April 13, 2012

What to watch Saturday

It's been more than three months since we last saw the Iowa Football team and a lot has changed in a relatively short period of time. For the first time in the Kirk Ferentz era two new coordinators are in place and the coaching staff has had quite a bit of shuffling. The Hawkeyes also saw the departure of several top players due to graduation after the Insight Bowl.

With all of the change, there will be plenty of interested observers filing into Kinnick Stadium on Saturday at noon to watch the one and only public "scrimmage" of the spring and our only look at Iowa Football until the middle of August.

What should Iowa fans be watching on Saturday afternoon?

Before we begin, if you are coming to Iowa City, please bring a few can goods with you to donate to the ANF Food Bank Drive. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Now back to football…

Changes in attitude, changes in latitude

Channeling a little Jimmy Buffett after an unusually warm spring in Eastern Iowa this year. Keep an eye on the attitude of the Iowa offense on Saturday. With Greg Davis changing locations and heading north to Iowa from him home in Texas, it appears that his arrival as offensive coordinator has brought new found energy to the Iowa offense. Keep an eye on how the offense is bouncing around a bit more with a little extra pep in their step.

Based on the comments from Phil Parker and many of the defensive players, it seems like there's a bit of an attitude change on the other side of the ball as well. Parker is bringing in a more aggressive style of play in the back end of Iowa's defense with more press type coverage and perhaps more use of a nickel back on slot receivers in passing situations.

Faster Football

The Iowa Basketball program has picked up their tempo the past two years under Fran McCaffery and it looks like new offensive coordinator Greg Davis wants to bring a quicker game to Kinnick Stadium. That should be music to the ears of Iowa fans been clamoring for a faster paced offense for many years. Last year Iowa toyed with the no huddle offense, mainly out of necessity, but it disappeared a few weeks later, basically for good. Davis seems committed to using a quicker tempo and some no huddle to keep defenses on their heels. It will be interesting to see how much of the up tempo action we see on Saturday, but in order to get good at it, you have to practice it.

Battle of the Big Uglies

One of my favorite drills to watch each year in the spring and then in the fall at the open practices is when the offensive and defensive linemen go at each other one on one. It's a real test for the pass protectors and the pass rushers and it gives fans a pretty good idea about which players are ready for prime time. With plenty of question marks on both the offensive and defensive line, we will get a pretty good snapshot of which players are performing well and who might be struggling to make an impact.

Nico's Law

If there is one player creating the most buzz this spring it's probably been Nico Law. Iowa fans are already on his bandwagon and now they get the opportunity to see the hard hitting safety in action. Iowa's defense will certainly need an enforcer on the back end this fall and Law seems to be ready to take on that role. Keep an eye on #21 and watch for the big hits.

Backfield in motion

The revolving door that is the Iowa running back position continued since we last saw the Iowa Football team. Official gone are Marcus Coker and Mikial McCall. On the sidelines is Jordan Canzeri, who tore his ACL this spring. Whether he makes a quick return and is able to play at some point this fall is still up in the air.

What matters now is how are Damon Bullock and DeAndre Johnson doing in this new look offense? Bullock bounced around quite a bit last year between RB and WR, so he should be settled into his position now. Greg Davis likes to use running backs out of the backfield in the passing game, so that should fit right into Bullock's strength. Iowa fans will certainly be focused in on how Bullock and Johnson perform with an eye to the future, as in this fall when Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill arrive to provide more competition.

Trouble at WR?

If there was one negative coming out of this week's press conferences it was the lack of buzz about the wide receivers. While the praise was glowing for just about every tight end on the roster, other than Kevonte Martin-Manley, the reviews of the Hawkeye wide receivers was mixed at best. Seems pretty apparent that Coach Campbell has some young guys are still feeling their way around the field and some vets aren't distinguishing themselves, although Coach Davis did indicate Jordan Cotton has done some good things in practice. With Keenan Davis sidelined this weekend with a minor injury, Saturday provides a huge opportunity for one of the receivers to step up their game.

The kicking game questions

It will be hard for one of Iowa's placekickers to knock out Mike Meyer from his starting role. If anyone is going to push him a bit, it might be Marshall Koehn, who redshirted last season. However, his role may end up being Iowa's kickoff option to help keep Meyer's leg fresh later in the season. When Meyer has missed, it's been more frequent later in the year when some fatigue sets in.

The bigger question will be at punter where right now the options are John Wienke and Jonny Mullings. Wienke, who came to Iowa as a quarterback, is now #1 on the depth chart at punter. This battle probably won't be settled until freshman Connor Kornbrath arrives on campus this fall.

There are plenty more position battles and players to watch, but those are a few of the top storylines to keep an eye on Saturday afternoon. HawkeyeReport.com will be at Kinnick Stadium reporting live with updates in the Hawkeye Lounge so if you can't make it there in person, we will have you covered.

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