116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Saturday at Kinnick Stadium had the weather for September, but the football for spring.
Scrimmage play showed exactly what offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said it would — lots of short passes to let the receivers do work. The defense was strong against the running game, and the secondary’s returning playmakers made it difficult for any big plays by the offense.
There is still a lot left to know about Iowa football, which had many players on the sidelines Saturday, but spring ball was the beginning of what fans hope to be a regular season this fall.
Spencer Petras looked like a veteran
Windy conditions led to a lot of overthrown passes by all three quarterbacks, but junior quarterback Spencer Petras stood out as having the most command on the field.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said that Petras has room to improve, but still has a leg up on the two younger quarterbacks, who are closing the gap on each other in skill.
With junior starting wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. out from a twisted ankle, Petras targeted junior tight end Sam LaPorta and was able to convert on third-down situations.
The focus with Petras was on short out-route passes and relying on receivers to make plays. He completed passes to LaPorta, senior Max Cooper and Charlie Jones. Sophomore quarterback Alex Padilla notably found redshirt freshman Desmond Hutson on a deep ball to the left corner. Redshirt freshman Deuce Hogan struggled to complete passes until later in the practice.
“I think the two biggest things is his accuracy and he’s processing things faster,” Ferentz said of Petras. “I mean, throw the ball where the guy can run with it, too, on top of it, not make the circus catch. He’s just faster processing decisions. They’ve got to be good decisions, obviously.”
Wide receivers competing for rotational spot
Once again, true freshmen Arland Bruce IV and Keagan Johnson were on the field with both the starting and second-team offenses.
Bruce grabbed a pass meant for tight end Luke Lachey by taking its rebound and running to the end zone. Johnson caught his first pass from Petras out of the two 11-on-11 open practice scrimmages this spring season.
Ferentz said that he has a lot of confidence in Tracy and senior Nico Ragaini, but both were out of practice Saturday. He’s still looking for someone to step into that third spot and sees Jones as more of a reliable punt returner, even though Jones tallied a few receptions at practice.
Cooper racked up two receptions from Petras at practice, and Ferentz added that so far, he’s had a consistent spring of 15 days without injury. Hutson, Ferentz said, still has things to work on to reach the next level.
“Keagan Johnson has taken reps out there because we feel like he’s in equal footing with the others,” Ferentz said. “We’re really looking at the best between now and September, we’re impressed with the way Arland Bruce has done things. The door’s open, depends on what you want to do with it.”
Riley Moss a playmaker in the secondary
Senior safety Riley Moss broke up a pass in a one-on-one with Johnson and intercepted a pass by Petras.
“He seemingly got his hands on the ball every day in practice,” Ferentz said. “That kind of sounds kind of cliche, but he’s a defensive back.”
The honorable mention All-Big Ten selection tallied 111 yards off two interceptions last year while adding four pass breakups. The 6-foot-1 corner also amassed a total of 43 tackles, including 33 solo.
Moss is one of six returning letterwinners in the secondary, and one of three who started all eight games last year, including senior strong safety Matt Hankins and senior free safety Jack Koerner.
Other returning letterwinners include sophomore Reggie Bracy, junior Terry Roberts and junior Kaevon Merriweather. Roberts and Hankins were both sidelined on Saturday, but Koerner, who did not play in the previous spring practice, was on the field.
Defensive line falling into place
Lukas Van Ness and Noah Shannon swapped in and out on the interior defensive line, while Zach VanValkenburg and Joe Evans flanked the edges. John Waggoner consistently swapped with Shannon and Van Ness on the interior.
"It seems like every spring when we go out there and we replace these three guys,“ Ferentz said. ”By the end of spring, we feel better about things. Think about John Waggoner and what those guys have done on that edge. Joe Evans has really been, you know, to me, he's really a total player.“
Out of uniform
The Hawkeyes returned Koerner and sophomore tight end Josiah Miamen after neither played in the previous open practice, but a variety of notable faces were out on the sidelines. Freshman Justice Sullivan was also in uniform.
Tracy was out with a twisted ankle. Ragaini, Hankins, sophomore defensive lineman Chris Reames, senior running back Ivory Kelly-Martin, sophomore defensive lineman Logan Lee, junior linebacker Dane Belton, Northern Iowa transfer defensive back Xavior Williams, freshman David Davidkov, junior offensive lineman Cody Ince and sophomore offensive lineman Justin Britt did not suit up for practice.
Comments: (319)-398-8387, firstname.lastname@example.org