Howe’s High 5: Practice at Valley Stadium
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Saturday marks the first public appearance for the 2015 Iowa football team. It comes on the road.
The Hawkeyes will travel to West Des Moines for an open practice at Valley High School Stadium (1:30 p.m. CT). It’s the third year in a row they’ve held this event there.
In advance of the workout, I bring you a High Five – My Quintet of Top Positions to Watch on Saturday:
5. Punters – I was going to put running backs here, but I doubt we’ll see the top two, Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels, absorb much contact. I am excited to see Derrick Mitchell there, however.
But, as Special Teams Coach Chris White mentioned on Wednesday, the punt game must overcome last year’s unacceptable inconsistencies. The other phases aren’t strong enough to overcome deficiencies here.
Starting place kicker Marshall Koehn is pushing fellow seniors Connor Kornbrath and Dillon Kidd. One would think that with three scholarships being dedicated to that trio, someone could emerge to handle the job.
4. Defensive Line – Ok, maybe it’s cheating a bit to not pick tackle or end. However, I have my reasons.
There obviously are large holes to fill in the middle with the exits of Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. But guys like Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie are entering their fourth years in the program. They and Darian Cooper, who still is recovering for knee surgery, should be ready to step up, along with third-year sophomore Nate Bazata.
I’m more interested to see what the depth at end looks like. Drew Ott is coming off a breakout year and Nate Meier brings experience. Both will be gone next year so guys behind them better emerge.
I’ll be of focused on redshirt freshmen Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse. After watching both play multiple times in high school, I have high hopes based on excellent athleticism.
3. Offensive Tackle – A strong case could be made for placing this at No. 1. I’m giving the Ferentzes the benefit of the doubt that they’ve prepared redshirt sophomores Boone Myers and Ike Boettger for this duty.
We should receive a good glimpse into what we have here when they go up against veterans Ott and Meier. Look beyond Myers and Boettger, too, at back-ups like Cole Croston to see what the depth is like because they’ll be close enough to push the starters.
2. Quarterbacks – Jake Rudock is gone to Michigan, and much to the masses’ delight, C.J. Beathard has taken the reins. Tyler Wiegers steps into Beathard’s role as the man everyone loves – the back-up.
I’ll be focused on the chemistry between Beathard and his receivers. That should be improved with him getting the vast majority of the reps this spring after getting a lot in December.
Wiegers was in high school at this time last year. I’m hoping to see him handed a lot of work Saturday. It’d be nice for him to be placed in difficult spots and witness how he handles them.
It’s a huge spring for the quarterbacks. Beathard has only one start under his belt and limited playing time. Wiegers last saw live action when he was riding the bus to school.
1. Linebackers – Overshadowed by the hating on Rudock and Greg Davis last season was the subpar play on the second level of the defense. In fact, it was all too often dreadful.
The depth chart shows Ben Niemann (LEO), Josey Jewell (Mike) and Bo Bower (Will) as the starters. They’re sophomores. Like Wiegers, Niemann was in high school at this time last year.
It’s a lot to ask of three developing players to erase the edge and perimeter deficiencies that allowed opponents to gash the defense in ’15. But that’s the situation and Saturday we’ll see if they’ve advanced, especially physically.
We’ll also find out what the depth looks like. Cole Fisher and Travis Perry are redshirt seniors who should be able to push the starters. Aaron Mends is a redshirt freshman who is making some noise this spring.