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IOWA CITY — A ton of attention has focused on Iowa’s offense so far this preseason. It makes sense. Everything is sort of new.
New coordinator, new quarterback, a graduate transfer running back, a veteran O-line, a small army of tight ends, we’re all pretty interested in how this might work. A little more attention goes toward it because the 2016 offense was half there. It was the first time in school history Iowa had a pair of 1,000 yard backs. And Iowa had its worst output in passing offense since 1982.
These are things you know. Saturday the page turns, at least a little bit, with the Hawkeyes trotting out the new offensive configuration publicly for the first time.
Saturday’s Kid’s Day in Kinnick Stadium will be more of a practice than it will be game situation. So, what you see Saturday probably won’t be what first-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz will call against Northwestern in late October.
And hey, the Hawkeyes only run three plays, anyway, right?
“We run a couple of varieties off those plays,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said with a laugh. “Anytime I’m ripping somebody, I say, ‘We’ve got two plays, how can you not know what you’re doing?’”
Two or maybe three plays. Has to be more to it than that, right?
“Well, I don’t know if there is,” guard Sean Welsh said. “That was something that Brian always told us (Brian Ferentz spent five seasons as Iowa’s O-line coach before his promotion to coordinator). If you think about it, if you take away a lot of the stuff we shuffle, we run like three plays.
“When you do it right, it works well. It’s simple. When you execute it well, it works.”
So Saturday, get ready for Iowa’s three running plays — inside zone, outside zone and trap, according to Welsh. It’s the who’ll be running the ball that will be somewhat new.
You probably won’t see much of senior running back Akrum Wadley, but you might see some senior James Butler, Iowa’s newest running back.
Gates to Kinnick Stadium will open Saturday at 11 a.m., with the practice scheduled to begin at noon. Hawkeyes players will sign autographs at approximately 11:30 a.m., along the front of the west and south stands. Autographs will be limited to youth only.
What else will you see Saturday?
— Finally, on Friday, wide receiver Matt Quarells showed up in practice photos.
Kirk Ferentz said the last few weeks that Iowa had a graduate transfer going through the paperwork and now here’s Quarells, a 6-1, 190-pounder. He’s from St. Louis and made a splash as a sprinter in track at Hazelwood Central. He caught 13 passes in two years at New Mexico, which runs an option offense and completed just 96 passes last season (124th in the nation).
His experience should help Iowa’s wide receiver corps. He also has two years of eligibility remaining.
— You’ll see quarterbacks, but will we hear Kirk Ferentz announce that a starter has been named?
Sophomore Nathan Stanley and junior Tyler Wiegers are the contestants. Iowa has been in camp two weeks. Is that enough time to figure this out?
There’s really not much more to say here. Let’s see if there’s some semi-closure (hey, they might not get it right on the first try).
Also keep in mind, this is the one practice we all get to see out of the 29 the Hawkeyes will have before opening the season Sept. 2 against Wyoming. So, probably make sure the conclusions you leap to come with a net underneath.
Two important QB elements that might be worth gauging Saturday are accuracy and anticipation. Is accuracy one of those QB traits you have or don’t have? If anticipation lacks after two weeks in camp, well, that wouldn’t be progress, would it?
— Iowa is light at defensive tackle, mostly in experience and at least a little bit in bodies.
A couple of things to watch Saturday: Who’s doing what? Iowa has a lot of defensive ends who might be able to help at tackle on a limited basis. When or if there’s a live inside run period, which side of the line of scrimmage gets push?
Someone might make a splash Saturday, but then the question becomes have they done this all through camp? If sophomore tackle Cedrick Lattimore gains leverage on a consistent basis Saturday, has he done that for the two-plus weeks of camp?
— Beyond Quarells, you’re likely going to see a youth infusion at wide receiver Saturday. Of course, after finishing spring with just three scholarship wide receivers, you probably saw this coming.
Now, have Max Cooper, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith carved their ways to playing time? Obviously, we probably won’t get a definitive answer on that Saturday, but we should get a general sense on a possible rotation.
— Everyone feels pretty positive about corners Manny Rugamba and Joshua Jackson. Remember, they’re first-year starters. How will they hold up against a corps of wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks who are desperate to win jobs and playing time?
Everything is kind of new at safety. Junior free safety Jake Gervase was the star of the spring game with three interceptions. Has he locked down the free spot. Yes, senior strong safety Miles Taylor returns, but he lost his job at the end of last season.
“Everybody has adversity and there are challenges all of the time,” defensive coordinator/secondary coach Phil Parker said. “I think he handled it pretty well. He was still a leader even though he wasn’t the starter at the end. I thought he did a good job. You’re always encouraging, you just have to tell them to keep working. Nobody’s guaranteed (anything). You have to go out and prove yourself every day.
“You have your history and you’ve just got to keep on working. I tell whoever’s No. 2 that I want them to be No. 1.”
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