116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Checked the moon tonight and it’s waxing crescent, but it might as well be blue because Iowa’s offense outplayed the defense in the Kids Day scrimmage.
But take everything with a grain of salt as some players were out due to petty injuries or wore non-contact jerseys while on the field.
“Usually we can’t make a yard, some holes opened up and that was good to see some guys ran them hard and that stuff’s all encouraging,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. “But the defense usually wins more than they lose in preseason that’s for sure.”
There were some notable takeaways on personnel decisions and who made the most of their only fall-camp open practice.
Iowa football injury update
Players like junior defensive tackle Noah Shannon, true freshmen offensive tackle David Davidkov, defensive lineman Griffin Liddle and wide receiver Brody Brecht did not play due to short-term injuries and both Dane Belton and Terry Roberts sported red jerseys for no-contact. Iowa senior offensive tackle Kyler Schott is the only one so far with a known injury (foot) that could span the first few games.
Iowa junior cornerback Kaevon Merriweather went down on a play holding his shoulder during the scrimmage, but Ferentz said he would be “fine.”
Iowa freshman wide receiver Keagan Johnson also played despite a “boo boo,” that Ferentz mentioned Friday during media day.
Blocking aids in explosive running back play
Iowa junior running back Tyler Goodson showed off his versatility on multiple drives, extending pass plays on the ground as one of junior quarterback Spencer Petras’ top receivers, while also breaking away on the rush game for a 40-yard run. He also converted on third-and-10 twice.
The star of the underclassmen was Leshon Williams, a redshirt freshman whose two carries over 40 yards lit up the ground game, but he did have one fumble.
“Leshon plays better when he’s got pads on, he’s just one of those guys that’s full speed,” Ferentz said. “He’s continued to improve and he’s really impressed us the first week. Everything he’s done since he got on campus has been consistent.”
Ferentz attritbuted the strong running game to the blocking, anchored by senior Tyler Linderbaum at center with less-experienced sophomores Justin Britt and Nick DeJong on the right and juniors guard Cody Ince, tackle Jack Plumb and redshirt freshman Mason Richman rotating positions on the left.
“That’s the best I’ve seen our blocks blocking in a scrimmage situation, which is encouraging, because that usually comes last,” Ferentz said. “We’re keeping an open mind on what guys work left and right and Mason is pretty much left side at left guard, Jack (Plumb) can flip back and forth and we’ve tried to keep a little DeJong on our one spot right now. We’re just going to let these guys keep practicing, but it’s wide open right now.”
Iowa quarterbacks locked in
Petras seemed poised in the pocket, anchoring his feet and making short throws to put receivers in place to extend plays in space.
Some notable passes were a 37-yard connection to true freshman Arland Bruce IV, finding both Goodson and senior running back Ivory Kelly-Martin on third-down conversions for 10-yard gains. He also found Goodson on a 34-yard connection. Petras didn’t target junior Tyrone Tracy Jr. until later in the scrimmage, when he connected with the receiver for a pair of 9-yard passes. Petras stuck to the gameplan set out for him: throwing in the flats where receivers were open to make plays.
“Spencer is part of this equation, we’ve been really up and down sporadically offensively during preseason, but that’s so typical and common and usually it’s pretty hard against our defense,” Ferentz said. “That’s encouraging, but OK, maybe we need to work on our defense a little bit more. It’s the best he’s looked, he looked more confident and some guys made plays too.”
Sophomore quarterback Alex Padilla took a while to hit his stride, but his style was easily differentiated from the starter as he thrived mostly scrambling out of the pocket. He found sophomore Jackson Ritter on a 40-yard deep ball and found wide-open redshirt freshman wide receiver Diante Vines, who extended a short pass on the ground for a 68-yard gain. A short touchdown pass where Padilla found Bruce at the back of the end zone was called back on an offensive penalty.
Both redshirt freshman Deuce Hogan and true freshman Joey Labas saw time on the field. Hogan was inconsistent, but showed improvement from spring. He found sophomore tight end Josiah Miamen, Vines and sophomore Desmond Hutson on a few plays, but was picked off by junior defensive back Terry Roberts. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Yahya Black forced a fumble.
Defensive line struggles, secondary steady
The defensive line was missing Shannon at the tackle position and had Lukas Van Ness taking the majority of the snaps at tackle. Redshirt freshman Yahya Black did tally a sack on Padilla and sophomore Logan Lee saw snaps with the first team.
“We’re young right now and Noah is not out there,” Ferentz said. “When we have Zach (VanValkenburg), Noah, John (Waggoner) and Joe (Evans), that gives you four guys that are a little bit more veteran, I think we’re going to be pretty doable that way, but we have to really work on our depth,” Ferentz said.
Highlighting the secondary was Roberts, who recorded one pass breakup and one interception against Padilla’s offense.
“His ability to play defense caught up to what he was doing on special teams,” Ferentz said. “We’ve seen that through the last 20-plus years, a lot of those cases. He’s following that path, he’s at a much higher level than he was two years ago.”
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