Hawkeyes surviving the grind
Saturday was practice No. 16 and it kind of showed
IOWA CITY — Saturday wasn’t really a showcase in the unveiling or surprise sense, but it was the Iowa Hawkeyes’ one and only public appearance before their season opener Aug. 30.
For everyone outside the program, it was a look under the hood. There were highlights and signs of the wear and tear you might expect to see in the middle of the fall camp grind.
Quarterback Jake Rudock hit senior wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley against a blitz for a 58-yard touchdown. Running back LeShun Daniels bashed in for a couple of short TD, and the Iowa defense notched nine sacks before a crowd of 12,372 at Kinnick Stadium.
The headline coming out of the scrimmage, which was live hitting for more than an hour, is who wasn’t in the scrimmage.
For the Hawkeyes, this was practice No. 16. The grind started Aug. 4 and has taken somewhat of a toll.
Junior fullback Adam Cox suffered the worst of it with a torn ACL this week, an injury he sustained just days after being awarded a scholarship.
“If I know Adam, he definitely wants to be out here competing with us and playing ball,” said junior fullback Macon Plewa, who now assumes a job he shared last season with Cox.
Senior running backs Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock didn’t participate. They’re fine, coach Kirk Ferentz said, but a lot of players aren’t fine, at least totally. Cox is the only long-term injury, but more than a half dozen other players didn’t participate Saturday, including wide receiver Derrick Willies, who pulled up with a muscle injury on Friday (“minor leg thing, shouldn’t be bad,” Ferentz said).
“Talk about negatives of camp, that’s one of them,” Ferentz said. “We’ve just had way too many camp injuries. Three days, four days [length of time sitting out because of injury], all that kind of stuff. It’s hard to establish continuity, it’s hard for us to move forward.”
Several starter-level players didn’t play Saturday. Along with Willies, tight ends Ray Hamilton and Jake Duzey, defensive end Riley McMinn, defensive tackle Darian Cooper, defensive backs Greg Mabin and Jalen Embry and wide receivers Andre Harris and Damond Powell didn’t participate. Wide receiver Riley McCarron left the scrimmage after a hard fall while making a catch out of bounds.
Defensive end Drew Ott practiced with a brace on his left elbow. You need reservations for the Iowa training room.
“I’m sure we’re like every team in America, but it just seems like a few more [injuries] than we need,” Ferentz said. “It’d be better for the team if we could clean that up.”
This third week of camp is moving week, Ferentz said. This is when rotations at wide receiver and in the secondary will be decided. Also, true freshmen will find out this week if they’re in. Judging off Saturday, safety Miles Taylor is in and a few linebackers have a shot at special teams.
“We have to keep an open mind, especially with younger guys,” Ferentz said. “Week 3, they might stride a little more than some other guys who have been around for a while.”
Rudock took all the snaps with the first unit Saturday and completed 15 of 26 for 169 yards and a TD. If backup C.J. Beathard is in the plans, he’ll have to supplant Rudock’s vision and decision-making, which have sharpened this offseason.
“Jake’s improved,” Ferentz said. “When a starter gets better, it’s not a big story, but Jake has really improved.”
Beathard finished 13 of 28 for 172 yards. Ferentz said, for the most part, Beathard’s decision making has been better. For the first half of Saturday, Beathard had his eyes locked on the deep throw, enduring a streak of 2-for-9. Later, he started finding the checkdown routes.
“He had a throw or two Tuesday that he’d probably like to have back, at least we’d like him to have back,” Ferentz said. “I think he feels the same way. Maybe one or two today, but he’s doing a good job.”
Tight end George Kittle stepped into the gaping hole left by Hamilton and Duzey and caught five passes for 98 yards. Daniels had 10 carries for 32 yards and a pair of 1-yard TD runs (Iowa showed a goal-line package with offensive tackle Ryan Ward at tight end). Freshman running back Akrum Wadley had 39 yards on 10 carries.
There have been no decisions on kicker or punter. Punters Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath have been dead even in all regards, Ferentz said.
Kickers Marshall Koehn, Mick Ellis and Miguel Recinos have had solid camps, but struggled in front of a crowd Saturday, collectively going 10 of 16. Koehn, a junior who’s expected to win the job, made just 2 of 6 (both from 43).
“Today was not a good day placekicking-wise,” Ferentz said. “Ironically, it’s been one of the highlights in camp. I wasn’t overwhelmed with punting or kicking last spring, but both those areas have looked good up until today. Today was uncharacteristic. I think we’re in better shape than we were.”
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