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April Hawkeyes need time for August bloom
IOWA CITY -- First impressions can't be trusted, but they last the longest. When the topic is spring football, they have to last you until August.
And really, with the 2012 Iowa Hawkeyes, August will be a better, more fair glimpse into the possibilities. There were no conclusions to be had after the Hawkeyes rumbled around during their spring scrimmage before 15,000 or so fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
The offense is clunky, as you might expect with first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis roughly two months into the job. The last segment of the playbook was installed just this week.
"There are growing pains with a new offense and with young offensive guys out there," said quarterback James Vandenberg, who completed 12 of 30 in the situational and scrimmage portions. "There are going to be bumps or bruises along the way.
"I think I understand the personnel we have. There are a lot of guys who really want to do well, but they're just young and mistakes are going to come with those guys.'
Sophomore running back Damon Bullock's 84-yard TD run was the "oh and ah" moment of the day for the first-team offense. De'Andre Johnson broke one that would've gone for a 58-yard TD for the second team.
Including Bullock's TD run, the first team offense generated 10 points in the one full-scrimmage quarter that was played. Vandenberg hit junior wide receiver Don Shumpert for a 38-yard gain. The drive stalled and junior Mike Meyer made a 33-yard field goal.
"There's a little bit of mental gymnastics going on with guys on calls and formations and you saw us not line up correctly a couple of times," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, "but that's part of the process and that's part of the process when you have younger players.
"My sense is the guys knew there was a lot to learn coming in and I think they've been tuned in as a result of that."
Iowa's defensive strength is clearly the secondary and specifically it's corner. Micah Hyde and B.J. Lowery locked down Iowa receivers for the most part Saturday, but it also should be noted that No. 1 receiver Keenan Davis sat out of the scrimmage as an injury precaution.
Lowery intercepted Vandenberg, but it was called back because of a pass interference on safety Nico Law. Greg Castillo and Brian Kroll also had interceptions.
Iowa was active in blitzes and sent the linebackers more than a few times. The defense held the offense to three-and-outs on the first two possessions of the scrimmage. Cornerback Gavin Smith and defensive end Melvin Spears forced a fumble out of Johnson. Lowery also knocked the ball out of Shumpert's hands when the offense was given a first down at the defense's 29.
On a fourth-and-1 from the 37, the first-team defense stopped Bullock and the first-team offense. This got a few yells of approval from first-year defensive coordinator Phil Parker.
"I think we have a grasp of our defense right now," Hyde said. "We've been communicating, we know what to do. I think we performed pretty well today."
The theme was youth from Ferentz. The Hawkeyes had six new starters on defense Saturday and five on offense, including both guards and two new tackles. With end Dominic Alvis and tackle Carl Davis out with knee injuries, three of the four D-linemen were new on Saturday.
That's a lot of newness, which, coupled with a new playbook on offense, has the Hawkeyes miles from ready for primetime.
'We're making progress, but we're not ready to play yet," Ferentz said. "There's reason to be optimistic, but we still have ground to cover."
Running back will change drastically in August. Incoming freshmen Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill will push for playing time when they arrive. Hill was at Kinnick on Saturday. With sophomore Jordan Canzeri out of the season with a torn ACL, Bullock and Johnson took every carry.
"When Jordan got injured that increased the odds [that Garmon and Hill play next fall]," Ferentz said. "It's pretty much true at every position right now, especially positions of need. We'll give everybody a chance to come in here and help our football team. You'll see at happen at some positions more than others, and certainly running back is a spot where we'll have that opportunity.
"We'll encourage Barkley and Greg to try to get ready and do the best they can during the course of the summer and we'll evaluate them in August."
Yes, let's get to August and then we'll talk.