Iowa Football

Iowa offense preview: Personnel meetings will probably be pretty short

Competition? Who has time for competition? There's a game in like a month

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) takes a snap from offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (65) in the first quarte
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) takes a snap from offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (65) in the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Let’s try not to assume anything with football right now. There is a season — sure, with a backdrop of virus that can creep in and take everything — and for this moment in time, football discussion is relevant and, hey, it’s football time.

Fall camp, such as it is under the COVID-19 pandemic, begins today for the Hawkeyes and the entire Big Ten after league presidents turned the season back on two weeks ago. Daily antigen testing also begins for players and much of the football community.

With football, we are just going to have to pick up where we left off.

We’ll go offense and then defense and then when the Hawkeyes open their nine-game season at Purdue on Oct. 24, we’ll see how wrong we were.

Offense

Quarterback — It’s still sophomore Spencer Petras. From head coach Kirk Ferentz to offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe, they’ve all spoken about how comfortable they are with Petras as QB1 with the addendum “Now, all he has to do is play a game.”

Can he make the throws on the move in Iowa’s play-action game? How will he use the pocket? We’ll all find out together.

No. 2 should be redshirt freshman Alex Padilla.

Running back — With a lot of programs and with some true freshmen, you can kind of see where the comfort level turns into actual trust. For sophomore running back Tyler Goodson, that was Minnesota last season. Goodson carried 13 times, more than double senior Mekhi Sargent’s six, had four runs of 10-plus yards and 51 yards after contact with a 10-yard TD.

After receiving double digit carries three times in Iowa’s first nine games, Goodson broke into the double digits in each of the final four games. Goodson has positioned himself as a lead back, but that’s something that likely will evolve and likely be tied to game plan.

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Sargent leads the rest of the cast, which includes junior Ivory Kelly-Martin, redshirt freshman Shadrick Byrd and true freshmen Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams.

Expect Iowa to be in the “win, win, win” mode and not “OK, let’s develop some young fellas.” With a camp and a summer conditioning crammed into a month, new players will face a tighter learning curve and will have to land a knockout to make a move on the depth chart.

Wide receiver — It’s been the same all along for this group. Keep doing what you’re doing. Brandon Smith, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Tyrone Tracy and Nico Ragaini brought explosive pass plays into Iowa’s offense. The Hawkeyes’ 48 receptions of 20-plus yards last season was its most since at least 2010 and the 22 receptions of 30-plus yards ties 2014 for most in the last 10 seasons.

Wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland was happy with this foursome last year, so don’t expect a lot of rotation, but there might be some “future” snaps for Calvin Lockett and Desmond Hutson, a pair of potential future X receivers.

Tight end — Sophomore Sam LaPorta got your attention last season. He had nothing to show for the first seven games of the season and then caught 15 passes for 188 yards in the last six. You had to like everything you saw with the 6-4, 249-pounder. The only “what about” is sample size. LaPorta got your attention (clutch catch late vs. Nebraska, six receptions vs. USC) with just 21 targets.

Senior Shaun Beyer will have the edge on the other spot in two-TE sets, but with four standout wide receivers, it’s still Iowa. You know two-TE is in. Redshirt freshman Josiah Miamen and true freshmen Elijah Yelverton and Luke Lachey could see rotation time and Iowa tight end should remain the “Cobra Kai” unit for the Hawkeyes.

Offensive line — Let’s try to tier this: Tier I goes left tackle Alaric Jackson, a three-year starter who talked about prepping for 2020 in the Holiday Bowl postgame last December, and center Tyler Linderbaum.

Tier II is “need to see more, but promising” and that’s guards Kyler Schott and Mark Kallenberger. Schott missed five games with a foot injury, but the walk-on brought stability inside. Pro Football Focus graded Schott as Iowa’s No. 2 OL (behind Tristan Wirfs and Linderbaum). Kallenberger went the distance at guard in the Holiday Bowl and looked good doing it.

Tier III is simply the unknown.

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Indiana transfer Coy Cronk is awfully interesting with 3 1/2 years of starting experience, but you still need to see it. Beyond Kallenberger who could challenge Cronk at right tackle? Maybe sophomore Jack Plumb, who could be the heir apparent 2021 at left tackle. Justin Britt, Cody Ince and Cole Banwart will give competition a push on the inside.

Nine games in nine weeks is going to demand some quick change on the offensive line.

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

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