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Fall Camp: Defensive Position Battles

Identifying, analyzing, and predicting how the Iowa position battles will go on the offensive side of the ball during Fall camp.

There isn't a ton of positions up for grab for Iowa entering Fall camp on either side of the ball. The offense has some question marks but not many. There's absolute certainty for at least one of the wide receiver spots, the quarterback, and the entire offensive line and tight end. There will be no denying C.J. Beathard, Matt VandeBerg, George Kittle, or the five linemen of Cole Croston, Boone Myers, Sean Welsh, James Daniels, and Ike Boettger. That leaves four starting spots up for grabs. 

There's also a few reserve roles that should be intriguing to watch, mainly at tight end and receiver.

RUNNING BACK

This really won't be a position battle but because of the proven talent and depth, it deserves to be noted. LeShun Daniels is definitely getting the nod as the top back but Akrum Wadley could probably start for many other squads. Derrick Mitchell is no slouch either and will have a role, though it is unclear what else he will provide other than being the third down back. 

FULLBACK

Drake Kulick is listed as the starter currently with Brady Ross in line to be the back-up. It's probably Kulick's job to lose but I think Ross will get his shot to shine during Fall camp. I'd consider Kulick the favorite but it could be an important few weeks for Ross as he looks to gobble up playing time. Kirk Ferentz is obviously not against using both fullbacks, either.

WIDE RECEIVERS

I think both of the other wide receiver spots alongside Matt VandeBerg will have competition. Jay Scheel is the main culprit of who will press for playing time. Jerminic Smith and Riley McCarron are penciled in as the two other starters but I do not believe those are in ink. Scheel knows both spots well at this stage of his career at Iowa. I do think Jerminic Smith is a much more dangerous weapon but Scheel has risen to the occasion in the past year in terms of being a vertical threat and could threaten to take ahold of Tevaun Smith's spot. What would that mean for Jerminic? It would probably mean a fourth receiver role for him because he hasn't quite learned the other two spots. 

What do I think actually happens? I think Jerminic Smith starts and Jay Scheel pushes Riley McCarron to the brink. That's a battle that could go either way just because of the immense trust they have in McCarron. At the end of the day, I'd think Scheel grabs the third receiver spot and McCarron makes the fourth receiver spot his home like he did a year ago. After that, it's a wide-open race between Jonathan Parker, Adrian Falconer, and Ryan Boyle. Falconer didn't seem to make progress up the depth chart during the Spring, it's a new position for Boyle, and Parker will get a late start due to his injury. What happens beyond VandeBerg, Smith, McCarron and Scheel is anyone's guess at this point. 

SECOND TIGHT END

George Kittle will be the man at tight end but his back-up is a question mark. Right now Peter Pekar and Jon Wisnieski are penciled in as possibilities but neither have taken the job and run away with it yet. That could create an opening for one of the three incoming freshmen tight ends that are highly touted. Hockenson likely has a ways to go in his development in terms of being an in-line blocker, while Beyer has more physical maturation to undergo in order to be ready. The freshmen with the best chance would be Noah Fant of Omaha. He's got a college body already, exceptional athleticism, experience as an in-line blocker, and the strength and natural gifts that should translate to college quickly. 

My prediction would be that Fant gets every opportunity in camp to be the second tight end behind Kittle. It may not be right away, but at least at some point, I see him winning the spot away from the upperclassmen. 


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