WEST DES MOINES – A couple of snapshots from Iowa’s open practice Saturday showed the different stages of development for players.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nic Shimonek threw the ball well, including a long touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Harris, but his footwork after taking a snap from center needs work. It’s a seemingly basic element for a QB, but Shimonek, who is the No. 3 QB on the Hawkeyes’ depth chart, played a spread offense at Mildred (Corsicana, Texas) High School) and took the ball from shotgun and not from under center.
Then you had junior wide receiver Tevaun Smith and adding more “personality” to his route running.
“More personality is running a route and not just breaking at 10 yards,” said Smith, who had 24 catches for 310 yards last season. “It’s slowing down and giving them [defensive backs] a little stutter step. It’s giving them something to think about.”
That’s one contrast. You can find just as many examples of clusters of Hawkeyes who are working at comparable levels.
Iowa’s new trio of linebackers held their own. Coach Kirk Ferentz is satisfied so far with middle linebacker Quinton Alston, weakside linebacker Reggie Spearman and outside linebacker Travis Perry.
Spearman showed some patience for a young linebacker. He had an interception when defensive end Nate Meier tipped a Jake Rudock pass. Perry also picked off Rudock.
Remember, Spearman is a 17-year-old sophomore who’s sitting No. 1 at an inside linebacker spot nine practices through camp.
“He’s getting better, but that’s the race we’re trying to run right now,” Ferentz said. “We need to get him being proficient on being where he has to be when he has to be there. He’s getting better.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Alston is a senior who has this season and opportunity to be the starter.
“You’ve got a young guy, Reggie, he’s making plays, I’ve kind of been shocked by him,” senior defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “Quinton is very vocal. I feel he’s just like James [Morris, former Iowa linebacker who graduated last season]. He’s a smart guy up top who takes care of his business and isn’t afraid to lead.”
Ferentz on Alston, “He’s done a great job. He did it last year, he just wasn’t on the field as much.”
The range of experiences on the offensive line goes from senior left tackle Brandon Scherff, who won every drill he lined up in during the two-hour scrimmage, and senior right tackle Andrew Donnal, who’s getting his first and only shot as a full-fledged starter.
Tight ends were active in the passing game again Saturday, with Ray Hamilton’s 10-yard TD catch kind of accentuating things for the group. Of course, Iowa loses C.J. Fiedorowicz, a 6-7, 265-pounder, but returns four other experienced tight ends (Hamilton, Jake Duzey, Henry Krieger-Coble and George Kittle). It’s kind of a cookie-cutter group. They are all in the 6-3, 6-4 and can run well.
“Ray has always been one of those underappreciated guys, even by us at times,” Ferentz said. “He made a lot of clutch plays during the season and made them in practice. He’s a pretty good all-around tight end in our opinion. We’re losing a pro guy, but the good news is Ray has improved and Jake Duzey is more confident.”
One snapshot where development was in and out of focus was junior free safety Jordan Lomax. He made it to a few passes and broke them up, but he also got caught flat footed on a few and allowed big plays.
This is why development is a theme in spring football. Lomax is transitioning from corner to free safety. That’s not an automatic thing that just clicks.
“The safeties are very vocal,” senior strong safety John Lowdermilk said. “They have to tell the corners what to do. They have to know everything, they have to know the formations. But he’s picked up really well on it. He’s extremely smart, I wish I was as smart as him.”
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