Iowa hosts final public scrimmage
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz wants his players focused on little more than football during fall camp.
That is why there is just one public opportunity to see what the Hawkeyes might look like when they open the season in two weeks.
Iowa's annual mid-camp open practice was held Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. It's also typically the only time coach Kirk Ferentz provides updates on the program.
The annual ''Kids Day'' scrimmage, so named because of a slew of activities designed to entertain younger fans, has turned into a crucial date on Iowa's schedule.
Here are five takeaways from the final public showing for the Hawkeyes before they host Northern Iowa on Aug. 30.
INJURY UPDATES: Ferentz announced Saturday that junior fullback Adam Cox will be out for the season after tearing a knee ligament. Hawkeyes tight ends Ray Hamilton and Jake Duzey also sat out Saturday's practice with undisclosed injuries, though it doesn't sound like either player will miss significant time.
Ferentz said the momentum of fall camp has been somewhat slowed by a host of minor bumps and bruises.
''We've had just way too many camp injuries, which is three days, four days (out). All of that kind of stuff,'' he said. ''It's really hard for us to establish continuity. It's really hard to move forward when you have that many guys out.''
KICKSTART: Former Iowa kicker Mike Meyer first opened eyes at Kids Day in 2010, when he shanked a field goal that bounced off the Kinnick Stadium turf and whacked a manager in the face. Saturday's scrimmage was the first look at Meyer's potential replacements; Marshall Koehn, Mick Ellis and Miguel Recinos - and none of them looked ready to kick in a game.
But Ferentz said Saturday's kicking performances weren't indicative of how those players have looked through two weeks of camp, and he had similar praise for punters Connor Kornbrath and Dillon Kidd.
Saturday ''was not a good day, placekicking-wise. Ironically, that's probably been one of the highlights of camp. I was not really overwhelmed with what we were doing punting or kicking in the spring. Both of those areas have really looked pretty good,'' Ferentz said.
The competition for both those spots could stretch into the first week of the season.
GIVING THEM THE WILLIES: Iowa hasn't had a big-play receiver since Marvin McNutt graduated following the 2011 season. The Hawkeyes think they might have a future star in 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman Derrick Willies, who looked like a potential playmaker in a pair of public scrimmages in April.
But Willies was held out Saturday because of a minor leg injury he suffered on Friday, and emerging sophomore wide receiver Riley McCarron fell awkwardly after making a catch during Saturday's practice.
BACK IT UP: There are plenty of new faces in Iowa's secondary. Jordan Lomax has moved over to free safety after an injury-plagued stint at cornerback, and Maurice Fleming, Sean Draper and Greg Mabin are competing to fill an open spot at cornerback.
Though the starting spot opposite Desmond King was expected to go to either Fleming or Draper, Mabin has thrust his name into the conversation with a strong camp.
''They're all on the same page right now, so it's kind of hard for the coaches to figure out which one is going to start,'' King said.
FULL NELSON: The Hawkeyes have plenty of depth on their defensive line, so it's unrealistic to expect freshman Matt Nelson play much this fall. But the 6-foot-8, 255-pound Nelson, who grew up in nearby Cedar Rapids and turned down the likes of Notre Dame and Stanford to play for the hometown Hawkeyes, could be ready to play significant snaps in the near future.
''He's long. I mean, he's impressive watching him in the pass rush and the natural ability that he has. I'm looking forward to seeing him, especially if he can put on some weight, I think he can be a dangerous guy,'' senior tack Carl Davis said.