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Questions for Iowa football’s offensive position groups with spring practices underway
Injuries at wide receiver, offensive line could complicate offseason development
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series looking at key questions for each of Iowa’s position groups. Check back Tuesday for Iowa’s defensive and special teams position groups.
IOWA CITY — After a winter stretch of the offseason headlined by an amendment to Brian Ferentz’s contract and the $4.2 million racial discrimination lawsuit settlement, it’s time for football again.
Wednesday marked the first of 15 spring practices for the Iowa Hawkeyes in an important month for offseason development.
Here are key questions for each position group on the offense:
What do Joe Labas and Deacon Hill show in spring practices?
There is little doubt about Cade McNamara’s role as Iowa’s QB1 at this point in the spring.
Joe Labas should be the favorite to retain the QB2 role after a solid Music City Bowl performance, but he may see some competition from transfer portal arrival Deacon Hill.
“He throws the ball well, has a great personality,” Iowa Coach Ferentz said of the ex-Badger quarterback. “We're really excited. … He has a good feel for what's going on, what he's doing.”
Hill, who is the same year as Labas, has an existing relationship with offensive analyst Jon Budmayr from when Budmayr was the quarterbacks coach at Wisconsin.
“I like the group,” Ferentz said of the backup quarterbacks. “I think there's good competition.”
McNamara remains a month-and-a-half to two months away from fully recovering from his knee injury, so there should be plenty of opportunities for Labas and Hill in practices.
Spencer Petras’ recovery from extensive shoulder surgery makes it unlikely for him to factor into the quarterback pecking order in the near future.
How much do Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson progress between Year 1 and Year 2?
Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson will have their first full offseasons in Iowa City after arriving as part of the 2022 recruiting class, and therefore, a intriguing development opportunity.
Johnson especially stood out as a true freshman, averaging 5.2 yards per carry on a team-high 151 attempts. He was an all-Big Ten honorable mention.
Patterson, who appeared in three games and maintained his redshirt year, had some impressive plays in the Music City Bowl.
“The run he made in the bowl game kind of got my attention,” Ferentz said of Patterson. “He hit that thing hard.”
How does offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz use Luke Lachey, Erick All and Addison Ostrenga?
Iowa has a problem at tight end that almost any college football program would happily take — an abundance of tight ends who should be getting playing time.
The Hawkeyes have two players at the position who would be starters on most teams.
Luke Lachey had his best season of his Iowa career as the No. 2 option behind NFL-bound Sam LaPorta. Transfer arrival Erick All was an all-Big Ten honorable mention at Michigan.
Addison Ostrenga, meanwhile, appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman — sometimes on offense and sometimes exclusively on special teams — and was one of the few third-teamers to receive a spot on Iowa’s pre-spring depth chart.
With a lack of depth at wide receiver, a creative use of the Lachey-All-Ostrenga trio could be part of the solution.
Can the few scholarship wide receivers who are healthy and available right now remain healthy and available?
Iowa’s wide receiver corps is starting spring football without much depth.
Seth Anderson, the transfer from Charleston Southern, is out with a “soft tissue” injury. Ferentz did not rule out a return this spring, but he is “not overly optimistic.”
Jacob Bostick, a redshirt freshman, is “for sure” out for the spring with a foot injury.
Brody Brecht also stepped away from football to focus on his blossoming baseball career. (He would have been a very limited participant in the spring anyway, though, because of baseball.)
That leaves Nico Ragaini and Diante Vines as the only scholarship wide receivers available.
As Iowa’s offense tries to regroup after an underwhelming 2022 with two new quarterbacks, having some semblance of the receiving corps that McNamara (or others) will be working with would be helpful.
How much can the offensive line gel despite injuries?
Iowa’s offensive line is facing similar circumstances as the wide receivers.
The position group is “a little thin,” Ferentz said Wednesday.
“I wish we weren't, but we are.”
The lack of availability during a crucial development period complicates Ferentz and offensive line coach George Barnett’s efforts to revitalize a position group that struggled in 2022.
“From my experience, the only way you get better is going out there,” Ferentz said. “You have to practice it.”