We got that annual rite of spring, the spring practice press conferences with offensive coordinator Greg Davis and defensive coordinator Phil Parker, Wednesday. Here's what we learned:
- C.J. Beathard is good at football, and is fine tuning placement of his throws and decisionmaking. Tyler Wiegers is the clear backup. Assume the Position will be starting there.
- Both Drew Cook and Ryan Boyle are still working at quarterback. I have no idea how much longer that can go on, though Davis says it is "a bit too early" to separate them. By this time next year, someone is probably moving; by their third seasons, John Wienke was practicing pooch punts and Marvin McNutt was a starting receiver. Probably nothing but maybe something: Boyle might make an appearance on special teams this year.
- Sean Welsh at center doesn't appear to be a temporary thing: "I think Sean Welsh moving to center will end up being a very positive deal for us," Davis said Wednesday. If Welsh sticks at center, expect presumed starting center James Daniels to move to his guard position.
- Elsewhere on the offensive line, tackle remains a three-man race between Ike Boettger, Cole Croston and Boone Myers. Davis likes their experience, as all three were starters at times last season. Keegan Render looks like the most recent Iowa tackle to be converted to guard. "[Render] has really come on" during first-team reps this spring.
- As it stands right now, sophomore Jerminic Smith, junior Matt VandeBerg and senior Riley McCarron are the trio to beat on the outside.
- We might finally see Iowa folk hero Jay Scheel at wide receiver this year. He "has really taken a jump over the last three or four practices" and may feature at either outside receiver position. Jonathan Parker, last seen forward-passing a kickoff return to a teammate, is hopefully over that and playing better as a full-time slot receiver.
- No word on running back, but as expected, it's down to Leshun Daniels and Akrum Wadley (Derrick Mitchell, who was Iowa's third-down back last season, has missed spring with an injury). Wadley is up to about 190 pounds. Davis says the extra weight helps Wadley's ball control, which has always been his biggest problem. Fullback is also a mass of humanity behind frontrunner Drake Kulick.
- With both defensive tackles returning, the big holes on defensive line are at the ends. Parker Hesse, who filled in for Drew Ott after Ott's injury, and Matt Nelson are the likely starters. Anthony Nelson can now play at either defensive end position, and will likely be the next man in at either spot.
- Parker used his favorite word -- "violent" -- when talking about Jaleel Johnson, and rightfully so. Parker wants more consistency from him this year. "I think he can be a much better player than what he was last year and we’re looking forward to that and hopefully he can play more downs and maybe he can play on our third down package."
- Josey Jewell is obviously the starter at middle linebacker, but the biggest news is probably backup Angelo Garbutt, a redshirt freshman-to-be. As expected, Aaron Mends is playing at the weakside position and Bo Bower is on strongside (starter Ben Niemann is out this spring due to injury). Jack Hockaday could end up at weakside linebacker, as well.
- Brandon Snyder is probably your latest Iowa walk-on free safety. Senior Anthony Gair, who was poised to start last year before Miles Taylor established himself, was only mentioned as Taylor's possible backup, That means it's almost certainly Snyder, who has "really progressed in the last 13 days of practice," in the other starting safety spot.
- Parker started off by saying that the defense was "building a culture." He later explained: "I think there’s a demeanor, there’s a tempo, there’s an attitude, there’s — how do you carry yourself and what does football mean to you; do you have a passion for it; is it important to you. Some guys play the game just to be on the team. Some guys go out there and play because they love the game, they have a passion for it and they want to excel at it." I'd say that pretty well sums up something that was lacking at times in the last few years. Glad that we've found it again.
- The Raider is coming back, in case there was any doubt.
- On Maurice Fleming's fransfer: "We talked about it. We had a meeting after the, when they came back in January, we sat down and talked. His goal was to be a starter. That was very important for him to do, starter, to be on regular downs. And he was a starter in our sub packages, and he wasn’t — he came out and said: Hey, if I’m not a starter, I might look somewhere to go to transfer and see where I can go start....we’re happy for him and hope that he finds a place that’s comfortable for him. I’m sure he’s going to miss this place and we’re going to miss him." That's pretty simple.
- On the satellite camp ruling, particularly with regard to Sound Mind, Sound Body (which Parker has recruited for a while): "You know, I think [SMSB is] an opportunity for kids to go out there and compete against each other. Does it really matter that we’re sitting there as coaches at that time? I don’t think how much that makes a difference. I mean, we knew about guys. You go recruit your area, you have a prospect, they have a camp, they come together, they are teaching things, besides football. I think that’s more what Sound Mind, Sound Body is about, than just going out and running around, even though there’s a lot of kids that go there. But I really don’t — it’s good or bad. I mean, it doesn’t matter. If they change the rule next week, then we’ll be there."