What or who stood out to me on Saturday? Tyrone Tracy Jr.
Junior receiver showed explosiveness on the field
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Two hours is enough time to do lots of things, from watching four episodes of the Andy Griffith Show to driving from Iowa City to Des Moines to taking a nap, much can be accomplished in two hours.
What can’t be accomplished in two hours, however, is forming an accurate scouting report of the Iowa football team.
It was nice to be back at Kinnick Stadium for the first time since Dec. 12, and to be with fans for the first time since Nov. 23, 2019 when Iowa defeated Illinois 19-10 in the final home game of the 2019 season.
It felt kind of normal when the players and coaches stopped practice briefly to perform the Wave, along with help from the fans.
The weather was close to perfect on Saturday, and what a way to cap an open spring practice by honoring the national champion Iowa wrestling team.
Receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. Stood Out During Saturday’s Iowa Football Practice
Here are his highlights pic.twitter.com/nf7DHrLsHD
— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) April 17, 2021
But as far as learning anything about the Iowa football team, or identifying the next stars on the rise, two hours just isn’t enough time, especially considering how battered and bruised Iowa is right now.
More than a dozen players missed Saturday’s practice due to injuries, including starting cornerback Matt Hankins starting safety Jack Koerner and starting receiver Nico Ragaini.
Offensive lineman Justin Brit was also on crutches and didn’t practice.
If it were late August instead of mid-April, the injury situation, obviously, would be a major concern. But now it’s just a major distraction.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said most of the injuries weren’t serious, and time is currently on Iowa’s side from a healing standpoint.
But again, there were no watershed moments during Saturday’s practice.
Spencer Petras still is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback, while the competition behind him is wide open according to Kirk Ferentz.
Sophomore Alex Padilla was second in the quarterback rotation on Saturday, and he made some nice throws, as did freshman Deuce Hogan at times.
Hogan was fourth in the rotation behind walk-on Connor Kapisak, but that wasn’t based on where they currently stand on the depth chart.
The most intriguing thing about the quarterback competition right now is the battle for the backup spot between Padilla and Hogan.
Kirk Ferentz continues to make it abundantly clear that Petras is the starter, but the backup position is too close to call.
Padilla might have had a slight edge over Hogan on Saturday based on how well Padilla engineered one particular drive in which he completed four passes for about 60 yards, and also ran for a touchdown. Padilla looked poised and was precise on that drive.
“I said it three weeks ago, and I probably feel the same right now; Spencer still has a real advantage from experience,” Kirk Ferentz said after Saturday’s practice. “He’s doing a nice job. And then after that, it’s wide open right now.
“We have rotated pretty liberally. We may talk about that rotation moving forward here. To work four quarterbacks is a little bit of a challenge. But I think after Spencer right now, it’s wide open. I’d probably say Alex and Deuce are probably the closest to each other at this point.”
Petras limped off the field early in practice after being hit in the leg, but he returned a few minutes later and showed his arm strength on several throws to the wide side of the field.
But I didn’t see enough of Petras on Saturday to know for sure that he has lifted his game to another level, nor did I see enough of the backup quarterbacks to form any conclusions.
What I did see, however, is flashes of brilliance from junior receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr., whose explosiveness probably stood out more than anything else on Saturday.
Tracy already has proven himself at this level, having combined for 50 receptions over the past two seasons, including 36 catches for 589 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman in 2019.
His numbers fell off last season, partly due to playing behind departed seniors Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith, and because Iowa only played eight games.
But the stage is set for Tracy to become Iowa’s go-to receiver, and if Saturday’s practice is an indication, Tracy seems up to the challenge.
“We consider Tyrone a starter,” Kirk Ferentz said. “We had two seniors last year. But we considered Tyrone to be a starter. He’s done a lot of good things the last two years for us, and I think he showed that today. He’s ready to play and has practiced really well. He done a good job of giving us good tempo out there.”
It means something when Kirk Ferentz praises a player for his tempo. That’s a word that Ferentz often uses when praising someone, but also when pointing out something that Iowa might be lacking.
To say that Tracy has good tempo means that he is prepared, practicing hard, and with a purpose.
And that’s encouraging because Iowa needs somebody to step up at receiver.
Freshmen receivers Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce have reportedly performed well in practice this spring, and they both had some moments on Saturday.
It seems likely that they both will have a chance to contribute next season, but it would be foolish and unfair to label either a future star at this point.
It would also be unfair and premature to predict stardom for Tracy, but he is capable of making big plays, and we’ve seen it, like the five catches for 130 yards against Wisconsin in 2019.
Tracy had a 75-yard touchdown catch in that game in which he showed the kind of speed and explosiveness that’s needed to make big plays at this level.
He showed that same explosiveness on Saturday, and that’s what stood out more than anything else besides the Wave.