April 11, 2015

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Perhaps the most crucial spring practice session of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz's 17-year tenure reached the halfway point Saturday.

For the third spring game in a row, the Hawkeyes travelled to West Des Moines, Iowa - just minutes away from the state capitol and about a 30-minute drive from Iowa State's spring scrimmage on Saturday.

Iowa is coming off a disappointing 7-6 season and must replace key starters on both sides of the ball. The offensive and defensive lines are in flux, and C.J. Beathard has taken over at quarterback for Jake Rudock, who will transfer after losing the starting job.

''It's our ninth practice,'' Ferentz said. ''Depth is always an issue in spring practice and it's certainly something we'll continue to develop.''

Here were five of the key takeaways from Saturday's workout, which Iowa hoped was a small step in rallying a frustrated fan base.

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C.J.'S TIME: Beathard took all of the first team snaps during Saturday's scrimmage. The ball left Beathard's hand noticeably fast, and he showed a willingness to scramble when the pocket collapsed.

Beathard's back up, Tyler Wiegers, had fumble issues early in practice and threw an interception to linebacker Cole Fisher that was returned for a touchdown.

LINE `EM UP: The graduation of offensive and defensive linemen left big shoes to be filled. Both of Iowa's first team offensive tackles struggled against the more veteran defensive ends. Ike Boettger had trouble containing defensive end Nate Meier on the right side, while the rotation of Drew Ott and Matt Nelson plagued left tackle Boone Myers.

''You couldn't ask for a better situation right now'' Ferentz said of his tackles. ''Both those guys are working against pretty good guys on both sides of the ball in Meier and Ott on the other side.''

SWITCHING SIDES: Derrick Mitchell Jr., who moved from wide receiver to running back in the offseason, took several snaps with the second-team offense. Mitchell hit holes well, made clean cuts, and was difficult to tackle throughout his reps.

Jonathon Parker, a running back turned wide receiver, saw limited reps with the second team.

KICKING IT: Marshall Koehn excelled in the kicking game for the Hawkeyes. Koehn punted well and had the only points of the scrimmage portion of the practice, a 52-yard field goal with the wind behind him.

However, Ferentz said the competition for kicker is still up in the air.

''Whoever is best at any of those jobs will be the guy in there,'' Ferentz said.

KING DESMOND: Cornerback Desmond King showed signs of returning to form Saturday after struggling last season. King returned punts during special team drills and covered Iowa's top receiver Tevaun Smith well, who was targeted several times on deep throws by Beathard.

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