Masks, Face Shields: The New Look Of Iowa Football For 2020
Exploring through those first photos from the first day of Iowa training camp is like looking for secrets.
Which player is getting reps with the No. 1 offense? How does (insert name here) look compared to last year?
There was certain things noticeable from the photos from Iowa's first practice on Friday.
Everyone was wearing a mask. Helmets have face shields.
Welcome to college football during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 season for the Hawkeyes is scheduled to start four weeks from today, when Maryland is supposed to be in Kinnick Stadium for the opener of the 10-game Big Ten-only schedule, the latest improvisation act to have a football season in the fall.
"Scheduled," of course, is the key word here, because anything or anyone can pull the plug on this season at any time and then it will be, "Hey, see you in the spring ... maybe."
We don't have a depth chart yet, so you can't dissect the two-deep. There's no media day scheduled yet. No Kids' Day scrimmage, so you can dissect who is getting some extra snaps with the 1s on offense or defense.
Kinnick Stadium will not be its usual boisterous self on opening day — Iowa announced this week that capacity, at least early in the season, will be in the range of 10,000-15,000. Oh, and wear a mask or some sort of face covering, or you're not getting in.
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta warned a long time ago that there would be disruption to how this season would go, and hopefully you were paying attention. Your best option this season may be sitting at home.
Maybe we'll all be sitting at home.
Maybe this season goes the full 10 games. Maybe there will be stops and starts, filling in a schedule board that looks like a jigsaw puzzle — hey, maybe we can fit that game against Illinois in here.
Or maybe it stops and doesn't start.
So many key players — Purdue's Rondale Moore, Penn State's Micah Parsons — have opted out of this season. Iowa's roster is seemingly set, but you keep waiting for someone at any time to say that maybe this isn't worth it.
Usually, August is about the anticipation for a football season ahead. Instead, it will be a month of anxiety and speculation. Every reported positive COVID-19 test will feel like a step toward cancellation. You hope everyone will be safe.
The countdown to a season will have a slow, scary tick of the clock.
The masks, the face shields, and the social distancing on the practice fields make this an especially peculiar month. It's a good sign that the Hawkeyes, like so many others, are taking safety seriously. But even that may not be enough.
The concern, though, is what happens when students get back on campus, and the summer bubble pops. How safe is the campus?
So that's why everything is "scheduled" now, a word that carries with it a giant asterisk of doubt.