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Things to watch for during Iowa football’s spring game

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I mean it could be fun, right?

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa
Could Noah Fant be the star of the spring game? Maybe!
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

It’s spring, which means all the flowery trees around Iowa City are blooming and smelling amazing, there are people day-drinking outside and we FINALLY have some football to talk about.

Today, of course, Iowa plays its annual spring “game” and a bunch of people will pour into Kinnick because we all know it’s the only live football we’re going to be able to consume until the fall. Unless you like arena football and I have yet to see someone wearing any arena football team gear so if you say you like it, I’m going to assume you are a BIG FAT LIAR.

Anyways, we’re talking about the Hawkeyes here so lets dive into that. There are going to be a whole bunch of things I’ll be watching for and you should be too.

OH MY GOD WHO IS THE QUARTERBACK.

Wow. We are officially in the post-Beathard era. It feels like so long ago we had a long and nasty quarterback competition that ended with Jake Rudock transferring to Michigan (of all places, I still can’t get over this) for his senior year. NOW GUESS WHAT: we get to live through another quarterback competition. Aren’t college sports great?

Despite our new favorite visor-rocking hero Nate Stanley getting his redshirt burned by Kirk Ferentz against NDSU last year, it seems we are in for a quarterback battle. I’m going to say this right now, it will SHOCK me if Stanley doesn’t win, but Tyler Wiegers absolutely deserves his shot to prove, uh, something. (P.S. anyone wanna take bets on this — Ben, Danny, looking at you.)

Ferentz isn’t the type of coach to not even give a quarterback an opportunity to prove himself in the offseason, so I can’t say this exactly surprises me. We should also note that Drew Cook has taken his talents to South Beach moved to tight end, which is one less piece for us to jam in the 2000-part puzzle that is Iowa football. We’ll chat more about him in a second.

FANT-ASTIC

You knew I was going to use this at some point, don’t lie. Want a bold prediction? Noah Fant ends his career as one of the best tight ends in school history. Yup. There. I said it. I firmly believe Fant has all the athletic gifts and potential to be a really great Hawkeye.

His size (6-5, 220) is exactly what you’re looking for out of a tight end and there’s little doubt in my mind he gets a little bigger, just as George Kittle did before him. Obviously there’s downsides. He’s young, of course, and there were a couple moments last season where Fant missed a ball, but that’s to be expected.

But he also did this:

See my point?

I would be remiss not to mention Peter Parker Pekar in this post, as he was a critical part of a whole bunch of sets for the Hawkeyes last year. I also think he’ll be passed by at least Fant (and quite possibly Cook) before the end of next season.

There’s just too much potential in both of those players to keep them off the field. On the bright side for all three, there will be plenty of playing time to go around for tight ends. Iowa loves to use multi-tight end sets and there’s no reason to think this won’t continue under Brian Ferentz.

EASLEY DOES IT

A former Iowa State wide receiver commit turned Hawkeye? Oh, those sweet, sweet Cyclone tears.

Kirk Ferentz doesn’t look for JUCO players to fill out his roster very often, but he took a shot on Easley and it seems as if it’s paying off.

“If you put a gun to my head today, I would tell you our best receiver out there day-in and day-out at practice, obviously we know what Matt VandeBerg can do, but Nick Easley has done a nice job,” Brian Ferentz said during media availability on Wednesday. “He's not on scholarship, but he'll play, and he'll play more than maybe he even anticipated.”

To me, this says several things. First, DO NOT PUT A GUN TO YUNG FERENTZ’S HEAD, THIS SOUNDS LIKE A VERY BAD IDEA. Second, Jerminic Smith may very well become a non-factor on next year’s squad. He’s being held out due to academic reasons. If you know anything about Iowa, you’ll know that Ferentz takes this type of stuff fairly seriously.

Also, Smith wasn’t particularly impressive last year. I’m not going to go into a whole spiel about how if he had played better, he wouldn’t have been suspended (college athletics, people), but that’s speculation and AS MUCH AS I LOVE SPECULATION, it simply isn’t fair.

But back to Mr. Nick Easley. A product of Iowa Western, the 5-11, 202-pound athlete/dude/Heisman candidate/student caught 72 passes for 954 yards and nine touchdowns. That’s really awesome because the Hawkeye wide receivers last year combined for 91 catches, 1185 yards and 7 touchdowns.

I only got through the first 3 episodes of Mad Men, but that’s Not Great, Bob.

MOAR LATTIMORE

Oh yes. We’ve all been waiting for this one. At 6-5, 290, defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore has “I’m going to harvest your soul” written all over him. After getting some playing time last year as a freshman, he’s going to likely be thrust into a starting role this season, which is a good thing.

Jaleel Johnson and all his bulk are gone to the NFL, which leaves the Hawkeyes with a gaping hole in the middle of the defense. Josey Jewell is an awesome linebacker, but even he needs good defensive lineman to eat up offensive blockers. Though it certainly seems Lattimore has a higher ceiling than just eating up 300-pound linemen.

He may just give a few Big Ten quarterbacks pain and night terrors this year. Let’s hope so, at least.

THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING

Okay so Desmond King isn’t dead, but he’s now a dearly departed Hawkeye which basically is the same thing, is it not? Anyways, Iowa sort of knows what it has at cornerback, as Josh Jackson and Manny Rugamba both looked good in limited action last year.

But, still, a Thorpe Award winning and likely early-round draft pick isn’t a simple piece to replace. Iowa lucked out last season when King came back (I’m fairly sure Kirk called it the Hawkeye’s biggest recruiting win) but there’s no such veteran coming back this year.

Add this on to the fact Brandon Snyder likely won’t play next year because of a torn ACL (though tearing it this early in the offseason, just YOU WAIT for someone to write something about him coming back at some point for the season) and you have a real sticky situation in the defensive secondary. There’s not a whole lot of experience coming back, which, normally, is something you want.

Granted the Big 10 isn’t the Big 12 where passing yards are a sign of respect, but still — seeing good things in the secondary would be a major positive.