Iowa Spring Game Takeaways

Iowa Spring Game
Spread the love

The Iowa Hawkeyes hosted their final spring practice of the year Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium open to fans and media. Rather than a typical Iowa spring “game” like a lot of programs hold, the Hawkeyes’ version is more of a practice, and no official score is kept. The team runs through drills, situational setups, and some 11 on 11 scrimmages. The Iowa Spring game provided a lot of quality insight into the progression of the offense. It gave viewers a glimpse at how the team might look come fall camp. A handful of starters including Keagan Johnson, Jack Campbell, and Jestin Jacobs did not participate in practice. 

Iowa Spring Game Quarterbacks

The signal-caller, whether it was Spencer Petras or Alex Padilla, was under a lot of scrutiny last season due to their lack of consistency. A lot of the attention in spring practice was towards the quarterback position under newly-appointed quarterbacks coach Brian Ferentz. To begin 11 on 11 drills, Petras took all of the snaps. The first play of the scrimmage went deep on a well-thrown ball by Petras. However, the Hawkeye secondary made a great play, breaking up the pass. It appeared that the offense wanted to set the tone early and show off their deep-play potential. Petras also hit some long passes in warm-ups and showed great accuracy in finding his targets downfield. He did, however, miss an open receiver high over the middle of the field in the end zone. It is still early, and the fifth-year senior has always had a great arm, but it sure helps when you can’t take a hit in practice.

Padilla took over towards the middle of practice and immediately showed his elusiveness in the pocket. He scrambled to make a great throw and began the day three-of-four. Padilla then put together a solid scoring drive capped off with a touchdown to sophomore Kaden Wetjen. The Colorado native looked the best to this point based on this small sample size. However, Joey Labas had yet to take the field.

Long-Ball Labas

Towards the end of the 11 on 11 drills, Labas took the field and started five-for-five for 73 yards and a touchdown. His scoring drive included a 40-yard pass slipping between two defenders to hit his receiver in stride. An eye-popping throw from the sophomore quarterback was impressive on his first drive of practice, even being against the third-team defense. Labas got a lot of love from the coaching staff at the end of last season when he was standing out on scout team and even taking reps with the second-team. At spring practice, Labas looked very comfortable in the pocket. He even showed his mobility in flushing the pocket and making plays. Petras and Padilla still look to be at the top of the list, but Labas will give them a run for their money come fall camp.

Australian Punt Team

Tory Taylor has a booming leg. He was among the best in the country last season. Taylor averaged over 46 yards per punt while consistently pinning opponents deep in their own territory. It seems as though he is still trending upward. Taylor ended the punt period at practice with a booming, 70-yard punt with a hang time north of five seconds. The Australian punter has been one of Iowa’s most effective offensive weapons, and he looks to be even better this season. 

Cooper DeJean had an impressive showing on defense and on special teams. The young sophomore had a great pass breakup on third down and then downed one of Taylor’s punts inside the five-yard line. Quality punt team coverage is one of Iowa’s keys to success. Last season, Terry Roberts was always seen downing the ball at the goal line, sometimes literally catching his own team’s punts. DeJean showed that he can be the next guy to make those kinds of plays on special teams, continuing to make that phase of the game a top priority. 

The kickers struggled a little bit during Saturday’s practice, however. They missed three of four field goals from inside 45 yards. The departure of Caleb Shudak leaves the door open for a new placekicker, and it will be big shoes to fill. The kicking position is vitally important to the Hawkeye offense. Based on their performance today, there will likely be a competition this fall for the starting role.

Phil Parker’s Defense

In short, the Hawkeye defensive line strong-armed the offense. Lukas Van Ness looked like he was ready to take the field for an actual game. The sophomore is visually a lot more imposing and appeared to have put on a lot of muscle in the offseason. He showed quick hands and a lot of great footwork in the scrimmage. Van Ness could make a legitimate run at being a first-team defender this season in the Big Ten. The second-year defensive end is 6’-5” and around 275 pounds with agility. He is not someone an offensive tackle will look forward to lining up against this season.

Iowa faithful also got their first look at number one. Former five-star Xavier Nwankpa put on a Hawkeye uniform for the first time inside Kinnick Stadium. He did not have any stand-out plays, but his presence in the defensive secondary and even on special teams will be worth the watch this season. He is one of Iowa’s best recruits of all time, and will likely have an immediate impact on the field.

Main image courtesy Katherine Lemkau