116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Hawkeyes have some perks that come with playing in the Citrus Bowl.
Tuesday’s schedule included watching the Milwaukee Bucks-Orlando Magic NBA game. Wednesday? A night at TopGolf. Thursday? A morning at an amusement park.
A different type of perk came to mind first for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz in his Wednesday news conference.
“One of the most exciting parts of a bowl game is always getting to work with the young guys and spend a little bit of time with some of the more developmental aspects of our roster,” the fifth-year offensive coordinator said.
Here are some questions facing each position group ahead of Iowa’s first chance to line up against a different team in almost a month:
Quarterback might have the most pressing questions. Who starts in the Citrus Bowl? Who stays after this year? Who goes?
All signs point toward Spencer Petras being the answer to the first question although it’s not official.
“We have pretty much made our mind up on what we are going to do on Saturday,” Ferentz said Wednesday without naming the starter.
Petras took the first-team reps in Tuesday’s 11-on-11 drill that was open to media. That drill was fewer than 24 hours before Ferentz’s comments.
Padilla and Petras have been mum on the longer-term questions, but that will become more clear in the coming months.
Iowa’s two Williams running backs — Gavin and Leshon — will have more opportunities following Tyler Goodson’s decision to opt out of the bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft.
How do they perform with the larger role in the offense? With two talented running backs coming in the 2022 recruiting class, the Citrus Bowl could serve as an in-game audition for Gavin and Leshon Williams. Ivory Kelly-Martin also is expected to play, but his performance will not have as many long-term consequences.
Wide receivers/tight ends
Whether Charlie Jones sticks around for his extra year of eligibility will probably be the big question going into the offseason. In the shorter term, what steps have true freshmen Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV taken in the month since the Big Ten title game?
The four weeks between the Big Ten championship and Citrus Bowl have been the longest break the two playmaking wide receivers have had in their collegiate debut season.
Could the Citrus Bowl be Cody Ince’s breakout game of the season?
Ince, who came into the season with 10 starts, has faced some adversity in 2021. The offensive guard has been “banged up” this season, Ferentz said, and his grandfather also died.
“Obviously it has been a very difficult year for Cody,” Ferentz said.
But Ince has been “steadily practicing and improving and getting back in the swing of things” over the last three weeks.
What are the next steps in redshirt freshmen Lukas Van Ness and Yahya Black’s development? Van Ness and Black were among the underclassmen to impress on a young defensive line in 2021.
“Both of those guys have really done a good job,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said Wednesday.
Van Ness has a share of the team lead in sacks with six. Black, meanwhile, has 16 tackles, two pass breakups and one forced fumble.
Parker has particularly been impressed with “how low they are staying.”
“Obviously for big guys like that, it's hard to stay low,” Parker said. “I think Black has really done a good job in coming off the ball a little bit lower and not standing up when he comes off the ball.”
What does Jack Campbell do next?
The junior from Cedar Falls has done a little bit of everything in 2021. He has intercepted passes in two of Iowa’s last three games. He has recorded at least eight tackles in nine of Iowa’s 13 games.
Should Campbell pursue the 2022 NFL Draft, his ESPN+ profile ranks him as the 12th-best inside linebacker.
With much of the secondary likely graduating and/or going to the NFL Draft, how have younger players like Jermari Harris developed since Iowa’s 42-3 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten championship?
After Harris was thrust into a larger role because of injuries throughout the secondary, the sophomore will be in a prime position for a starting role in 2022.
Jones has been Iowa’s guy for 36 of 37 punt returns — 38 if you count the blocked punt against Nebraska — and 23 of 28 kick returns in 2021, but he’s a senior.
If Jones chooses not to return, who will emerge as Iowa’s next top kick/punt returner?
Cooper DeJean is one possible candidate. Considering how often Jones has been tasked with Iowa’s returning duties, fans might not get much of an answer in Saturday’s game.
Comments: (319) 398-8394; email@example.com