Derek Young/SCOUT

Spring Football Iowa Mailbag

Derek answers your questions about Spring Football in Iowa City for the Hawkeyes.

HOW IS T.J. HOCKENSON AS A BLOCKER? IN MY OPINION IT WOULD BE GREAT IF HE COULD REPLACE PEKAR, WHO IS ALMOST NO THREAT IN THE PASSING GAME.

Derek: His blocking is why he redshirted a year ago. He became a scout team player for the season. They just began spring football and we haven't seen any of it yet. It's tough to gauge and answer this question but this is a big offseason for him. The blocking has to come for him to make that kind of leap. The same can be said for all the young tight ends, even Noah Fant. Do I think Pekar will be unseated, though? That will be tough. He's a heck of a blocker. It would take someone to be very, very good. Perhaps Pekar can become more reliable as a receiving threat?

HOW IS LANDAN PAULSEN PROGRESSING? WE KEEP HEARING ABOUT LEVI BUT LANDON HASN'T CRACKED THE 2-DEEP.

Derek: The obvious answer here is just that he hasn't progressed as quickly as Levi. It happens. They're still pretty young in terms of development when it comes to the offensive line. Levi is coming on quickly and Landan is coming on and developing at a normal rate. I think what's happening should make you very excited about the player Levi is already and not concerned about what Landan will be. Landan isn't behind. Levi is just ahead of schedule. 

DEREK, TELL US YOUR HONEST THOUGHTS ABOUT IOWA CITY (AND THE STATE OF IOWA IN GENERAL), FROM SOMEONE WHO IS NOT FROM IOWA AND IS NOW A TRANSPLANT. OF COURSE, WE ARE ALL VERY BIASED, BUT I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN AN OUTSIDER'S PERSPECTIVE. AND, I HOPE TO GET YOUR HONESTY, BRUTAL OR OTHERWISE JUST AS YOU DO WITH YOUR HAWKEYE SPORTS PERSPECTIVE.

Derek: Iowa City is a fantastic college town. The Big Ten has a handful of these and they're all fantastic. As you all knew I grew up around Ohio State and that's not a college town. Columbus is more city-like. I didn't necessarily know what it meant to label something a college town. I know now and Iowa City is a very unique place that one can enjoy. I also can appreciate the layout and what it has to offer. 

Without getting into the politics or the culture a whole lot, I would say Iowa in general is not a perfect fit for who I am and where I necessarily imagined myself being. I'm not as old-fashioned and that is the best way I could explain it. I'm not offended by it and I don't think it's a bad place by any means. It's a perfect place for the right person. It's just not for everyone. I enjoy a much faster lifestyle, and having plenty of things to do, plenty of places to go, and plenty of options at my disposal. There's certain limitations in a location like this. It's not something I hate. I don't have a problem with it. I grew up in something similar when I was in a rural area of Ohio. However I was still in striking distance of Dayton or Columbus so I still had options. 

I wouldn't say there's a problem for Iowa, only that it's not for everyone. I do enjoy Iowa City and the surrounding areas like Cedar Rapids and Coralville and it offering what it does helps to give it some of the things I do seek. I'd think it'd be a bit more difficult for me without that. 

PREDICTION ON STARTING DEFENSIVE ENDS AND WIDE RECEIVERS? IN OTHER WORDS, DO YOU GUYS THINK ANY OF THE HIGHLY REGARDED FRESHMEN WILL COME IN AND IMMEDIATELY MAKE AN IMPACT?

Derek: All the defensive ends that played last year return. That makes it pretty tough. None of the returning contributors were unimpressive or put themselves in a position to fear for their job. With that being said, A.J. Epenesa will be in town and he's too good not to have on the field. He will make an impact and probably someone that plays a little of both on the edge and inside I would think. 

There's only four scholarship wideouts back. One is out all of Spring after being out most of last year (Matt VandeBerg). One started every game a year ago (Jerminic Smith). One has never started (Devonte Young). One only has one or two career starts and didn't catch 10 balls last year (Adrian Falconer). Some newcomer is going to be able to have a pretty significant impact. I would think that'd be Brandon Smith. I'd say Max Cooper will play a little as well but he's sort of blocked by VandeBerg for a year. 

WHERE DOES JAKE NEWBORG FALL IN THE DEFENSIVE TACKLE PECKING ORDER AS SPRING STARTS OFF?

Derek: He's in the mix for playing time after Nathan Bazata, Cedrick Lattimore, and Brady Reiff. Bazata, Lattimore, and Reiff are the ones that have earned being in the rotation at this point. I think a fourth right now is probably Jake Hulett who is back from injury and was contributing before he was sidelined last season. I would say Newborg falls in line after that.

WHAT'S GOING ON WITH WADLEY? READ HE HAD KNEE SURGERY. IS THERE TRUTH TO THIS?

Derek: He just had a scope to get things cleaned up. He participated in all the winter drills. He's a participant in spring practice. He's just not going to be taking hits and isn't going to be doing any of the live scrimmage action in pads. To be honest, there was no reason for him to be taking hits this Spring even if he were 100 percent. Iowa knows what they have. Him taking hits in the Spring was never going to do anything one way or the other. He just needs to get bigger. Everyone knows what he can do on a football field. He knows the playbook. This has zero impact. 

WHO ARE THE TOP 4 OR 6 NAMES THEY ARE LOOKING AT FOR DEFENSIVE TACKLE? I FEEL LIKE THIS IS A POSITION WE COULD HAVE A LITTLE KNOWN GUY START THIS YEAR.

Derek: I think the top three are definitely Bazata, Lattimore and Reiff and Hulett is probably the likely fourth at this point. The other names inside are Newborg, Schulte, and Nixon. Epenesa might play a little inside because they could use the help. Who's the little known guy? Everyone knows Bazata, Lattimore and Reiff. They've been discussed about quite a bit on this board. A little known guy starting would have to be someone like Hulett, Schulte, Newborg or Nixon and I just can't see that happening at all. It doesn't seem plausible for any of them to make that kind of jump to be able to pass Bazata, Lattimore or Reiff. 

I think the starters are Bazata and Lattimore. I think Lattimore is going to be a big-timer at Iowa and probable high-round draft choice when he leaves. Scout rated him much higher than any other service, a four-star and Scout300 prospect, just like Nate Stanley in the same class. 

IS THERE A STORY BEHIND MICHAEL SLATER LEAVING? DID HE SEE THE NUMBERS OR WAS IT ALL INJURY-RELATED? SEEMS LIKE THEY WERE LOOKING FOR CONTRIBUTION EARLY LAST YEAR. 

Derek: He started out well and then it hit a wall and never recovered. Injuries happened. Being out seemed to get him off track and he never bounced back. I think it just didn't go well. I don't think he was looking at the numbers. The numbers aren't bad at defensive tackle. Sometimes things don't go well and fall apart or just aren't meant to be.


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