In the spirit of Kirk Ferentz I like to take notes in a little notepad during open practices. I used to take stats and such, but with a 4-year old in tote, it's too difficult to keep an eye on the field and an eye on your child playing hide-and-seek with some other random child in the bleachers where there really is no place to hide. So my notes from the West Des Moines practice are just my random thoughts throughout the afternoon. For the sake of coherence, I've organized them.
$7 for a slice of pepperoni pizza and a Sierra Mist...feels just like Kinnick.
Stands are mostly full, though we're sitting on the 40 yardline and have the row to ourselves.
FLYOVER!!! (It was just some random plane.)
The estimated attendance was 8,000. That's a whole lot less than the 14,000 tickets given out. The weather had something to do with that for sure. It was very windy and it rained lightly off and on. Right before the practice and right after, the rain came down harder, so actually the weather was pretty cooperative.
The quarterback battle
Most impressed with C.J. Beathard so far (this was during the drills). He throws with some zip and is accurate.
7-on-7, the offense mostly struggled. But Cody Sokol and Riley McCarron had a nice long connection. And Jake Rudock had a beautiful pass to C.J. Fiedorowicz up the seam.
Nice zone-read keeper by Rudock.
Rudock was great blitz recognition...finds McCarron for the TD.
The QB battle is far from decided. All three guys had their moments, good and bad. During the drill work, Beathard looked the best. He has a really strong arm and gets the ball to the receiver very quickly. Rudock struggled during this portion of practice and sailed a lot of passes when throwing with the wind.
However, in the scrimmage part of practice, Rudock looked the most comfortable. He threw 3 TDs and for the most part got the ball where it needed to go. Sokol also had a few good throws. And pretty much all 3 of the QBs looked good when throwing it to the TEs.
The tight ends are good
Throw to TE = Success!
Play-action to Fiedorowicz is working!
Sokol to Ray Hamilton...good play.
CJF is really good.
The tight ends are really the strength of this offense. They are deep, they are talented, and they make plays. CJF and Hamilton both had a bunch of catches. Blocking was also pretty good. I wasn't watching the line drills very closely, but at one point, Fiedorowicz was just killing his guy.
What was probably most encouraging though, was that the TEs were targeted down the field some, not just as a safety valve. CJF even had a target during a red-zone drill, though it was broken up on what probably could have been called pass interference.
Don't say it too loudly, but we may have a running back race
Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock trading first team reps.
Adam Cox is the first team fullback. He's getting used in the Weisman hybrid FB/RB role.
Shotgun in the redzone, zone read to Bullock for the TD.
Weisman takes handoff as the fullback...it works!
Jordan Canzeri is GOOD and fast.
WEISMAN LOOKING GOOD!
Rotation of Weisman and Bullock seems to work.
Canzeri had an impressive day. Though he was going against the twos most of the time, he looked very fast and had a couple of long runs. Though most of the talk has been about Weisman and Bullock, I'd be surprised if Canzeri didn't get a lot of touches this year.
Weisman was solid as well. He had a couple of longer runs, but also just pounded the ball and got 4-5 yards when there wasn't really much there. He looks improved running the ball to the outside where I felt he was a touch slow last year.
Bullock had a more quiet day. He did have a redzone TD, but that was about it. He did line up some in the slot and out wide. And they were able to get him on the field at the same time as Weisman a couple of times.
Also worth mentioning, Adam Cox saw a ton of action. He worked with the first team as the fullback and then shifted to running back with the second stringers. He wasn't super effective running the ball, but wasn't bad. He's only a freshman, so can maybe fill Weisman's role in a few years.
Special teams have a shot to be pretty good
Connor Kornbrath consistently hitting 50+ yard punts with the wind.
Kornbrath just boomed one over 70 yards in the air.
Jonny Mullings has some good punts as well, but not as consistent.
Okay, punting is boring.
Placekickers taking aim at the camera dude...awesome.
With crazy wind, the kickers are perfect on FGs during a quickfire FG drill.
Using the traditional punt formation.
Chris White has brought a few new ideas and drills to the Iowa special teams and they looked good. Even in the windy conditions, the kicking game was solid. I didn't see a missed FG attempt, though I wasn't always watching the kickers closely. There also seemed to be an increased focus on ST during this practice. Extra time was spent on gunners and returns.
A few thoughts about the defense
B.J. Lowery is the best DB.
John Lowdermilk looks good in man coverage.
Defensive line doing an okay job, but not consistent.
James Morris with a nice TFL.
So the defense isn't as fun to watch... For the most part, the D looked behind the offense. Though I wouldn't say the WRs had a god day (largely because of drops), they did get open a lot down field beating the DBs.
The linebackers are unsurprisingly the strength of the defense. There were a couple of nice plays in run support and they seemed to hold their own in coverage.
Don Shumpert still can't catch the ball.
Jordan Cotton looks like the best receiver (and even he didn't have a great day)
The receivers were unremarkable - There were a lot of drops. Martin-Manley barely participated, so having him back will help.
The surprise player of the day - Riley McCarron. He filled the KMM slot position and was fairly successful. He showed some quicks and the ability to get open.
A lot of hurry-up and very little huddling.
Maybe up-tempo is a real thing after all - The offense rarely huddled yesterday. For the most part it wasn't going at a blazing tempo, but at times, like after a first down, they did push the pace. Other than that it was mostly just getting up to the line quickly and then all turning over to look at Greg Davis signaling in the plays.
0 yard out...incomplete.
Another 0 yard out. UGH!
The horizontal offense is alive and well...though not as bad - really there wasn't too much horizontal passing, but during a redzone drill, they ran this little swing pass off of motion over and over again and it failed over and over again. I think only one time was the pass completed and it lost a yard.
Overall, it was great to see some real football, and to only have to drive 30 minutes instead of 2 hours to take in an open practice. Only 9 games into spring ball, I thought the team looked decent and I'm hopeful that this year will be better than last.