Well everyone, that’s (spring) football.
The 2017 Iowa football spring season came to a close last night in Kinnick Stadium with the annual Black (offense) vs. Gold (defense) open scrimmage/practice in front of an announced crowd of 16,500. The defense took the crown in this one, with a final score of 63-47.
Weird score, right? You may or may not remember that Iowa came up with a unique scoring system for its scrimmage a couple years ago:
Touchdown: 6 points
“Big” plays (a running play of 12 or more yards or a pass of more than 16 yards): 3 points
1st Down: 1 point
PAT: 1 point
Field goal: 3 points
Touchdown: 7 points
Takeaway: 4 points
3 and out: 2 points
Sack: 3 points
Quick change: 4 points
PAT Block: 1 point
The two biggest stories of the night in my opinion: the battle at QB, and junior safety Jake Gervase’s 3 interceptions. Let’s start with the QB battle.
There wasn’t a ton of visible separation between sophomore Nate Stanley who many, (including me), are projecting to be the starter come fall, and junior Tyler Wiegers, who ended up getting the start. Both quarterbacks got reps with the first team, and were interchanged through the first three quarters of the scrimmage.
Wiegers wasn’t impressive in the first drive, which ended in a 3-and-out, giving the defense the early lead they never relinquished. Stanley came in for the second drive, and promptly gave up a sack. Wiegers was back next, and threw his first interception of the night to Gervase.
Now, on the next drive, Stanley did manage to throw not only the first completion of the night, but also a touchdown to Devonte Young on a nice little WR screen in the red zone. Not all hope is lost! But let’s use this as a way to begin talking about Gervase, who Kirk Ferentz called “the star of the night.” The junior is going to be the replacement safety for Brandon Snyder, who tore his ACL in practice right before the first spring scrimmage.
Three interceptions on the night is great! Losing Snyder is still a blow, but I like that Gervase is able to slip into the position and have a big night. That gives me some hope for the defense, but the passes he intercepted also do not give me a ton of hope for either QB’s ability to read their routes or what the defense is showing them.
I couldn’t find a video of just Gervase’s first INT, or even all three of them, so here’s the full highlight clip put together by BTN for the night. Let’s take a look at Gervase’s first INT, which happens at the 12 second mark:
The first-ever Friday night spring game at Kinnick Stadium is a wrap.— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) April 22, 2017
Some highlights in case you missed it: https://t.co/MK62pmXJwg
I can’t quite tell if the receiver got a hand on this here and tipped it back to Gervase, or if it was just overthrown right into his hands, but the more I watch it, the more I think it was just overthrown. Wiegers got the ball out of the shotgun, and had a clean pocket and a relatively open man, so I’m not quite sure what he was thinking there.
Here’s what my favorite Twitter follow Hawkeyegamefilm had to say about Gervase in the first two series:
Nice couple of series for FS30; good alley fill in run support on 1st series; read QBs on for INT on basic/dig; losing FS37 left a big ?— Hawkeye Gamefilm (@hawkeyegamefilm) April 22, 2017
Onto the next one, which Gervase returned for a TD:
Pick No. 2 of the evening for Jake Gervase, and Jake takes this one to the crib: https://t.co/fc6DCJGHYv— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) April 22, 2017
Another overthrown ball from Wiegers here. The real story here is Gervase’s return for the pick-6. He shows nice field awareness by cutting completely across the field to find the end zone. Nice awareness from his blockers, too.
And finally, let’s check out Gervase’s third snag of the night, this one thrown by Stanley:
It looks like Stanley was trying to hit wideout Nick Easley (who many are projecting to be the breakout receiver come fall) flanking over the middle, but the pass was extremely short, and it looks to me like Easley either didn’t know the ball was going to come his way, or was slow to run his route, because Gervase looks like he was the only body in a black or white jersey around.
The rest of the scrimmage featured what seem to be staples of the Iowa offense and QBs over the last few seasons: overthrown receivers, short passes, completions on third down that don’t meet the markers, and a lot of throws to tight ends (more on that below). The final, unofficial stats for both players, thanks to Chad Leistikow:
If the top 2 QBs are done, as it appears (unofficial):— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) April 22, 2017
--Wiegers 11-for-19, 94 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
--Stanley 6-for-16, 17 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Not exactly confidence boosting stats. When asked about the QB competition, Kirk Ferentz said his team would “be in trouble, period,” and that he would toss a coin if he had to pick one of them to start at this point.
But again, this is spring football, and he said as much. There’s still an entire summer in front of this team to improve. Kirk had this to say about the QB competition:
Well, I happen to remember a certain back-and-forth QB competition that didn’t work itself out until one of them transferred, but I digress.
It wasn’t a performance worth writing home about for either quarterback, but it doesn’t mean diddly-poo right now. The scrimmage didn’t feature any of the future starting QB’s top receivers, in Matt VandeBerg and Jerminic Smith (who Kirk said is still in a wait-and-see academics situation), or No. 1 running back Akrum Wadley. I have to think (and hope) that adding them back into the mix in the fall will change things. Wadley and the play action will open up the passing lanes a bit more, and the more experienced hands of the wideouts will certainly make up for the inexperience and growth of either (or both) quarterbacks.
Other areas of note
Wadley not getting reps at running back opened things up for backups sophomore Toks Akinribade and redshirt freshman Toren Young. Young was the standout, taking advantage of his solid offensive line to run for nearly 100 yards and find paydirt once on a nice 14-yard power play. He showed some nice resilience and good footwork in my eyes. I think he’ll fit in nicely.
We all know Kirk and company like to use multiple backs, so I’d imagine we’ll be seeing more of these guys in the fall, especially Young.
Akrum Wadley, kick returner?
While he didn’t get any reps at RB like I mentioned above, we did see Akrum Wadley lining up as a kick returner. When asked if we’ll see that come fall, Kirk said that “there’s a chance.”
Mark Emmert also got some interesting tidbits out of Wadley:
Wadley wrote down goals for season: 1,400 yards and Doak Walker Award. Heisman? 'That's on the list, too.'— MarkEmmert (@MarkEmmert) April 22, 2017
Wadley also said he's at 192 pounds. Said he wants to start running people over instead of just going around them.— MarkEmmert (@MarkEmmert) April 22, 2017
This is what I like to hear.
Tight ends are the new wide receivers
We all knew it was coming, but on Friday night, we saw a lot of tight end throws from every quarterback. Here’s what Chad Leistikow managed to record for stats:
9 catches for TEs thru 3 quarters:— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) April 22, 2017
Also of note: Drew Cook, former QB, got his first catch as a tight end in the fourth quarter from sophomore Ryan Boyle. Certainly something to watch in the coming years.
Brian Ferentz also mentioned the emphasis on getting the big guys involved (along with some other interesting tidbits) in his interview with BTN:
That’s none of my business
LeShun Daniels is wearing a hat with Kermit the Frog drinking tea on it and that's the best thing you'll see all night.— John Bohnenkamp (@johnbohnenkamp) April 22, 2017
What a view
I had a chance to tour the new Stead Family Children’s Hospital a few months ago, and let me tell you, that view is simply incredible.
So, now let’s hear it: who’s your spring ball MVP? Who should start at QB? Who will start at QB? And of course, will Iowa make it to another bowl next year?