Reflections from Kids Day

Iowa held its annual Kids Day open practice Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. Hawkeye Insider Publisher Rob Howe watched it go down and offers up his thoughts from the event.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - With two weeks to go before kicking off the regular season, the Iowa football team welcomed fans and media to Kinnick Stadium for Saturday's practice. The annual Kids Day event featured the ups and downs you'd expect from a program requiring growth throughout each season.

As much as it causes some of the Hawkeye faithful to cringe, Iowa develops. Success and failure usually depends on to what degree that happens. Really, it's fascinating if you exhibit patience and take the time to watch it.

Anyone with a reasonable football acumen left Kinnick Saturday realizing their favorite sons are far from a finished product. That's life around here. It also creates appreciation for the journey.

Last year during Kids Day, Iowa looked rag tag. In November, it finished the regular season with wins against Michigan and Nebraska.

We have to let it play out. It can unnerve you at times, like the 2009 opener against Northern Iowa and countless other nail-biting wins and losses. But it's an exciting ride.

Players emerge seemingly from nowhere. They enter our consciousness and push out guys we thought we'd see making the big plays.

Bo Bower looked like one of those guys on Saturday. The walk-on freshman linebacker from West Branch terrorized his offensive teammates. He flew to the ball and carried bad intentions on arrival.

Bower shared first-team LEO reps with Travis Perry and Josey Jewell. Sean Draper and Maurice Fleming split the No. 1 duties at the open cornerback spot. The third contestant in that competition, Greg Mabin, missed the practice with a minor injury.

For my money, I thought Bower and Draper enjoyed the best Kids Day among the candidates at their respective spots. Bower played with excellent tempo and Draper consistently covered receivers with few breakdowns.

Senior running backs Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock sat out the scrimmage but were healthy and participated in the rest of practice. Junior Jordan Canzeri took a few carries before giving way to LeShun Daniels, Akrum Wadley, Jonathan Parker and C.J. Hilliard.

Daniels looked much improved over what we saw in the two open spring workouts. He ran with purpose and showed power and burst.

Parker and Wadley enjoyed their moments as well. They wiggled through holes and carry with more physicality than their size might indicate. Hilliard also broke off a couple of nice runs.

Tight ends George Kittle and Peter Pekar joined Bower among the day's standouts. They created mismatches with linebackers and turned in several big plays. They saw more reps with Ray Hamilton and Jake Duzey sitting out with injuries.

Walk-on receiver Andrew Stone and true sophomore Matt Vandeberg were among the wide receivers who shined. Spring sensation Derrick Willies missed practice with an injury as did Andre Harris. Damond Powell remained sidelined after summer hernia surgery.

Kevonte Martin-Manley broke free for a 60-yard touchdown from Jake Rudock. He and junior Tevaun Smith were pretty quiet outside of that.

The lines took turns winning match-ups, especially the top units on both sides of the ball. Drew Ott pressure the quarterback well throughout the day as did Nate Meier, who looks to be putting heat on projected starter Mike Hardy. They both received a lot of first-team looks opposite Ott.

True freshmen Matt  Nelson, Miles Taylor and Ben Niemann saw a lot of work with the second team. Each of them delivered enough plays to think they might have a chance to play right away if they can help on special teams.

Rudock and C.J. Beathard experienced up-and-down days under center. They turned in some big plays but also missed on some routine things. True freshman Tyler Wiegers showed off a strong arm and good size, but clearly was in learning mode with the offense and is destined for a redshirt unless the two guys ahead of him go down.

Jordan Lomax stepped forward since the spring. The new free safety played solidly on Saturday and appeared more comfortable directing the back end of the defense.

The kickers struggled. Junior Marshall Koehn missed three makable attempts during the scrimmage. True freshmen Mick Ellis and Miguel Recinos also misfired too often throughout the practice. Coach Kirk Ferentz said it was their worst performance of camp, which is good news.

Dillon Kidd punted better than Connor Kornbrath at Kids Day. The JUCO transfer enjoyed better hang time and distance than his competition throughout he afternoon. Ferentz said the battle has been dead even throughout camp.

Overall, the Hawkeyes look pretty normal for this time of year. There's plenty of work to be done but also a lot to get excited about as the picture on canvas comes together.

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