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IOWA CITY — Iowa football’s open practice Saturday gave fans and media a glimpse of the 2022 team’s progress during the spring development period.
One of the 15 practices is a limited sample size, especially on a windy day. It also was only Iowa’s third outdoor practice this spring.
But with only one practice fully open to the public and media, Saturday was the best talent evaluation opportunity until August.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s practice:
Don’t take Keith Duncan and Caleb Shudak for granted.
Iowa has had the luxury of excellent kickers the last few years.
Caleb Shudak hit 85.7 percent of his field goals in 2021, including 11 of 13 field goals from 40-plus yards. In the two years before that, Keith Duncan hit 77.8 percent of field goals in 2020 and 85.3 percent in 2019.
Saturday’s field-goal kicking wasn’t up to that standard.
“We’ve got work to do,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
The kicks in practice from 28 yards and 30 yards out weren’t a problem for Aaron Blom or Drew Stevens. Accuracy became problematic, though, on the deeper attempts.
Both kickers missed kicks in the 11-on-11 scrimmage portion of practice from 45 yards out although one of Blom’s was blocked at the line of scrimmage. Blom also had a miss from 47 yards, and Stevens missed from 40 and 47 yards.
“The consistency is going to be the issue,” Ferentz said. “I think they're both capable but they don't have the consistency level right now.”
Some of the field goal attempts in warmups entirely missed the net behind the goal post and landed in the stands in the north end zone.
There were a lot of factors at play that didn’t help matters.
It was Iowa’s first spring practice of the year in Kinnick Stadium — making it also Stevens’ first practice ever at Kinnick. Unpleasant weather in Iowa City prevented the Hawkeyes from practicing outside more often earlier in the spring.
Of course, there was the wind, too. But considering all 12 regular-season games on Iowa’s 2022 schedule are outside, it’s something Iowa’s kickers need to get used to.
“We are going to play in game conditions like this most likely next fall, if not every week,” Ferentz said.
Blom and Stevens, neither of whom have attempted a kick in a game at the collegiate level before, still have another 19 weeks to improve their consistency before Iowa’s season opener. Saturday didn’t exactly instill much confidence, though.
Spencer Petras needs to perform better than he did to keep the starting job.
Comparing a quarterback going up against the first-team defense to quarterbacks going up against the second- and third-team defenses comes with an asterisk.
But Spencer Petras undoubtedly had the worst performance of Iowa’s three quarterbacks in Saturday’s practice.
Petras’ suboptimal accuracy — he completed 57.3 percent of passes in 2021 — carried over to the open practice. The soon-to-be senior completed less than half his passes Saturday.
Backups Alex Padilla and Joe Labas, meanwhile, had much more success finding their targets. Padilla hit his receivers on four of his first five passes. His sixth pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Labas showed plenty of mobility and darted an impressive 33-yard completion on his first drive. Ferentz said Labas “has a ways to go” before he’s confident enough in No. 5 to get the starting job over two experienced alternatives.
While it was a rough day for Petras, Ferentz said afterward the San Rafael, Calif., native remains the “overall” leader at the position following the 15 spring practices.
Injuries leave Hawkeyes with some question marks
It was hard not to notice Iowa’s “inordinate amount of injuries,” as Ferentz called it, Saturday.
Looking long term, the injuries don’t seem to be a major threat.
“Most of the guys should be back by June,” Ferentz said.
Short term, it limits the ability to truly evaluate a position group facing some uncertainty — offensive line.
The offensive line essentially lost three starting-caliber players with Tyler Linderbaum, Kyler Schott and Cody Ince. While Ince was injured for much of 2021 and had a limited role, he was one of four offensive linemen to have started at least 10 games.
Three of the linemen who could potentially compete for starting spots — Michael Myslinski, Justin Britt and Nick DeJong — were among the offensive linemen not practicing Saturday.
Iowa’s first-team offensive line featured, from left to right, Mason Richman, Tyler Elsbury, Logan Jones, Connor Colby and Jack Plumb. Elsbury also played on the second team as a center.
The defensive line clearly got the better of its offensive counterparts, as evident by the stifled rushing attack, although part of that is to be expected considering the veteran presence and continuity on the defensive line.
Had Myslinski, Britt and DeJong been available, it would be easier to conclude whether the offensive line was undermanned or outmanned.
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