Miller: Hawks a Work in Progress

The sun came out and bathed several thousands fans in Kinnick Stadium on Sunday for the unofficial unveiling of the changes that have been made to the south grandstand and the press box. Oh yeah, there was also some Hawkeye football action on the field, too. Jon Miller provides his analysis in this report.

Iowa officials said there were between 10,000 to 12,000 fans there, but the East and West stands hold 25,000 patrons. Fans were limited to the North endzone and the East stands. From the field level, the East stands looked two-thirds full, but they were not jam packed in tight as would be the case for a real game. I believe there were more like 15,000 fans in Kinnick for a practice; not a bad total at all.

In previous years for the ‘Kids Day' open practice, there have been 1,000 to 2,000 fans in attendance, so today's showing blew those totals out of the water.

What the fans saw was their first taste of football since Drew Tate hit Warren Holloway in Orlando, so that was a good thing.

Here are some of my observations as I watched the open practice from the west sidelines, field level. Rob Howe has also filed a report of his impressions LINKED HERE. Most of his analysis is on different topics and areas than mine, so we hope you enjoy both offerings.

The offensive line needs a lot of work. That is typical of this time of year, but after hearing Kirk Ferentz speak rather glowingly of this unit on Media Day (August 8th), my expectations were a little higher than what I think I saw.

When I say ‘what I think I saw', I mean to underscore that I am not a football coach and my opinion on offensive lines should be taken into context. However, the consensus among the media members I spoke with was that this area needs a lot of work…they have been practicing for just two weeks and that showed. Fortunately, they have two more weeks of practice then a sacrificial lamb of an opponent in Ball State before traveling to Ames on September 10th.

Iowa's second team defense was able to get far too much penetration on this day.

One aspect that hurt Iowa is that David Walker was on the sidelines in street clothes, a phrase that has become far too familiar. He had a boot on an ankle and Kirk Ferentz would later say that Walker has a mid-foot sprain, yet another area of Walker's body that has caused him a problem during his Iowa career. That goes along with the torn triceps muscle from last year, the torn Achilles from last year and a leg injury two years ago.

Todd Plagman also informed coach Ferentz that he does not know if he wants to remain a member of the football team, something that disappointed Iowa's head coach. Ferentz said that the door is open for Plagman to return and that he hopes that Todd chooses that route.

Marshal Yanda worked out at left guard on Saturday, and his lack of familiarity with that position certainly showed. He struggled a bit against the two's and Ken Iwebema got a sack when Yanda busted his assignment.

Mike Jones looked solid against Iwebema, but Ken is going to have an outstanding career against Iowa. Another year of seasoning will see Iwebema turn into a big time difference maker…he may get to that point later in this season.

The line was not crisp, and you could tell by the bark in Ferentz's voice that he was not necessarily happy…that is just my opinion based on what I saw and heard.

Ben Gates twisted an ankle, as did Dace Richardson, who was a surprise #2 at left tackle. Ferentz said that both injuries seemed minor, as has been the case in that department throughout the first two weeks of practice.

Richardson has the size and looks the part, but he still has a ways to go.

The starters on the defensive line on this day were Iwebema and Bryan Mattison at ends with Alex Willcox and Matt Kroul at the tackles. When those two tackles went out, Mattison moved inside and Mike Follett replaced him at end and Mitch King came in at the other tackle. Ettore Ewen also looked solid against the twos today.

Iowa's back seven looked very good today, but you expect that. Adam Shada was filling in for an injured Jovon Johnson (hamstring) and was solid all day long. Marcus Paschal was running with the ones on D, but Ferentz would later say that it was Marcus' first such full contact action and he is not ready.

As expected, Ed Miles brought a lot of intensity and he sniffed out a swing pass to Sam Brownlee and he leveled Sam just as he caught it.

One funny moment was when receiver Eric McCollom had a few unprintable words for defensive back Devan Moylan, as McCollom was unhappy with Moylan's holding his jersey as McCollom tried to run his routes.

Damien Sims broke the longest play of the day, a nice run up the right sideline. Charles Godfrey brought him down near the goal line.

Frosh QB Jake Christensen showed off his arm, both with his strength on some crossing routes as well as his touch on the deep ball in the seven on seven drills and some during the scrimmage. Jake looked comfortable in the pocket and executed a nice waggle play. It was odd seeing that play run to the left side, as Jake is a lefty. On one play in the scrimmage, he checked his first two options, then fired a bullet to Tony Moeaki in the middle, his third option. Christensen looks like a solid #3 in Iowa's rotation, but should redshirt if Tate stays healthy this year.

Speaking of Moeaki, he and Alex Kanellis were mighty impressive in their uniforms. They certainly do not look like true freshman with regards to the eye test, more like third year players who have had two years with Chris Doyle.

Shonn Greene and Kalvin Bailey pass that test, too. Though they ran mostly with the three's, each player showed his run skills to the point that you can really get excited when you start to think about this offense in a few years. Bailey also had a nice catch and run on a swing play. The first defender tried to knock him down high…bad move, as he went flying. The crowed let out a collective ‘ooh' on that one. Then again, it's probably not a good idea for a DB to try to tackle him low, either.

Marques Simmons ran hard with the ones, and Marcus Schnoor looked pretty good, too. Albert Young also looked decent, but it was hard to gauge the backs as there was not much room to run.

Herb Grigsby and Calvin Davis split time at the #3 receiver position. Matt Melloy did not practice.

One thing that looks clear is that Iowa has a deep stable of tight ends. Scott Chandler practiced early, then he did not go in the scrimmage. No limping, not sure what his situation was. Brandon Meyers runs like a deer out there and looks the part. A deep, deep group here.

The usual suspects of Greenway, Hodge, Solomon and Hinkel all looked fine. They are just so good that you only notice them when they make a mistake, which I did not see. Again, I really like what Ed Miles brings to the table. He will have a breakout year.

Mike Klinkenborg and Zach Gablemann also looked very good at linebacker. They were very active. One instance saw Young catch a pass in the flat, with only Klinkenborg between he and a big gain. ‘The Borg' did not buy the fake and stuck AY.

The first team OL was: Gates (RT), Elgin (RG), Ferentz (C), Yanda (LG) and Jones (LT). Champ Davis ran with the ones today, as Tom Busch is nicked up. It was great to see Champ in there, and his recovery from ACL surgery might be the most remarkable of any of the ACL crew. If he is able to go this year, he and Busch will handle those duties and let Iowa redshirt Bailey.

Ferentz said decisions on redshirts will come down in the next couple of weeks.

Right now, I see Moeaki playing this year, as he can help the team on special teams. Perhaps Corey Robertson, too, as he can definitely help on special teams. That might be a reach there.

With Ryan Bain dealing with pneumonia right now, I am less confident that he will play.

Kirk Ferentz said that Antwan Allen will likely face more disciplinary action after his assault conviction, and that he would decide on that later this week.

Allen enters this season starting in all 38 games of his Iowa career. Should he start all of Iowa's games this year that would give him 50 starts for his career, something that might be an Iowa record. But that is in jeopardy.

As for the punting action, Rob Howe has those numbers in his report linked above, but from what I saw, John Gallery probably had the better day. To their defense, they were kicking into a wind that may have been 10mph.

If you live in central Iowa, I will be filling in for Steve Deace on 1460 KXNO's ‘Deace in the Afternoon' on Monday at Tuesday this week, between 3-6pm. Hawkeye football will be the primary topic.

To hear more of Jon's thoughts on Saturday's practice, CLICK HERE for this premium audio update.


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