We recap everything from today's Iowa Football Media Day into one notebook providing everything we saw, heard, and learned.
News was made at Iowa Football Media Day when Kirk Ferentz discussed Shaun Beyer at his opening press conference. The head coach explained that Beyer was at tight end but they were playing around with him at wide receiver because of how thin they were on the outside. Assistants LeVar Woods and Bobby Kennedy took it one step further. Woods told Derek Young of Hawkeye Insider that he no longer had Beyer with his position group and that he had been taken away from him. Kennedy then later confirmed that Beyer is now exclusively working with the wideouts. That is an intriguing proposition with Beyer listed at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds. We'll have more on it later.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Boyle is with the wideouts. Kirk Ferentz said that it was a fall contract and that they would revisit it again in January. However, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Greg Davis is definitely under the impression that Boyle will undoubtedly return to the quarterback rotation after the season, calling Boyle's move to wide receiver a "one-year rental".
LeShun Daniels is definitely the starter at running back according to assistant Chris White but explained, "Akrum Wadley does deserve and has earned his reps as well". Derrick Mitchell is still under the distinction of being the third down back.
I think they have the five offensive linemen they like of course in Croston, Myers, Welsh, Daniels, and Boettger. They are emphasizing an improvement in pass blocking but they'll always have a focus on run blocking because that's who they are according to many of the linemen we spoke with. Finishing out the depth and finding another body or two is important for them this Fall. Keegan Render is a strong candidate to be one of them.
Matt VandeBerg and Riley McCarron are definitely the two wideouts with the trust of the coaching staff. From talking to assistant Bobby Kennedy, it seems as if the third one at this point would be Jay Scheel. He had a strong spring and a great start to fall camp according to Kennedy. He does still have a bit of work left to do to get all the way there. Jerminic Smith's lack of consistency was brought up a few times by the Iowa wide receivers coach and may be trailing Scheel at this point in terms of garnering trust and being as dependable.
Two linebacker spots are definitely sewn up with Ben Niemann and Josey Jewell. Linebackers coach Seth Wallace indicated that the weakside linebacker position was still an open battle between Aaron Mends, Jack Hockaday, and Bo Bower. However, Mends is listed as the starter on the depth chart and Mends told us that he's been getting nearly all of the reps with the first unit. We think Mends has a pretty good grasp on the starting gig but is being pushed and motivated to keep climbing by the coaching staff and this is one way to keep him working hard.
Wide receiver Jonathan Parker did indeed undergo foot surgery so he will be expected to miss most of, if not all, of fall camp. Defensive tackle Michael Slater also underwent offseason surgery that he's yet to recover from and is not practicing yet. Others not practicing because of injury include offensive lineman Mitch Keppy and true freshman defensive lineman Austin Schulte. Schulte's is still recovering from a high school injury.
Slater's injury didn't appear to be too severe but it's definitely set him back on the depth chart. Parker should have a chance to contribute once he returns.
It's clear form talking to a few of the players like wideout Matt VandeBerg, offensive lineman Ike Boettger, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back LeShun Daniels, defensive end Matt Nelson, defensive tackle Nathan Bazata, and cornerback Greg Mabin that the focus has been that 2016 is a new year. The 2016 team does not benefit from the 2015 team. The 2015 team earned all the accolades, and not the 2016 team. Their mantra is that the 2016 team has not earned anything. And that was a focus and something that was addressed dating back to last January.
TRUE FRESHMEN NOTES
No decisions have been made on who will redshirt and who won't obviously. Assistant Chris White shared that they haven't decided whether or not to play a running back so that the two are split up by class, but he did mention that they will need true freshmen to contribute on special teams and one of the running backs or linebackers could fit the role.
Shaun Beyer has obviously made the move to wide receiver and that had a lot to do with depth, but also the way he moved. It was an idea actually brought up by Brian Ferentz and they've liked what they've seen thus far. "He's moved great" out there according to assistant Bobby Kennedy.
Noah Fant has a good shot to play right away at tight end because of the depth chart but position coach LeVar Woods also didn't rule out the possibility of T.J. Hockenson getting on the field.
Pass rushing is an emphasis according to defensive line coach Reese Morgan and they'll use a true freshmen if they need to. No actual names have been named yet. My hunch would be that Cedrick Lattimore would have the best chance.
A couple true freshmen linebackers are being considered for early playing time according to assistant Seth Wallace. They have their eyes on one or two that could burn their redshirt he told Hawkeye Insider today. Our guesses would be Barrington Wade, Kristian Welch, or Nick Niemann.
DEFENSIVE LINE UPDATES
The coaching staff is very pleased with the depth and experience they have inside with Jaleel Johnson, Nathan Bazata, and Faith Ekakitie. Jake Hulett is also getting time on the field. A total of 8 defensive linemen could see the field this year according to Nathan Bazata, who praised his teammate Faith Ekakitie. Bazata said that Ekakitie made the biggest jump in performance and progress during the Spring he's seen since he's been at Iowa.
The concern is at defensive end and position coach Reese Morgan confronted that head on, acknowledging the youth and inexperience. He's just eager to get them out on the field so that they can progress and develop. The obvious names in the mix are Matt Nelson and Anthony Nelson, along with sure-fire starter Parker Hesse. Anthony Nelson has been working at both end spots. Sam Brincks was another name mentioned and a possibility of a true freshman.
One observation we made is that Matt Nelson is thicker than he was a year ago but Anthony Nelson has almost caught up to him in terms of physical maturity and development.
Fullback is still wide open between Drake Kulick and Brady Ross. I think they're leaning towards Kulick at this time but I think they both will play.
Jay Scheel has appeared to make a pretty good move at wide receiver and has built off of a strong spring. He may just be ahead of Jerminic Smith at this point. Jerminic could still grab a starting spot but Scheel has definitely made an impression so far.
There's no battles to really speak of at quarterback, offensive line, and tight end.
Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse should be the defensive ends. Anthony Nelson should play a lot, and provide depth on both sides.
The weakside linebacker position is still considered a battle by assistant Seth Wallace but it appears as if Aaron Mends has the lead and that it's his job to lose. Bower and Hockaday should provide the depth for the three linebacker spots.
Brandon Snyder is definitely the starting free safety for this team. They'll need someone to jump in and take the next step to be the dependable back-up at safety.