Guys, I’m getting a little bit worried here. I am, by nature, a pretty pessimistic Hawkeye fan. I mean, I think that just sort of happens when you spend your life rooting for this program. Whether it’s football or basketball, you just grow accustomed to the proverbial rug being pulled out from under you at the last minute; the football being pulled away just as you rear back to give it a solid kick.
But here we are entering the heart of August, just two short weeks from our first college football game week of the year, and you know what? I’m getting more and more optimistic about this football team. And this weekend did absolutely nothing to temper that optimism.
For starters, it looks like we have our starter at QB. I know head coach Kirk Ferentz said a number of things to try and throw a wet blanket on this, but anybody that watched Saturday came away with the same conclucsion: Nathan Stanley looked much better than Tyler Wiegers. It’s one day, they compete every day, etc. etc. etc. This is overreaction Monday and this is Stanley’s job.
Kids Day **unofficial** QB stats:— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) August 12, 2017
--Stanley 13-23, 153 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 5 sacks
--Wiegers 6-14, 31 yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 7 sacks
Again, one day and all, but those aren’t close. The rumor mill is saying the staff wants Stanley to take this job. They want him to be the vocal leader and rally the troops. To me, the stats should be all the rallying you need. Stanley is reportedly a rather quiet guy who isn’t likely to be that vocal leader, but that doesn’t mean he can’t control the huddle and command the respect of his teammates by leading them on the field. Even if it is in near silence.
I think throws like this will do the trick:
Here's Iowa QB Nathan Stanley's 2nd touchdown pass to WR Devonte Young today. Kids Day at Kinnick Highlights: https://t.co/9tqVlESonX pic.twitter.com/1LDjXgwKvX— Blair Sanderson (@BlairRIVALS) August 13, 2017
On. The. Money.
The other major question mark coming into the season, is the much-discussed receiver quandary. I think a lot of Hawkeye fans left Saturday feeling much better about that situation. I know I did. Not only did we finally get to see incoming graduate transfer Matt Quarells for the first time (albeit not in full pads due to only being cleared a few days prior), but we saw the QBs really spread the ball around to a lot of guys who looked more than capable.
We touched on this in Free-For-All Friday, but that crazy good video they put out last week started to ease the concerns when we got to see guys like Max Cooper and Ihmir Smith-Marsette show off their abilities. Saturday we saw fellow freshman Brandon Smith look like the real deal, leading all receivers in catches. We saw Devonte Young step up to the plate after so many people have written him and Adrian Falconer off, leading all receivers in both yards and touchdowns (including that beaut from Stanley above).
All-in-all, I think I feel as good or better about this group of receivers as I did last year’s group. There are more unknowns with all the youth, but there’s more upside. Here’s a look at their unofficial stats from Saturday:
(WRs CONT)— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) August 12, 2017
--Cooper, 1-4, 1 TD
In the backfield, there are almost no questions outstanding. But that didn’t keep the running backs from raising some new ones. We all know Akrum Wadley and James Butler are about to be one of the premier two-headed rushing monsters in all of college football this season. We’ve assumed that right behind them will be a steady dose of Toren Young with some Toks Akinribade sprinkled in here and there. Freshman RB Ivory Kelly-Martin showed Saturday he may have something to say about this stable of workhorses.
IKM certainly looked the part. He led all backs in rushes (tied with Butler at 11) and showed a really nice combination of power and speed. He’s got some wiggle and the size to eventually be an every down back on this team. I still think it’s best for the long-term success of this program if IKM redshirts for a season, but if he’s going to look as good as he did this weekend he may for the staff to get him on the field for a few touches.
RUSHING— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) August 12, 2017
--T.Young 9-74, 1 TD
--Butler 11-56, 1 TD
--Joly 8-34 (fumble)
I’m really excited to see these guys in some live action. Wadley and Butler are going to be pretty fun to watch. And if Saturday was any indication, we will actually see them on the field together a fair amount. Even more exciting, we saw a number of RBs lined up in the slot at times, with another in the backfield. This is clearly something they’ve installed and are practicing. What if Brian really does have the keys to the car here?
Going into the weekend, the questions on the defensive side of the all were pretty limited. We know we have a pretty good looking group of defensive backs. There’s the question at safety thanks to the injury of Brandon Snyder, but otherwise that group looks solid. The linebackers are going to be spectacular. Along the line, we know the defensive ends are a strong suit and while there’s some growing depth, there are questions about replacing Jaleel Johnson at defensive tackle.
Saturday gave us a glimpse at what could be shaping up here, and the answer should make Hawkeye fans giddy. We saw Matt Nelson taking quite a few snaps at defensive tackle, rather than at defensive end. That would be due to freshman phenom AJ Epenesa. He’s one of the highest rated recruits Iowa has ever reeled in and it’s becoming pretty apparent why. He wasted no time in the open practice over the weekend:
Five-star freshman @ajepenesa24 doesn't look like your average 18-year-old. pic.twitter.com/aj4TfsABA5— Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) August 12, 2017
He’d be the one on the end at the start of the play and all over the QB at the end. If he wasn’t wearing a red jersey, Nathan Stanley might no longer be alive. But Epenesa wasn’t done. No, he used a stunt to go inside in the above sack, here he shows his pure edge speed:
How can someone so big be so quick? We showed you the first of A.J. Epenesa's four sacks earlier. Here's #AnotherOne. pic.twitter.com/zJfhMsWBSq— Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) August 13, 2017
The guy ended up with 5 (FIVE!!) sacks on Saturday. Granted, they weren’t allowed to actually get at the QB so perhaps somebody escapes one or two, but I am officially lobbying for him to grow that hair out and be renamed Maui. He appears to be our very own demigod (for those of you without kids, check out Moana).
I fully expect AJ to get starter-level snaps day 1. You’re already seeing the staff try to tinker with ways to make that work and still get other guys some run. We’ve had really good defensive lines in the past, but adding an edge rusher like Epenesa can really swing some games for the Hawkeyes. If the middle can be stout against the run, I am moving toward the high end of the win prediction spectrum.
Some might take away some good news here about a freshman CB making a great play.
Matt Hankins forces fumble and recovers it while thwarting a reverse from Smith-Marsette.— Matthew Bain (@MatthewBain_) August 12, 2017
I take away that BF is running reverses with the supposed fastest guy on the team who is also a freshman. There was video evidence of this being run at least one more time and not having it sniffed out so well (though not exactly for a huge gain).
There was plenty of special teams action. Know what there wasn’t? Winning, apparently.
There was not one single punt at Kids Day you guys.— Hawkeye Images (@webcentrick) August 12, 2017
If you’re looking for a quick rundown of some video, HawkeyeReport has a great highlight clip out on Vimeo. Have a look for yourself.
On the hype train yet?
So, pre-season NFL games have officially kicked off. Didn’t take long for former Hawkeye CJ Beathard to make his presence felt in San Francisco.
.@49ers rookie QB C.J. Beathard tosses a 46-yard TD and this game is tied!#SFvsKC pic.twitter.com/vQPEFvSyG8— NFL (@NFL) August 12, 2017
CJ finished the day 7-11 for 101 passing yards and a pair of TDs en route to leading a 27-17 comeback victory for the 49ers. Oh, and he looked OK relative to the other rookie QBs around the league...
Kyle might know what he's doing with QBs...Beathard top rated rookie QB this weekend pic.twitter.com/otaYf6Eq7d— Spider Rico (@7points) August 12, 2017
Speaking of former Hawkeyes picking up right where they left off:
Boykin is hit as he throws...— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2017
And rookie DB @blaqbadger14 goes up and gets the INT! #SEAvsLAC pic.twitter.com/BmqRJQ4qb3
It’s going to be a fun year watching some of these guys get some run in the league. Best of luck to all the former Hawkeyes out there on Sundays.
Meanwhile, at Iowa State, mediocrity is apparently what they do.
Nobody's better at maintaining mediocrity than Iowa State: https://t.co/noYMOrkh2F pic.twitter.com/SUM0T35Hr0— Deadspin (@Deadspin) August 10, 2017
Personally, I don’t think that’s totally fair to ISU. They are better than mediocre this millennium at basketball. Oh wait, they were talking football? Yeah, they aren’t even close to mediocre. Everything else seemed pretty valid though.
Football is almost back and like us, Purdue is getting into mid-season form. For OMHR that means apparently drunk-tweeting from the basketball account.
DSKJFKDJF KLRJ— Purdue Basketball (@BoilerBall) August 12, 2017
In case you were wondering, Purdue is representing the good ol’ U.S. of A. in the World University Games. They were taking on Canada over the weekend and needed OT to pull out the victory. America’s real team, meanwhile, has been putting down European foes by 40-50 points a game (full updates to come). Good luck this basketball season, Purdon’t.
And finally, please do yourselves a favor and go follow Super 70s Sports on the Twitters. You get reminded of sports greatness like this every day.
Ed Podolak enjoyed a terrific year in 1977 when he scored 5 touchdowns and laid down some sweet bass riffs for Spinal Tap. pic.twitter.com/7K5fCyKDi6— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) August 11, 2017
Oh, and this.
Here's Tommy Lasorda beating up a mascot with another Tommy Lasorda. pic.twitter.com/m3pym9PUcn— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) August 13, 2017
Happy Monday, people. Go Hawks!