Iowa Football

Iowa spring football: Seeking some 'cash,' sorting through O-lines and making a defensive end

Football awakens in Iowa City

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IOWA CITY — Football is waking for the Hawkeyes.

This week, assistant coaches talked. Media had a chance to watch the first 20 minutes of practice on Thursday. Not a ton to breakdown, but there were a smattering of notes.

— Senior tight end Drew Cook was in a boot immobilizer. He still tried to do some drills, so this probably isn’t a long-term deal.

— Redshirt freshman Samson Evans and sophomore offensive lineman Coy Kirkpatrick were held out of practice.

— The first defensive personnel group on the field was the 4-2-5, with redshirt freshman D.J. Johnson in the cash safety spot. The second-team cash was corner Michael Ojemudia.

What does the staff need to see there?

“There’s a lot of instinct in that cash position,” linebackers coach Seth Wallace said. “I don’t know if you could describe the position in one way, like he’s got to be this kind of a guy. If you can get a guy out there who has a little more size to him and do everything you ask him to do coverage-wise, then I think you’ve found Amani Hooker and with that you found a guy who’s going to leave after three years.”

Hooker moved into that position last season. He won the Big Ten defensive back of the year and then did forego his senior year for the NFL draft.

— Don’t forget the Iowa offensive line pledge: The mission is to find the best five.

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On this April Thursday, sophomore Mark Kallenberger lined up at right guard. If this is the age of players leaving early for the NFL draft, Iowa might be looking at junior offensive tackles Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson making the leap after this season.

So, you might see a jump in action for potential tackles like Kallenberger.

— Going off this practice, senior Amani Jones is a full-fledged defensive end. He started the 2018 as Iowa’s middle linebacker. He didn’t hold up and lost the job in the opener. The 5-11, 246-pounder is getting a fresh look at the end spot.

“With the things that he provides, his energy, he’s really good in the room, he wants to be good, which is important,” defensive line coach Kelvin Bell said. “He’s soaking everything up like a sponge right now. I don’t think of Amani as a defensive end, I think of him as an ‘edge defender.’

How is it going?

“He’s done everything I’ve asked him to,” Bell said. “He knows if he wants to play, those reps are earned. I’m not just going to throw him out there so his parents can take pictures.”

— Solon native Tyler Linderbaum was the starting center. He made the move from defensive tackle during Outback Bowl prep.

When Iowa made the move, head coach Kirk Ferentz did so despite a potential deficit at defensive tackle. Well, since then, sophomore Daviyon Nixon has become eligible. If he delivers and if the Hawkeyes can get something out of at least one more defensive tackle, Iowa might have a chance to rotate six to maybe eight D-linemen in 2019.

Iowa rotated eight defensive linemen last season.

“I can’t look out there right now and say, ‘Hey, you eight are going to play,’” Bell said. “The development and the ongoing process, day in and day out, putting in the work, that’s how we can get to eight. There are eight I could put out there, but whether or not they deserve the reps remains to be seen.”

— Redshirt freshman John Waggoner could end up being an interesting swing defensive lineman. The West Des Moines Dowling grad is 6-5, 267 and a defensive end. He might have the lead to be able to move inside, especially if Iowa starts working on a similar speed-rush package like it had last year with four defensive ends in on third down.

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“To be honest with you, pleasantly surprised,” Bell said. “You never know what to expect. When you get a kid who’s highly recruited, he’s come in and doesn’t say boo. All he does is work. There’s nothing flashy about John, but he’s extremely consistent and I’m extremely happy to add him to the rotation. Big things expected from him.”

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

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