for. Also, Rudock is JVB light, in my opinion. I felt that way from the first film exposure we saw last August. I hope Iowa is in some situations this year where they can get Rudock some reps.
On the whole, it was fun to read some practice observations in advance of Saturday’s open practice in Kinnick Stadium. We’ll all get to toss our hats into the ring on that day, but it’s August and any football is good football. Tom Dienhart of BTN.com had a write up of his thoughts from the practice at this link.
As for the BTN commentaries, nothing too earth shattering or opinion changing. The defensive line has a lot to prove, the offensive line could be pretty darned good, the secondary is solid and things are wide open in the backfield and wide receiver.
None of these questions will find answers until Iowa starts playing games.
The BTN’s Iowa Practice Special will air tonight (Thursday) at 9pm central
NOTE: It seems Marc Morehouse of The Gazette was going down this same train of thought, as he wrote an item translating the BTN’s tweets as well. Give it a read.