Here we are, mid-April and a full month into the spring season, and yet I’m still recovering from more snow in Iowa City. I’m also really starving for anything I can get my hands on from the Hawkeyes. Sure, there’s been some news here and there. We’ve heard updates on Tyler Cook, Cordell Pemsl Isaiah Moss and Connor McCaffery. We’ve seen some photos and videos from the football team’s spring practice. And we’ve also had a good deal of media availability for the coaching staff.
All that has helped to, at least in part, keep me sane. But I’m starting to get some spring fever ya’ll. I need some warmer weather, some sunshine. I need to see the Hawkeyes in action, not just on the screen. Thank the football gods for the “spring game.”
I put it in quotes because, as we all know, there is nothing resembling a game involved in Iowa’s spring game. It always has and always will be an open practice. It’s unfortunate for fans as I know we would all love to get into Kinnick and really get a look at what things could look like. It’s borderline criminal that I can’t overreact to it as if it were a game (but oh baby will I try!).
But I also 100% get it from a coaching standpoint. You only get so many opportunities in the spring to be with the team and you had better make the most use of those opportunities. At Iowa, that means running a full practice - not wasting one trying to put on a show. That’s football.
And frankly, we should all be pretty happy we get to see anything. There’s been more than a few spring games called off already due to this splendid weather we’ve been enjoying, Michigan and Wisconsin included. Oh, and Iowa State.
Good call @ISUMattCampbell and @IASTATEAD to cancel the spring game. Would have been miserable— Chris Williams (@ChrisMWilliams) April 14, 2018
As our old pal Fran’s Red Face so poignantly points, perhaps that wasn’t a necessarily a bad thing in their case.
Plus the weather is bad too. https://t.co/BJQ4QRaxBK— Fran's Red Face (@FransRedFace) April 14, 2018
I assume Iowa State, had they kept score, would have looked a lot like Rutgers.
Rutgers putting up triple digits. Twice. #springgametweets pic.twitter.com/G07I2vbnjT— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) April 14, 2018
So. Much. Defense.
But seriously, can we talk about how ridiculous some of the formats for these things are? Rutgers certainly isn’t the only school using a random, confusing scoring system to reward just about everything under the sun. Every school seems to have their own formula for scoring and while none requires a firm grasp of higher math, trying to keep up with them can leave your head spinning and none of them makes much sense to the average fan.
If teams aren’t going to just keep score like a normal game, I’m happy Iowa steers clear of the illusion of a “game” and just has an open practice. Would I prefer to be able to see the Hawkeyes strap them up and give fans a half of real football? You’re damn right I’d be in for that. And I think a lot of Iowa fans would as well.
Perhaps they’d be into it enough to actually show up and watch. We’re never going to be Ohio State, selling out a spring game (and honestly that just seems dumb to me), but people would definitely check it out. It would also be slick if they decided to go back to doing it on a Saturday afternoon instead of a Friday evening. Sure night games are cool and Hawkeye fans have made some crazy things happen in Kinnick at night recently, but this is a spring “game” and it’s not a Saturday. No, this is a Friday night and people aren’t driving in from all over the state to tailgate and enjoy themselves. Perhaps a few would if it was on a Saturday afternoon. Hell, maybe it would be enough for the Big Ten Network to actually show some of the Hawkeyes for a change. Probably not, but still.
Despite all the things holding this thing back (Friday night, not televised, not a true game, etc.), I’m actually looking forward to it. It’s mid-April and we’re dealing with snow and the toxic sports waste land that is the offseason. There is nothing else going on and we are all starved for any football insights we can get that doesn’t involve a coach behind a podium.
So this Friday, 4/20, as a middle-aged father of two I’ll be enjoying the epic troll job that is Captain Kirk schedule a non-game spring game on a Friday night on this particular date. And I’ll be looking to see if there’s anything at all that sticks out. Usually it doesn’t and often, like the Prime Time League in the summer, even if something does stick out it will end up being fool’s gold, but I’m here for some football.
I’m hoping to see how the linebackers look. I’m nervous about replacing the entire trio, but especially Josey Jewell. I don’t expect much, but I hope the noobs don’t look totally lost. In the spring the defense is supposed to be further along and look better than the offense, the Rutgers results notwithstanding.
I’m also hoping to see the offensive line not get totally demolished by what I expect to be a pretty solid defensive front. Trying to replace Sean Welsh and James Daniels will be tough. Those two were great run blockers, but the line is also losing their captain calling out protections. Can they make do with two new guys in those roles? We won’t know the answer Friday night, but it’s another data point. What we see up front may give us an indication of what kind of a dropoff, if any, the run game might see with the departure of a dynamic playmaker like Arkum Wadley. We’ve heard great things thus far regarding Toren Young and saw some glimpses of Ivory Kelly-Martin a year ago. I don’t have major concerns in the backfield.
On the outside, however, the Hawkeyes always seem a bit underwhelming. That’s an area I’m hoping to get some comfort on Friday. Ihmir Smith-Marsette showed us he has the speed last season. He’s going to need consistency to get to the next level and we won’t be able to glean much there in one practice. Brandon Smith has all the physical tools to be very good on the outside. He’s huge. He’s fast. He apparently has the world’s largest hands. But he is most known for a fumble and some drops last season. I’m hoping to see some flashes from him on Friday.
I think we all expect Nick Easley to play a role somewhere between what he did a year ago and what Matt VandeBerg did prior to injury two years ago. What does Kyle Groeneweg bring to the table? Do we even bother throwing to receivers with how talented the tight ends are?
Perhaps most importantly, can Nate Stanley connect with any of them on the deep ball? It was a hot topic last year and I think we can all agree had there been more timing on those the season could have had a different outcome. I assume the staff saw that as well and would hope it’s been an area of emphasis. I expect to see, even in a practice, some reasons to be optimistic about it this year.
And finally, I’m really looking forward to getting a look at the renovations. In case you missed it, the entire north end zone section of the stadium was torn down following the season and is being rebuilt as part of the Kinnick Edge project. From what I’ve seen on the Twitters, the frame that’s been completed thus far looks massive. Despite the construction forcing the entire practice to be run towards the south end zone, I’m excited to see the progress and make my own mental mock up of what the final product will look like.
Much like the spring “game” itself, I’m sure my imagination will lead to expectations no one could live up to, but it’s the offseason and I’ve got spring fever. Are you ready for some football?