PLAYMAKER IN AKRUM WADLEY
We saw glimpses last year but we got a heavy dose of him today and he can be special with the ball in his hands. There hasn't been someone on offense for Iowa in a while that possesses the speed that he does but also his change of direction without losing much speed. He's a handful to corral in the open field and it's going to take a very athletic defense to keep him from getting to the edge. How does he withstand a full 12-game schedule with the kind of touches he's going to earn? That will be the question to monitor, but if he holds up pretty well, he's in for a big season.
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING
We mentioned Akrum Wadley and now it is LeShun Daniels' turn. We saw this with him last year. When he's fresh and 100 percent healthy, he flashes everything you hear from coaches and shows you why he's been number one on the depth chart for as long as he has. He even ripped off a 45 yard touchdown run today that showcased some speed I don't think I necessarily knew he had. When he's healthy, he can start for a lot of different teams in college football. He and Wadley are quite the duo.
ACCURACY WITH THE DEEP BALL
The one part of C.J. Beathard's game a year ago that was free to pick apart to some extent was how well he threw the deep ball. They didn't go up top very much today, and it really didn't result in any big plays, but the ball was where it needed to be. There was marked improvement on this level of throw for Beathard today. If he can sustain that type of accuracy at all levels of the field then he will rise up draft boards even more. His ball placement on short to intermediate throws has always been there, though he missed on a couple uncharacteristically today. But the third level consistency and accuracy was there in a small sample size today.
JERMINIC SHOWS UP WELL
He wasn't set to start in the opener but he got the call after Jay Scheel was ruled out for the game earlier in the morning on Saturday. Though he's kind of driven the coaching staff a little crazy with his inconsistency, he flashed what he showcased a year ago in his few chances. He can go up and high-point a football super well. He can adjust to the ball super well. He can track a ball very well. He's someone that can make plays and he did again today. He also showed that he was not only a capable blocker, but a willing blocker. Riley McCarron was the most impressive amongst the receivers blocking but Jerminic sprung a few of the longer plays for Matt VandeBerg as well.
WHEN'S IT GOING TO HAPPEN FOR SCHEEL
We thought it was finally coming together. He's been raved about by teammates and coaches. Then he missed the Kids' Day scrimmage due to a hamstring injury that kept him out a few days of fall camp. But we were told he was back and he was operating at full capacity again. Then comes the season opener and he's a scratch a few hours before kickoff. It seems like he has a ton of potential and could be just what they need at receiver, but when does it happen? The clock isn't running out but we're running into a situation where it is becoming a scary trend.
TRUE FROSH BONANZA
Last year it was all about "New Kirk" because of Ferentz's unusual aggressive play calling at times, taking a few risks, going for it on fourth downs, and a few trick plays throw in here and there. Well Iowa has jumped outside their typical method of operation again in 2016 as 10 true freshmen played in the season opener; kicker Keith Duncan, running back Toks Akinribade, quarterback Nate Stanley, wideout Devonte Young, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Cedrick Lattimore, linebackers Kristian Welch and Amani Jones, cornerback Manny Rugamba and safety Amani Hooker.
What were the storylines among them? Well of course Stanley getting into the game under center, even before Tyler Wiegers. He's clearly the second quarterback on the roster now and this absolutely indicates who Greg Davis and Kirk Ferentz believe is the starting quarterback for the 2017 season. They aren't allowing it to become a controversy at all and it seems like they're ready to throw in Nate Stanley and see what he's made of. He'll have to prove it throughout the year but they have nudged him ahead of the veteran Tyler Wiegers.
Lattimore, Akinribade, and Fant didn't play much, only towards the end when the game was out of hand. Hooker, Welch, Rugamba, and Amani Jones are mainstays on special teams. Devonte Young played a little on special teams and towards the end of the game. Rugamba also played a ton in normal action with the first unit. Rugamba will likely record the most snaps of all true freshmen because of how high up he is on the depth chart (ahead of Michael Ojemudia), and his presence on the defensive sub-packages.
Duncan was perfect on the day at kicker.
STILL NOT CONCERNED ABOUT THE O-LINE
They had some breakdowns on the day and it was in pass protection. And yes, pass protection needed cleaned up after a season ago, but I still think they're farther ahead in pass protection right now than they were at this time a year ago. So, I'm going to probably surprise some folks, and anger some folks, but I don't think this is going to be a growing concern. I think it gets cleaned up before Big Ten play. I think they're going to be just fine. I was more concerned about the line play on the other side of the ball, honestly.
ANTHONY NELSON INTRODUCES HIMSELF
If you count his sack that was stripped from him because of a delay of game penalty called after the play, Anthony Nelson recorded 3.5 sacks in his first game as a defensive end for the Iowa Hawkeyes. That's saying something. He's quick off the ball, long, and he was incredible with how he used his hands. If this is what can be expected from Nelson on a regular basis, he's going to push to get this kind of playing time each week. Parker Hesse and Matt Nelson have a redshirt freshmen nipping at their heels. It's hard to keep that off the field, especially when this team needs someone to pressure the quarterback on a consistent basis.
NEED MORE THAN ONE PASS RUSHER
Anthony Nelson was great but there wasn't a whole lot of anyone else to speak of in this department. Sure, they didn't manufacture any blitzes, and it would have been silly to against Miami, but nobody else got to the quarterback to the degree that Anthony Nelson did or even close. Parker Hesse played very little but he's not a pure pass rusher to begin with. Matt Nelson probably wishes he would have played better. This is the concern for me still. And to add to that, I thought the Iowa defensive tackles have played better games in their careers, too. I was shocked by how much the Iowa defensive line got pushed around as a whole. They did not control the line of scrimmage all that often against Miami.
BE READY GREG MABIN
He's going to be this year's whipping boy unfortunately and it's already coming into view for me. When Desmond King only has two balls thrown anywhere near him the entire game, the spotlight is going to be on Mabin. And unfortunately when you have 20-25 balls thrown your way (not sure if that's an exaggeration or not to be honest), you're not going to be perfect on each one and you're going to allow some receptions. Mabin did today and the job becomes a bit more difficult when you're giving up as much size as he was to James Gardner, and because Gardner showed himself to be a pretty talented wideout.
And not all the balls that were caught near him were his fault. There was a few where he was let down by the safety not providing the required help over the top because of the scheme they were in and the personnel on the field. Some of that was on Brandon Snyder a few times. But whipping boy or not, Greg Mabin is going to be a frequent target so he has to be ready this year.
DEPTH AT LINEBACKER?
Josey Jewell is so good that he's impossible for Iowa to replace and I think some of the huge gaps in the field and the three sustained drives were due to him not being on the field. That's not an excuse but just an example of how much he means to this defense. I think they can get away with some subbing on the two outside linebacker spots, but the dropoff to the second stringer at inside linebacker is too dramatic to not feel some pain. They felt some pain without him in there today. Hockaday played well all things considered and it's a game that reassures you of what he will become. It makes you pleased about the future but it's not the best case scenario for the present. I think, at this point, the workable depth at linebacker is on the outside. And that's Hockaday and Mends.