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IOWA CITY — Saturday wasn’t so much about winning jobs as it was about getting a look at younger players and, maybe, just surviving practice No. 12 in a 10-day span.
The offensive skill starters were out after two or three series. The first-team D-line might’ve gone the longest, playing snaps into the final series, with sophomore end Matt Nelson and senior tackle Faith Ekakitie teaming up for a tag-off sack.
Asked if he zeroed in on true freshmen who might burn their redshirts, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said those decisions started to reveal themselves and will be solidified after an all-out scrimmage Friday night at Kinnick Stadium (probably when fall camp breaks).
(So, anyone have super drone skills? We need to get optics into Kinnick for this scrimmage. OK, I’m only half kidding.)
Let’s try to rank true freshmen who’ll likely play:
1. LB Amani Jones — With sophomore inside linebacker Jack Hockaday limited, Jones jumped in at No. 2 middle linebacker. He also has special teams potential. “He’s our kind of guy,” Ferentz said.
2. TEs T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant — Hockenson put up some numbers (three catches for 35 yards). Both were in with the second team. Tight end is a position of need. Iowa practiced without senior George Kittle on Saturday. Junior Jon Wisnieski has a sprained knee. If Saturday would’ve been a game, would Iowa have been able to run out of two-TE formations? Probably not a lot.
3. WR Devonte Young — Another position of need. The 6-0, 195 pounder from Waldorf, Md., played a lot with the No. 1s. He caught one pass for 2 yards, but more importantly, he mixed it up with starters. Was it because Jay Scheel has been out? Yes, that was part of it, Ferentz said. Scheel said he was held out with a hamstring issue (fact he was allowed interviews is a good sign). Given the injuries Scheel has had in his career, it’s probably smart to have a backup plan. This could be the desire just to get a good look, but there is a ton of opportunity at WR and Young seems to have a stake.
4. DBs Manny Rugamba, Amani Hooker and Cedric Boswell — Senior corner Greg Mabin didn’t play. The beneficiary was true freshman Manny Rugamba, who slid into nickel duty with the first team. Rugamba and Boswell were the second-team corners (redshirt freshman Michael Ojemudia also was limited). Boswell was tested a lot and allowed just one big play (39-yard TD pass). His film probably was a plus overall. Hooker was third-team safety, but ran with the first kick coverage unit.
5. RBs Toks Akinribade and Toren Young — They were the leading rushers in last Saturday’s scrimmage, which was the first time since practice started that backs were tackled to the ground.
“Toks has looked good and the question with backs is, ‘What’s it going to be like when they get tackled?’” Ferentz said. “(Saturday) was his first day he got tackled, and I thought he handled it really well. Toren the same way. Toren’s probably one of those players that more contact involved, the better it is for him.”
Akinribade (6-0, 205) showed burst to go along with vision. He ran to where the space was and looked instinctive and fluid doing it. Young is straight forward, but at 220 he showed a nice balance of power, speed and creased the defense a few times off cutbacks.
6. DT Cedric Lattimore and DE Chauncey Golston — Both true freshmen from East English Village Prep in Detroit (Desmond King’s alma mater) played snaps with the 2s and 3s. Lattimore (6-5, 260) clearly has transitioned to DT after coming into camp as a DE. He played a ton of snaps in a hot, sunny stadium and held up. Golston attacks blocks like he’s done this before. Moves fluidly and plays with lean.
D-line depth is a quest for 2016 Iowa, and that might push these two into action.
OK, some numbers (these are painfully unofficial, but mostly accurate, if those two aren’t mutually exclusive).
Miguel Recinos: The sophomore missed his first two kicks (37, 47), but nailed his next six to finish 6 of 8. His last two were the most impressive, 44- and 46-yarders into a decent breeze into the north end zone. Those kicks showed he might have an edge. (Caveat: These guys are going to kick 1,000 FGs during the course of camp. We got to see eight to 10 on Saturday, so these are hardly definitive observations.)
Mick Ellis: The sophomore was perfect in the early section, hitting 6 of 6 including FGs from 45 and 47. In the last section into the wind, he badly pulled a 44-yarder and had a 46-yarder tipped before it fell short. He finished 6 of 8 with that finishing contrast to Recinos’ 2-for-2 in the same situation.
Keith Duncan: The walk-on from North Carolina went 7 of 10. He had two blocked early. Maybe it was senior safety Anthony Gair exploiting an opening on FG unit or maybe Keith was line driving. Maybe a little of both. He made 1 of 3 from 47 yards, with two of those being blocked. He made 45 and 47 yarders in team.
Caleb Shudak: The walk-on freshman from Council Bluffs started hot (hitting his first four including a 47-yarder), but made just 1 of 4 in the team section. He finished 5 of 8.
C.J. Beathard: 5 of 11 for 32 yards with an interception (The senior missed three practices with a sprained knee. Saturday was his second day back in practice. He was limited to two series. The passing game struggled. Iowa’s secondary is really good and the receivers doing the attacking Saturday were really young, inexperienced.)
Tyler Wiegers: 6 of 16 for 42 yards (Missed a hot read during the blitz drill and knew it right away. Wiegers played the most series of the QBs with eight. He started 2 of 6 Saturday.)
Drew Cook: 5 of 16 for 73 yards (Cook rushed a bootleg for a 1-yard TD. When asked if a move to TE was something the coaches were considering, Ferentz flatly said no. He said, sure, they thought about it when they signed him three years ago — Drew’s dad is Marv, a former all-American TE at Iowa — but, no, he’s a QB. The question made sense because Iowa is running low on TEs. Cook played seven series.)
Nathan Stanley: 6 of 16 for 55 yards with a TD (39-yarder to Emmaneul Ogwo) (Showed a commanding presence and a big arm. Looks like he’s still transitioning to play under center. Was 1 of 6 at one point Saturday, so comfort level picked up. The TD pass was a great ball. Put air under it and allowed Ogwo to make a play on it. Stanley saw five series. Lots of internet love flowing his way. He did good things, but let’s not get carried away. It was one practice.)
Derrick Mitchell Jr.: 8 for 33 yards (Still has a stronghold on third-down snaps. No way of telling if he’s made gains as far as every-down back.)
Toks Akinribade: 17 for 72 yards with 7-yard TD (TD run came on the first play of goal-line drills. 7-yard TD run on the first play of goal line? That’s an A-plus. Runs square, runs through contact. Showed good vision and slick feet/hips. He probably plays this year.)
Marcel Joly: 3 for 18 yards (The sophomore didn’t get a huge look. He moved from defensive back before last season. Just going off this practice and the number of carries he saw, it doesn’t feel like he’s gained traction at RB.)
Toren Young: 12 for 73 yards (5-11, 220) (I’m guessing in the next week of camp there will be a meeting between Young and LB Amani Hooker. It’ll be a loud clack. Everyone’s heads will look that way. Teammates will fire up and surround these two and laugh at the ridiculous amount of force they just witnessed. Will Young get away with the cutback move he used several times against third-teamers? Probably not, but he showed more than that. Kept feet moving at contact. That’s a big deal.)
Akrum Wadley: 2 for 3 (He’s won his touches and will get them when it matters. That wasn’t Saturday. But he did catch a pass and was targeted a few times. He didn’t catch a pass last season until the Big Ten championship game. According to Pro Football Focus, Wadley was targeted just six times last season. I think that probably changes.)
LeShun Daniels: 3 for 11 (Ditto for Daniels as far as usage in an August scrimmage. He is Iowa’s “running” running back. He was targeted once in 65 passing snaps last season.)
Sam Cook: 1 for 0 (Walk-on freshman from Fort Dodge. Built like an appliance.)
WR Riley McCarron: 1 catch for 6 yards (First-teamer and a lot will be expected from the senior.)
WR Jerminic Smith: 1 for 5 (Something Smith did or didn’t do produced one of the more animated moments of Saturday’s scrimmage, when WR coach Bobby Kennedy exploded after a play. A lot is expected from Smith. Sophomore Jay Scheel was out Saturday, so Smith got a lot of time. In this case, when I say “a lot is expected,” I mean he almost kind of hast to come through. I’m not sure there’s a safety net. No reason to believe after Saturday that Smith isn’t capable of big things.)
RB Akrum Wadley: 1 for 4 (See.)
TE Nate Veyvoda: 1 for 6 (Veyvoda sneaked up to 238 pounds this offseason, up from 210 or 215. That might be enough lead for him to get in the game. Every little bit at TE will help.)
WR Matt VandeBerg: 1 for 2 (93 targets and 65 catches last season. VandeBerg carries a lot in Iowa’s passing game.)
WR Ronald Nash: 2 for 8 (Had a nice scrimmage. What’s a reasonable expectation for a senior walk-on WR? Maybe Nash can stand above expectations. He’d be a great story.)
TE Peter Pekar: 1 for 12 (The walk-on junior has always showed up and done something in spring games and fall open scrimmages. He’s really on the clock this year. At 6-4, 250, he’s probably ready to roll. Probably not as athletic as HKC, but did everyone really know how good he was until last year? Pekar did only see 10 snaps last season.)
RB Marcel Joly: 1 for 18 (Maybe he can play Jonathan Parker, who’s out for 6 to 8 weeks with a foot injury? Maybe Iowa has to get creative with bodies on hand. Ferentz did say this about WR: “I think he’s handled himself well, too. I think it’s realistic to think that he’ll be in the mix (that’s a thought on Young), and we may have to move some guys around. It’s a discussion that we’re going to have to have, but I could see him certainly playing in a couple of weeks when we get started.”
TE Noah Fant: 1 for 3 (6-5, 220 pounds, Fant looks like he belongs. Moves very well. I think the fact that Ferentz solicited and Beathard offered a positive report on Fant after summer drills is a sign of something. Maybe it was just Ferentz saying nice things, but maybe not.)
WR Devonte Young: 1 for 2 (There were a lot of bubble screens Saturday.)
WR Emmanuel Ogwo: 1 for 39 TD (This was a great play. Ogwo closed and went up and beat Boswell for a 50-50 ball. Iowa needs as much of that as it can get.)
TE T.J. Hockenson: 3 for 35 (Seems to have picked up his job quickly. Good size at 6-5, 230. He and Fant probably play.)
WR Adrian Falconer: 1 for 25 (Falconer did play with the first team, so he’s in the mix. Last season, he saw just nine snaps and one target, so expectations need tethering. Can he win snaps from McCarron? That remains to be seen. Body of evidence says doubtful.)
Here’s the part that Scott Dochterman kept track of (the important part, these are truths and not guesstimates at how far a guy ran before he was fake tackled):
QB – C.J. Beathard; RB – LeShun Daniels; WR – Matt VandeBerg, Jerminic Smith, Riley McCarron; TE – Peter Pekar; LT – Cole Croston; LG – Boone Myers; C – James Daniels; RG – Keegan Render; RT – Ike Boettger
OTHERS: FB – Drake Kulick; RB – Akrum Wadley, Derrick Mitchell, Toks Akinribade, Toren Young; WR – Devonte Young, Adrian Falconer; TE Nate Vejvoda, Nate Wieting; QB – Tyler Wiegers
INJURED/DID NOT COMPETE: OL Sean Welsh, TE George Kittle, TE Jon Wisnieski, OL Ryan Ward, WR Jay Scheel, WR Jonathan Parker, OL Mitch Keppy
QB – Tyler Wiegers; RB – Mitchell; FB – Brady Ross; WR – D. Young, Falconer; TE – Vejvoda; LT – Brett Waechter; LG – Ross Reynolds; C – Lucas LeGrand; RG – Jake Newborg; RT – Dalton Ferguson
OTHERS: RB – Akinribade, T. Young, Marcel Joly; FB – Austin Kelly; WR – Emmanuel Ogwo, Ryan Boyle, Connor Keane, Ronald Nash; TE – Nate Wieting, George Fant, T.J. Hockenson; QB – Drew Cook, Nate Stanley
QB – Stanley; RB – Akinribade/T. Young/Joly; WR – Boyle, Keane, Shaun Beyer; TE – Fant; LT – Aleric Jackson; LG – Spencer Williams; C – Steve Ferentz; RG – Cole Banwart; RT – Levi Paulsen
OTHERS: RB – Sam Cook; TE – Hockenson
RDE – Parker Hesse; RDT – Nathan Bazata; LDT – Jaleel Johnson; LDE – Matt Nelson; MLB – Josey Jewell; WLB – Aaron Mends; OLB – Bo Bower; RCB – Desmond King; LCB – Josh Jackson; FS – Brandon Snyder; SS – Miles Taylor
OTHERS: CB – Manny Rugamba (nickel); DT – Faith Ekakitie; DE – Anthony Nelson; MLB – Angelo Garbutt
INJURED/DID NOT COMPETE: CB Greg Mabin, OLB Ben Niemann, DT Jake Hulett, CB Michael Ojemudia, LB Jack Hockaday, DB John Milani, DL Michael Slater
RDE – A. Nelson; RDT – Ekakitie; LDT – Daniel Gaffey; LDE – Sam Brincks; MLB – Garbutt; WLB – Amani Jones; OLB – Kevin Ward; RCB – Manny Rugamba; LCB – Cedric Boswell; SS – Anthony Gair; FS – Jake Gervase
OTHERS: DT Cedric Lattimore; CB Josh Jackson (nickel); DE – Chauncey Golston; LB Kyle Taylor
RDE – Golston; RDT – Garret Jansen; LDT – Lattimore; LDE – Brandon Simon; LBs – Taylor, Kristian Welch, Nick Niemann; CB – Rugamba, Boswell; S – Amani Hooker, Eric Grimm
OTHERS: LB Barrington Wade, LB Tristan Bohr
Snapper – Tyler Kluver; Holder – Ron Coluzzi/Tyler Wiegers; Wingbacks – Nate Vejvoda, T.J. Hockenson/George Fant; Line – Dalton Ferguson, Lucas LeGrand, Keegan Render, James Daniels, Boone Myers, Cole Croston; Kicker – Miguel Recinos/Mick Ellis
Returners – Desmond King, Riley McCarron; Front line – Adrian Falconer, Amani Hooker, Bo Bower, Angelo Garbutt, Kevin Ward; Midfielders – Derrick Mitchell, Austin Kelly, Brady Ross, Drake Kulick
Returners – Akrum Wadley, Matt VandeBerg; Front line – Michael Ojemudia, Aaron Mends, Ryan Boyle, Eric Grimm, Jake Gervase; Midfielders – Nate Vejvoda, Peter Pekar, Brady Ross, Garret Jansen
Other returners: Devonte Young, Marcel Joly