Push comes to shove, Iowa's offense should be able to do that

This fall, the Hawkeyes will be O-line, tight ends, fullbacks and grunts

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  • Iowa safety Jake Gervase

IOWA CITY — What Iowa will be in September — what we think Iowa will be in September — just doesn’t make for a spring-loaded spring game of fireworks and fun.

Iowa has five returning starters on the offensive line. It has a wonderfully exciting running back in Akrum Wadley. It looks as if it has a potential workhorse-type running back in Toren Young, a 220-pound redshirt freshman. Young led the Hawkeyes with 96 rushing yards, including a 14-yard TD run, in Friday night’s spring practice finale.

Iowa has all sorts of newness and question marks in the passing game. This has been touched on a few times. Yes, Iowa’s offense could’ve ground out a couple of 15-play drives with 12 of those being runs before the 16,500 fans at Kinnick Stadium, but this is spring, a time in which the Iowa staff has said again and again since March it would spend getting to know what its players can and can’t do.

You can choose to believe there’s a secret laboratory where offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe are mixing chemicals for some sort of breakthrough in the passing game. Or you can believe what Ferentz said in a halftime interview with the Big Ten Network (which happened to be conducted by BTN sideline reporter Danan Hughes, who caught 146 passes for the Hawkeyes in the early 1990s).

“We’re going to focus on being execution-based,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to try to emphasize the personnel we do have. We’re going to try to be driven by our tight ends, our fullbacks, our running backs, strong running game and play-action nakeds and all of that good stuff.”

If head coach Kirk Ferentz wanted everyone Hawkeye to feel really, really great about the team’s prospects in late April, he could’ve had Wadley line up behind senior tackles Boone Myers and Ike Boettger, guards Sean Welsh and Keegan Render and center James Daniels and run outside zone plays up and down the field.

They know that should work when football matters in September.

“I would think we have a better chance there,” Kirk Ferentz said. “I think if you look at our whole team right now, we’re probably a little stronger on the line of scrimmage, both sides of the ball.”

We’ve been over the passing game, but quickly the quarterback competition between junior Tyler Wiegers and sophomore Nathan Stanley will extend into fall camp.

Wiegers completed 12 of 23 for 99 yards with two interceptions to free safety Jake Gervase, one of which he returned 59 yards for a TD. Stanley completed 6 of 17 for 13 yards with an interception (Gervase notched a hat trick) and a 2-yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Devonte Young.

Five wide receivers caught passes, including walk-ons Ronald Nash, Connor Keane and Dominique Dafney.

Four incoming freshmen will join the wide receiver corps in August. Senior Matt VandeBerg will be back from a foot injury that kept him out this spring. Junior Jerminic Smith remains suspended due to academics, so his status remains up in the air.

At this point, there’s simply no way to tell if Iowa will have a dependable passing game in 2017. It will have a first-year starter at quarterback and the one major takeaway from Friday was the passing offense is a long way from a passing grade. How much ground can be made up here between now and September?

Pin Brian Ferentz’s “we’re going to try to emphasize the personnel we do have” near the top of your thoughts.

“We’re pretty veteran up front, so we expect them to lead us,” Brian Ferentz said. “We want to be a run-first, oriented outfit. I think any championship team is. That’s what we’re striving for. We’re a long way from that right now, but we’re going to need them to push us forward and get us going.”

Of the 98 plays Iowa ran Friday night, 53 included a fullback and/or multiple tight ends. Redshirt freshman tight end T.J. Hockenson led the Hawkeyes with four catches for 14 yards. Sophomore Noah Fant caught two passes for 25 yards. Redshirt freshman Shaun Beyer caught two passes for 11 yards. Senior Jon Wisnieski caught one for 16.

“I can really foresee that position being a team or a position on our team that’s going to be critical to our success,” Kirk Ferentz said.

If Iowa’s offense is a Transformer, it’s going to be a small army of tight ends being welded together. Fant and Beyer looked very comfortable finding space. Late in the first half, Stanley missed Beyer, who broke open on a seam route in the middle of the field, for what would’ve been a 72-yard TD.

“We’re loving it from the tight end side,” Fant said. “We love catching that ball.”

Iowa football notes: Tight ends 'critical' to success out of spring

Young’s performance needs the caveat that this was just one of 15 practices, but his 96 yards and yards after contact stood out Friday night. The 5-11, 220-pounder has at least planted a flag in the race for RB touches, most of which will find their way to Wadley.

Last week, Brian Ferentz did hint about moving Wadley around the line of scrimmage and lining up another running back in that position. Wadley, who most definitely is in the running for punt and kick return in 2017, was asked about that in the postgame.

He wouldn’t touch it.

“I can’t answer that question,” Wadley said with a laugh. “You remember the Penn State game.”

Hlas: Another 63-47, offense-light Friday in Kinnick

In his Tuesday interview session the week of last year’s Penn State game, Wadley did mention that, yeah, he would line up in the slot to try to get PSU off balance. So, when he actually lined up in the slot, Penn State wasn’t exactly surprised.

“I’m trying to learn from my mistakes, so that’s a ‘Next question,’” Wadley said.

Wadley won’t line up at tight end or fullback, but, from what the Hawkeyes showed Friday night and from what Brian Ferentz said, that will be the working outline for Iowa this fall.

Stats and lineups

(I collaborated with Land of Ten’s Scott Dochterman for who played where — valuable info — and stats, which aren’t nearly as valuable and definitely aren’t perfect.)

FIRST TEAM OFFENSE

LT — Boone Myers

LG — Keegan Render/Ross Reynolds

C — James Daniels

RG — Sean Welsh/Keegan Render

RT — Ike Boettger/Sean Welsh

TE1 — Noah Fant

TE2 — T.J. Hockenson

WR1 — Adrian Falconer

WR2 — Nick Easley

WR3 — Devonte Young

QB — Tyler Wiegers (1H); Nathan Stanley (2H)

RB1 — Toks Akinribade; Toren Young (2H)

FB — Brady Ross

DID NOT PARTICIPATE (two-deep): RB — Akrum Wadley; WR — Matt VandeBerg, Jerminic Smith; FB — Drake Kulick; TE Peter Pekar, Nate Wieting; G — Levi Paulson; OL — Dalton Ferguson (out for season)

SECOND TEAM OFFENSE

LT — Alaric Jackson/Landan Paulsen

LG — Ross Reynolds

C — Spencer Williams

RG — Landan Paulsen/Cole Banwart

RT — Lucas LeGrand

TE1 — Shaun Beyer

TE2 — Jon Wisnieski

WR1 — Dominque Daffney

WR2 — Connor Keane

WR3 — Ronald Nash

QB — Nathan Stanley (1H)/Tyler Wiegers (2H)

RB1 — Toren Young (1H)/Toks Akinribade (2H)

FB — Austin Kelly

OTHERS: QB — Ryan Boyle, Jacob Schmidt; RB — Marcel Joly, Sam Cook; FB — Lane Akre, Gavin Dinsdale; TE — Drew Cook, Nate Vejvoda; WR — Brandon Bishop, Yale Van Dyne

FIRST TEAM DEFENSE

DE — Anthony Nelson

DE — Parker Hesse

DT — Garret Jansen

DT — Cedrick Lattimore

OLB — Ben Niemann

MLB — Josey Jewell

WLB — Bo Bower

SS — Miles Taylor (1H); Amani Hooker (2H)

FS — Jake Gervase

CB — Josh Jackson

CB — Manny Rugamba

OTHERS: Nickel — Michael Ojemudia; MLB — Kristian Welch, Angelo Garbutt; WLB — Aaron Mends, Amani Jones; OLB — Kevin Ward, Nick Niemann; DE — Sam Brincks

DID NOT PARTICIPATE (two-deep): DT — Nathan Bazata, Brady Reiff; DE — Matt Nelson; LB — Jack Hockaday; S — Brandon Snyder (out indefinitely)

SECOND TEAM DEFENSE

DE — Chauncey Golston

DE — Brandon Simon

DT — Jake Hulett

DT — Jake Newborg

OLB — Kevin Ward; Barrington Wade/Nick Niemann

MLB — Kristian Welch/Angelo Garbutt/Kyle Taylor

WLB — Amani Jones/Aaron Mends

SS — Amani Hooker

FS — Noah Clayberg

CB — Michael Ojemudia

CB — Cedric Boswell

OTHERS: CB — Wes Dvorak; S — Eric Grimm; DT — Jacob Giese, Daniel Gaffney, Dalles Jacobus; DE — Austin Schulte

PUNT TEAM

LS — Tyler Kluver

LG — Michael Ojemudia

LT — Miles Taylor

LE — Marcel Joly

RG — Kevin Ward

RT — Bo Bower

RE — Noah Clayberg

UL — Brady Ross

UM — Jake Hulett

UR — Toren Young

P — Colten Rastetter

PR — Akrum Wadley, Josh Jackson, Manny Rugamba, Amani Hooker, Nick Easley

FIELD GOAL/EXTRA POINT

LS — Jackson Subbert/Austin Spiewak (Tyler Kluver did not snap on PATs)

LG — Ross Reynolds/Keegan Render

LT — James Daniels/Alaric Jackson

LE — Lucas LeGrand/Sam Brincks

LWB — Nate Vejvoda/Noah Fant

RG — Sean Welsh/Landan Paulsen

RT — Cole Banwart/Spencer Williams

RE — Ike Boettger/Jon Wisnieski

RWB — Shaun Beyer/T.J. Hockenson

HOLD — Colten Rastetter/Tyler Wiegers

KICK — Keith Duncan/Miguel Recinos/Caleb Shudak

PASSING

Nathan Stanley 6 of 17 for 13 yards, TD, INT

Tyler Wiegers 12 of 23 for 99 yards, two INT

RUSHING

Toren Young 23-96 TD

Toks Akinribade 8-22

Marcel Joly 6-27

Sam Cook 4-17

Ryan Boyle 1-5

Ryan Schmidt 1-5

Stanley 1 for minus-6

Wiegers 2 for minus -9

RECEIVING

TJ Hockenson 4 for 14 yards

Ronald Nash 3 for 16

Shaun Beyer 2 for 11

Noah Fant 2 for 25

Devonte Young 1 for 2 TD

Brady Ross 1 for 1

Toren Young 1 for 2

Connor Keane 1 for 6

Adrian Falconer 1 for 7

Jon Wisnieski 1 for 16

Dominique Dafney 1 for 7

PENALTIES

Beyer hold

Fant hold

False start 70 (LeGrand)

False start 68 (La Paulsen)

SACKS

Brandon Simon

Anthony Nelson

Kristian Welch

Michael Ojemudia

INT/PBU

Jake Gervase 3 INT 1 PBU

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

Iowa RB Akrum Wadley

Iowa TE Noah Fant

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz


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