Flurries began falling on Iowa’s final Spring practice inside Kinnick Stadium on Saturday morning. Temperatures were in the high 30’s and winds were blowing. It wasn’t ideal conditions for the team’s final Spring practice, but that’s football. There’s been a lot of speculation ahead of the final practice including who would participate and how the offense would look. It was just one of 15 total practices this Spring, but the energy of being back inside Kinnick Stadium made for a crisp final practice with the personnel pieces they had available.
Several key players did not participate in practice including offensive linemen Mason Richman, Connor Colby, and transfer Daijon Parker. At wide receiver, Iowa was without sixth-year senior Nico Ragaini and Charleston Southern transfer Seth Anderson. On the defensive line, Iowa was missing Yahya Black and Noah Shannon. Starting quarterback Cade McNamara dressed for practice and participated in 7-on-7 drills, but did not get any 11-on-11 action. The group “limped” into the final practice, but there were still several positives to take away heading into summer workouts.
Cade McNamara and the Offense
All the talk of the offseason has been regarding how Iowa’s offense will look with McNamara and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. During warmups, McNamara looked good throwing deep-out patterns to Diante Vines, showing great arm strength. He didn’t push the envelope much as he is still recovering from a knee injury last season. During 7-on-7 drills McNamara threw two touchdown passes. One of them was tipped into the hands of redshirt freshman receiver Graham Friedrichsen. The other was on a great pass to tight end, and former teammate of his, Erick All.
All will be a great addition to the Hawkeye offense this season, giving the tight end room two excellent options. The Michigan transfer showed off his route running ability on Saturday and physically looks like another elite Iowa tight end. He and Luke Lachey are going to be a powerful one-two punch at the position. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them emerge as the next-best duo since TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant in 2018.
Deacon Hill and Joe Labas led the 11-on-11 drills at quarterback in Iowa’s final Spring practice. Hill was running with the team’s starters for most of the practice and had a great showing. He transferred from Wisconsin this past offseason and brings considerable size to the position at Iowa. Hill is six-foot-three-inches and 230 pounds as a redshirt sophomore. He has had almost no game action in his collegiate career thus far but put together a solid practice on Saturday. He didn’t seem to have accuracy issues despite the difficult weather and even found tight end Addison Ostrenga for a long touchdown. Hill fit the pass into a tight window, and Ostrenga took it the rest of the way. His performance was promising and proves Iowa has some depth at the position for the first time in what seems like a long time.
Labas was listed second on the depth chart ahead of Spring practice, and he had a solid final practice himself. He found Max White for a 48-yard touchdown during 11-on-11 drills and looked good while rotating in on 7-on-7 reps. He had one of the best passes of the day on a 25-yarder to Friedrichsen, placing it in traffic where only his receiver could get his hands on it.
Labas was the team’s lone quarterback for January’s bowl game against Kentucky where he threw for 140 yards and a touchdown pass. Based on what we saw on Saturday, there might be a battle for the backup spot. Both Labas and Hill played well, and it seems the quarterback room has some promising young talent.
Iowa’s running back room is young but has the potential to be very productive this season. It’s led by Kaleb Johnson, a true sophomore who last year tallied nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns. Behind him are Leshon Williams and Jaz Patterson. The group ran well behind a depleted offensive line on Saturday that was without some of its key starters. The line opened up solid holes for the run game.
Kickers Drew Stevens and Aaron Blom were both perfect at kicking field goals for the day. This is a contrast to last season’s final practice where the two missed three of four field goals from inside 45 yards. That didn’t translate to the season, however, as Stevens led the conference in field goal percentage at 88.9% on the year. Even despite the weather on Saturday, both kickers appear to be rock solid.
Iowa Spring Practice Takeaways
As usual, it’s always difficult to know exactly how this will translate to the Fall. The weather was tough for Iowa on Saturday, but overall they played well. McNamara is the guy and showed some great passes. Behind him, there appears to be a solid foundation of depth with Hill and Labas. The offensive line was depleted, but they showed promise in the run game. It will all depend on getting healthy through Summer camp and staying healthy through the season. If it all goes well, there’s going to be a step in the right direction for that group.
The tight ends are going to be elite. McNamara and All already have great chemistry from their days at Michigan, and Lachey is proven at Iowa. The duo has great potential this fall. As the Hawkeyes head into summer workouts, this team will need to get healthy. But for what was on display on Saturday, there’s plenty to look forward to in next year’s Hawkeyes.
Photo courtesy: Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK