IOWA CITY, Iowa – We didn’t get to see it, so we’ll have to trust Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz that last Friday’s scrimmage was a step up for his offense from the Kids Day practice.
“I’d say a lot better,” Ferentz said Monday. “We made some plays. First and foremost, I thought the tempo was better. I thought we were a little bit more aggressive.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said the same thing on Monday while meeting with reporters.
“We were much more efficient Friday night in the scrimmage than we were in the first scrimmage, which is what you hope and expect after a few more practices,” Davis said. “I thought we did a nice job of throwing and catching the ball Friday night.
“I think we left the field Friday night feeling that we’re getting closer to what we want to be for the opener.”
Ferentz, Davis and defensive coordinator Phil Parker all met with reporters on Monday to update the team’s progress in preparation for the Sept. 5 season opener against Illinois State at Kinnick Stadium.
All three coaches were upbeat in the wake of Friday’s scrimmage, which was closed to the public. But that’s what you would expect with less than two weeks before the season opener. The season, and the grind that comes with it, is finally almost here, and yet, it’s still far enough away to where there are no battle scars with everybody still undefeated.
Parker had the closest thing to breaking news when he said that junior Cole Fisher had moved ahead of sophomore Bo Bower at weakside linebacker. Parker said it so nonchalantly and barely above a whisper that reporters had to listen to their recorders afterwards to confirm it.
The condition of the offensive line has been a hot topic on Internet message boards and on social media because of how poorly it performed in the Kids Day practice on Aug. 15.
To say that sophomore left tackle Boone Myers struggled to contain Iowa defensive end Drew Ott during the Kids Day scrimmage would be putting it kindly. The speculation about who would start at left tackle between Myers and Cole Croston grew after a photograph on Twitter showed Croston working with the No. 1 unit in practice.
For now, though, it sounds as if Myers still is the leading candidate to replace 2014 Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff as the starting left tackle.
Or maybe replace isn’t the right way to describe it.
“He’s not replacing Brandon, he’s following Brandon,” Ferentz said of Myers, who came to Iowa as a walk-on from Webster City. “To replace Brandon Scherff, he’s one of the best players to ever play at this university, that’s totally off the radar.
“What he has to worry about is being the best he can be. And I personally think that’s going to be a pretty good player."
So at this stage, the starters on the offensive line appear to be Myers at left tackle, sophomore Ike Boettger at right tackle, senior Austin Blythe at center, senior Jordan Walsh at left guard and sophomore Sean Welsh at right guard.
Croston will provide depth, and competition, at both tackle positions, while fifth-year senior Eric Simmons and true freshman James Daniels will be in the mix at both guard positions.
Iowa fans are hoping that C.J. Beathard’s presence at quarterback will give the offense a dimension that was missing under former starter Jake Rudock. That could happen with Beathard’s superior arm strength, but not without the offensive line leading the way.
It’s hard to picture Beathard having a successful season if the offensive line struggles, or if the running game struggles. The offensive line won’t have to be dominant as a group, but it can’t be mediocre, either.
Nobody should expect Myers or Boettger to pick up where last year’s starting tackles left off. A more realistic expectation would be that they both hold their own in the trenches more times than not.
“There is no question there is going to be some bumps in the road,” Davis said of Myers and Boettger. “But there is also no question, I think, both of them are going to be really good players.”
You could make a similar assessment about several of the Iowa players. Some of them show signs of having outstanding potential, but we won’t know for sure until the season starts.
Beathard even falls into the category. Some fans are convinced that he makes Iowa more explosive and more productive on offense. But we still don’t know for sure because Beathard hasn’t played for an extended period to make an accurate assessment.
“I think we have an opportunity to be more explosive,” Davis said Monday. “I think C.J. looks for that a little longer, and because of that, I think just naturally we’ll have more explosive plays.”
The potential for big plays is certainly there with Beathard behind center, but so are questions and concerns.
You could say the same about LeShun Daniels and Jordan Canzeri at running back. Both have had their moments, especially Canzeri, but not enough to say that either one is a star in the making.
Ott, Blythe and junior cornerback Desmond King, in my opinion, are the only proven stars on the team. The jury still is out on everybody else.
We’re at a point where there is really nothing left to say. We keep hearing that the team is closer, that the offense will be more explosive and that the defense has bounced back from the TaxSlayer Bowl debacle.
Now, I just want to see it for myself.