We’re now just a few days away from the first real opportunity for fans to feast their eyes on the Iowa Hawkeyes since the football season came to an abrupt end back in December. The Hawkeyes are set to host one of two open practices this Saturday in Kinnick Stadium. As a reminder, gates open at 8:30am for a 9:30 open practice with the added bonus of the 2021 National Champion Iowa Wrestling team to be recognized. If you have a chance to get out there, it should be a great day. Masks and social distancing will be required.
Before we get to Saturday, however, we still have a slew of digital evidence as to how things are going. The football team has been practicing for a couple weeks now and releasing photo galleries along the way to HawkeyeSports.com. They’ve also dropped short video clips and even mic’d up some players.
So, let’s see what we can gather from what we have been able to see of the Hawkeyes on the field thus far this spring.
QB Competition? What QB Competition?
One of the things we’ve been sold via the media availability from the Iowa coaching staff has been some semblance of an actual QB competition this spring. Last week we heard from starting QB Spencer Petras talking about his need for improved accuracy while QB coach and former OC Ken O’Keefe talked not only about the need for more accuracy out of Petras, but the fact that backup Alex Padilla had a mastery of the offense and was highly accurate.
Enter the QB competition narrative. We’ve already touched on this, but it sounds as if Iowa is having as close to an actual competition as you might expect a KF coached team to have. But the pictures tell a different story than the coaches are selling.
Here’s last year’s starter Spencer Petras taking a rep with the first team offense.
Hey look, it’s another one!
In fact, after searching through the photos from 8 different days of practice, I’ve yet to stumble across one that shows Petras on the field with anyone not in the first team offense.
But, surely in a competition he’s getting the same reps as backup Alex Padilla, right?
Yeah, no. Here’s Padilla throwing to reserve tight end Bryce Schulte.
And here he is working with the entire second team offense, against the second team defense
As with Petras, I’ve searched through each day’s practice photos and I’ve yet to come across one where Padilla is decidedly working with the first team.*
The same can be said about everyone’s favorite backup QB, Deuce Hogan, who is also exclusively seen working with backups.
The frustration no doubt caused by the faux competition is sure to be exacerbated by one notable difference between Petras and Padilla in the shots: while Petras is noticeably still, Padilla appears very fast even in routine work such as a handoff to backup RB Gavin Williams (who is clearly still a backup based on his relative stillness).
Merriweather on the Mic
As much as practice photos are interesting to dissect, video is certainly much more telling. We’ve gotten a few glimpses of video early on, but perhaps the best came over the weekend when the official Twitter account dropped a video of starting safety Kaevon Merriweather mic’d up.
Do you see a ton of actually noteworthy stuff in the video? No, not really. But a couple things are pretty clear.
For starters, Merriweather has a magnetic personality. He’s vocal and involved with players from all position groups and players appear to be drawn to him.
Even moreso than the connection between Merriweather and his teammates, what is clear is the coaches have placed their trust in the junior from Michigan. We’ve seen the former basketball star win and lose a starting role in the past, but for this particularly coaching staff to trust him to not only get up in front of the media over the summer and now to wear a mic for the world to see (albeit surely edited down) shows he’s in that inner circle at this point.
Here’s hoping he can capitalize this fall.
While the starting five in the back end is well locked in, there is a lot of depth behind the starters that we continue to hear good things about. That includes the likes of Terry Roberts and Brendan Deasfernandes. The former has been a special teams star while the latter has quietly grown into a potential future star.
That is, literally grown into himself. Here’s an early look at Deasfernandes on a recruiting visit as a high school sophomore. He was 5’4” and just tagging along with teammates.
On the official roster on HawkeyeSports.com, Deasfernandes is now listed at 6’, but reports are he has continued to grow and is now closer to 6’2”. The photos seem to suggest that may be accurate.
An awful lot of Julius Brents in that one.
Beyond the noticeable length, however, we may be getting some clues as to why Deasfernandes is still a backup. There are a few photos over the last week plus where he appears to be..... struggling to track the ball.
(In fairness to the young man, there are also some shots of him making some plays with his eyes clearly on the ball. All in good fun here.)
A few other takeaways thus far:
- Tyler Goodson still looks good, son.
- Jestin Jacobs looks like he’s going to be a star.
- Sam LaPorta is going to be in the league soon (also, Jack Plumb is not a small human).
- Punting is still winning.
There are no doubt some other things that can be taken away from the photos to-date. There seems to be a fair amount of Max Cooper working with the topo group, for example. And we will certainly know more after this weekend.
But for now, it’s great to get some shots of practice, some player and coach availability to wet our beaks and some sense of normalcy back in our lives.
*OK, so I may have found one where he is handing the ball to Goodson, but I can’t determine if it’s the entire first team or not given the defense appears to be the second team and the linemen featured are not identifiable.