Open Practice Breakdown

Iowa players and coaches were not pleased with Saturday's practice in West Des Moines. They felt it was sloppy. Hawkeye Insider Publisher Rob Howe shares his thoughts on what went down in this position-by-position analysis.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - Whether he's concealing information or just trying to eliminate distractions, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz really likes his privacy. Outside of Saturdays in the fall, the Hawkeyes are subjected to the public eye just three times the rest of the year.

Iowa opens practices for the fans and the media twice in the spring and once in the summer. Outside of that, we're left to what the coaches and players reveal is going on behind closed doors or bits of information leaked out of the compound.

To be fair, Ferentz has plenty of company. Most college coaches keep a close handle on things with all the ways for information to get out to opponents.

Secrecy can, and usually does, create overreaction when we do get to see what's going on. You can take Saturday's public practice here at Valley High Stadium as a prime example. Too much is being made of the positives and the negatives.

Truthfully, it's a teeny, tiny sample size. And let's face it, we all have good and bad days.

Overall, it was not a great performance by the Hawkeyes, according to coaches and players, who have perspective. The practice was ragged. Fumbled snaps, interceptions, missed tackles and plenty of obviously blown assignments overshadowed some encouraging moments.

Let's take a look at each position from the nearly three hours of practice to which we were exposed on Saturday:

RUNNING BACK: Damon Bullock looked really good in brief action. The senior running back offered the best burst through the hole among the running backs. The Texan also made plays in the passing game. If the season started tomorrow (Ferentz is glad it doesn't), he appeared to be the team's best all-around back.

Mark Weisman was Mark Weisman. He powered through the line and gained tough yards. He saw the least amount of action of the backs.

Jordan Canzeri got the edge a few times. He might be the best option to run the stretch play.

LeShun Daniels ran the way he did as last year advanced - tentatively. Maybe he's afraid of fumbling but he needs to be more aggressive. He's gifted but still green.

Barkley Hill played very well during the August open practice two years ago and probably would have played as a true freshman that season had he not wrecked his knee. He ran on Saturday like he did pre-injury and could be a very intriguing option in 2014.

Akrum Wadley received a lot of work. He's got a chance but clearly needs to get stronger and more comfortable in this offense.

QUARTERBACK: Recognizing that it was just one practice, Jake Rudock holds a firm grip on the starting quarterback position. The junior showed a better feel and comfort for the offense than did back-ups C.J. Beathard and Nic Shimonek.

Beathard struggled to find open receivers (which also could be their fault) and Shimonek fumbled three exchanges with the center (which also could be his fault). These guys boast bigger arms than does Rudock, but it's going to take more than that to get them on the field.

Rudock was not without mistakes, however. He threw two interceptions, something that hurt him last season.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Redshirt freshmen Derrick Willies was the talk of the afternoon. The Rock Island (IL) High grad caught just about everything thrown to him.

Matt Vandeberg continued showing why he played as a true freshman. He's a strong route runner and is sure-handed.

Derrick Mitchell received quite a few reps on Saturday and, along with Willies, appeared to be the most advanced among the large group of freshmen at the position.

Kevonte Martin-Manley caught a touchdown pass after dropping one a few plays earlier. The senior let one go through his hands against LSU and he needs to be more consistent this season.

Tevaun Smith is my guy. He looked really good on Saturday and I think he's going to break out in 2014 (how's that for an overreaction?).

TIGHT END: Ray Hamilton and Henry Krieger-Coble block really well. Jake Duzey and George Kittle threaten opponents in the passing game. While there's excellent depth here, one of these guys emerging as an all-around tight end might best benefit the team. That makes it harder for the opponents to defend. Eventually, freshman Jon Wisnieski could be that guy. It just might not be this year.

OFFENSIVE LINE: It's stating the obvious, but Iowa is going to be very strong at tackle with two fifth-year seniors in Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal. Center Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh, the right guard, could also be very good.

Freshman Sean Welsh worked with the first-team at left guard. He's agile but lacking strength. He'll need to make great strides between now and the fall. The good news is that Iowa has solid interior depth with back-up guards Eric Simmons and Boone Myers.

DEFENSIVE LINE: What a difference a few years make. Reese Morgan's group is a strength after being an obvious weakness when he took over the position two seasons ago.

Carl Davis, Drew Ott and Mike Hardy all produced Saturday. Darian Cooper and Jaleel Johnson performed well in place of absent starter Louis Trinca-Pasat (was with family).

Nate Meier provides an athletic pass rusher but he still gets smothered on too many running plays. Riley McMinn played well after being dinged most of the last two seasons. He has a chance to be a solid contributor in '14.

Although it was against back-ups, Dean Tsopanides spent a lot of time in the backfield harassing quarterbacks Saturday.

LINEBACKERS: A lot of eyes will be on this position right through the opening kickoff of '14. I wouldn't worry too much.

Projected starters Reggie Spearman, Quinton Alston and Travis Perry were solid Saturday. Spearman intercepted a pass. Alston is a born leader and Perry is a very good athlete built to succeed at LEO.

UNI transfer Chad Gilson impressed as the backup man in the middle and could see the field in four-linebacker sets. John Kenny and Cole Fisher offer good depth on the outside.

DEFENSIVE BACK: I left West Des Moines on Saturday most concerned with this position. There were significant breakdowns in the backend.

Granted, all three levels affect each other, but some of the DB mistakes came down to poor communication and being out of position. Plenty of teaching tape came out of Saturday.

I did like what I saw from Sean Draper. He was exposed at times last season making some folks raise an eyebrow when he was given the first crack at B.J. Lowery's vacated cornerback spot.


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