Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Iowa Football

Iowa football: A few thoughts on the Kids Day scrimmage

Oliver Martin showed up and did wide receiver things; positive review for punter

IOWA CITY — The Hawkeyes scrimmaged for nearly two hours last Saturday. Again, it’s one view of the 29 August practices that will go down before the season opener, so there’s no definitive signs of 7-5 or a trip to Indianapolis.

But everyone saw wide receiver Oliver Martin play. And, no, no update there. The Iowa City West grad and Michigan transfer still is waiting for an official word on his eligibility. Anytime head coach Kirk Ferentz is asked, he answers in shrugs because he honestly has no idea and there are no real-time updates.

But Martin (6-1, 200) did look good. He caught a few passes and played “fast,” meaning he looked like he knew what he was doing and where he was going. That’s a good sign. He’s feeling comfortable in Iowa’s offense.

Let’s allow offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to punctuate this: “We wouldn’t bring a third-year guy into our program if we didn’t think he could help us.”

Yes, the clock is ticking. The waiting really is the hardest part. For what it’s worth, it’ll probably be liberating for Martin to finally be asked about football and not recruiting and Michigan and transferring.

— Kirk Ferentz said in the post-scrimmage that the running game is the hardest to evaluate. If you want to try to read something into how running back was used, it was fairly straight forward down the depth chart. Junior Mekhi Sargent got the first crack, and then Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin.

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Freshman Shadrick Byrd probably got dinged in film on running east-west. Fellow freshman Tyler Goodson showed balance and was decidedly determined to run north-south.

This is moving week at running back, more than likely. Still, expect at least three to see carries. Brian Ferentz seems to like versatility at the position.

— On media day, redshirt freshman D.J. Johnson said what he liked best about the cash position was that it allowed him the freedom to be near the ball.

The 5-10, 183-pounder did exactly that. He blew up a few plays behind the line of scrimmage, showing great quickness and anticipation.

— Last weekend was a chance to check out how the hybrid edge defenders might be used, and Amani Jones and Joe Evans made plays from that position.

Again, they’re converted linebackers who are now situational defensive ends (officially defensive linemen).

Evans had a sack. Jones affected the QB and tipped a pass. After the tip, Jones yelled out twice “I got a tip!” He’s 5-11, so that probably doesn’t happen a ton for him.

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— Again, one practice out of 29. In this one, redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Petras looked like the No. 2 to Nate Stanley over sophomore Peyton Mansell.

Petras moved the team, showed solid pocket presence and slid some throws into some tight windows. Mansell’s ability to throw at any arm angle showed up. That weapon probably is fairly difficult to show off in practice. Plays are blown dead. This is the type of skill that extends plays, and what offensive coordinator doesn’t love that?

Can’t call this, not yet.

— Defensive end A.J. Epenesa looked better than last year.

Yeah, really.

It’s been an offseason of downloading for the junior who led the Big Ten in sacks last season. He’ll see first and second down consistently this season. Last year, he mostly was a pass-rush specialist and saw 244 snaps in pass-rush situations. In comparison, Anthony Nelson had 346 pass-rush snaps, so maybe there’s more to come in that regard for Epenesa.

— Kirk Ferentz did say that there could be roles for kickers Caleb Shudak and Keith Duncan. Both were perfect last weekend.

Kickoff wasn’t shown off in scrimmage. Iowa kickers have been among Big Ten leaders in touchbacks the last few seasons. That’s probably where the role could be split.

Leg strength for Shudak and Duncan seems to be improved. They made 50-yarders with relative ease.

— As for punting, there was a limited look and incumbent Colten Rastetter and new guy Michael Sleep-Dalton consistently downed punts inside the 5 during drills. Sleep-Dalton spun one back from inside the one.

Michael Sleep-Dalton: Former Australian electrician, current Iowa punter

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Of course, the jury still is out and it was just one look, but you’ll take positive punter news. Even in mid-August.

Here’s some lineups from last Saturday (brought to you by The Athletic’s Scott Dochterman. You know him from, well, The Athletic, and maybe the On Iowa Podcast.

FIRST OFFENSE

QB – Nate Stanley; RB – Mekhi Sargent/Ivory Kelly-Martin/Toren Young; FB – Brady Ross; TE1 – Nate Wieting; TE2 – Shaun Beyer; LT – Alaric Jackson; LG – Landan Paulsen; C – Tyler Linderbaum; RG – Cole Banwart/Levi Paulsen; RT – Tristan Wirfs; WR-X – Brandon Smith; WR-Z – Ihmir Smith-Marsette; WR-SLOT – Nico Ragaini; WR-4 – Tyrone Tracy/Oliver Martin

SECOND OFFENSE

QB – Spencer Petras/Peyton Mansell; RB – Tyler Goodson/Shadrick Byrd; FB – Turner Pallissard; TE1 – Drew Cook; TE2 – Bryce Schulte; LT – Mark Kallenberger; LG – Cody Ince; C – Jeff Jenkins; LG – Kyler Schott; RT – Jack Plumb; WR-X – Calvin Lockett; WR-Z/SLOT – Martin/Tracy/Ragaini

OTHER OFFENSE

QB – Alex Padilla/ConnorKapisak; FB – Johnny Plewa; TE – Sam LaPorta, Josiah Miamen; LT – Ezra Miller; LG – Noah Fenske/Clayton Thurm; C – Justin Britt; RG – Kyle Sorenson; RT – Tyler Endres; WR – Desmond Hutson, Alec Kritta, Nolan Donald

FIRST DEFENSE

LDE – Chauncey Golston; LDT – Cedrick Lattimore; RDT – Brady Reiff; RDE – A.J. Epenesa; MLB – Kristian Welch; WLB – Djimon Colbert; OLB – Nick Niemann; CASH – D.J. Johnson; LCB – Michael Ojemudia; RCB – Matt Hankins; FS – Kaevon Merriweather; SS – Geno Stone; DIME – Dane Belton

SECOND DEFENSE

LDE – Amani Jones/Joe Evans; DT – Austin Schulte, Daviyon Nixon, Noah Shannon, Logan Lee; RDE – John Waggoner/Zach VanValkenburg; MLB – Dillon Doyle; WLB – Seth Benson/Jayden McDonald; OLB – Logan Klemp; CASH – Terry Roberts; LCB – Julius Brents; RCB – Riley Moss; FS – Belton; OTHERS: WLB – Jayden McDonald; DT – Dalles Jacobus; S – Dallas Craddieth; CASH – Hankins

OTHER DEFENSE

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LDE – Chris Reames; DT – Jake Karchinkski, Taylor Fox; RDE – Taajhir McCall; MLB – Yahweh Jeudy; WLB – Mike Timm; OLB – Jestin Jacobs; CB – Jermari Harris, Daraun McKinney; S – Sebastian Castro, Devonte Young

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Caleb Shudak, Keith Duncan; P – Michael Sleep-Dalton, Colten Rastetter; LS – Jackson Subbert, Nate Vejvoda; PR – Nico Ragaini, Ihmir Smith-Marsette; Gunners – D.J. Johnson, Riley Moss; Terry Roberts, Matt Hankins

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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