IOWA CITY, Iowa - I feel better about Iowa Football's upcoming season following Saturday's Kids Day open practice here at Kinnick Stadium. And I was pretty high on the Hawkeyes to begin with.
Now, just like when one of our rare opportunities to watch a workout looks like a train wreck, a good performance should come with perspective and context. It's one practice of many.
One of the few sour notes of the day was the large group of players sidelined with various ailments. We'll get to those in a bit.
I came to Kinnick focused on the offensive line and kickers. Neither one performed particularly well at the open spring practice in April.
Well, kickers Aaron Blom and Drew Stevens connected on all 10 of their live field goal attempts Saturday. And most of them were right down the middle. Even though the weather was better on this day than it was back in April, the improvement was stark.
I was worried a beat up and somewhat inexperienced offensive line was in for trouble against a salty and deep D-Line Saturday. While it got beat at times, it held up well in pass pro and in opening holes for running backs.
Here are some other observations and notes from Saturday's action...
-Again, it's one practice, but starting quarterback Spencer Petras played well. He threw accurate passes that hit receivers in stride.
Petras took the fewest reps of the top three signal callers on the roster. I suspected it was because he holds a solid lead in the competition at the position. Coach Kirk Ferentz said it was because the coaches wanted to get the backups more work.
Connecting the dots, Petras is the top guy right now. It's probably not real close.
-Projected starting running back Gavin Williams is sidelined with an injury, opening up practice reps for true freshmen Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson. They look capable. The newcomers run with a combination of patience and burst, two traits leading to success in the zone blocking scheme.
Veteran Leshon Williams already has shown coaches he's capable. While his reps were limited Saturday, he certainly looked like a guy that can carry the load should Gavin Williams be out for any time. The two backs were expected to share duties.
-Speaking of true freshmen, the highly regarded duo of Xavier Nwankpa and Aaron Graves performed beyond their years Saturday. Nwankpa picked off a pass while playing free safety and Graves disrupted the offense from inside the defensive line.
Ferentz was asked about both youngsters after practice. The coach indicated that he expected both to contribute this season with potential for bigger roles as the year advances and they become more comfortable.
-Trying to round up all the players sitting out practice proved a chore. I'm sure I missed some guys.
Here's a list of the wounded that I noticed: Joe Evans, Nick DeJong, Justice Sullivan, Jack Dotzler, Matt Fagan, Jeff Bowie, Jamari Harris, Deontae Craig, Mason Richman, Gavin Williams, Brody Brecht, Keagan Johnson, Beau Stevens, Landyn Van Kekerix, Cael Vanderbush, Kyler Fisher.
-The first-team O-Line was comprised of (from L-R) Jack Plumb, Gennings Dunker, Logan Jones, Tyler Elsbury and Connor Colby. The second-team (from L-R) was Tyler Endres, Griffin Liddle, Michael Myslinski, Asher Fahey and Taylor Fox. Quite a few other guys rotated in with the second unit, including true freshman Kale Krogh.
-The first-team D-Line was John Waggoner and Lukas Van Ness at end with Logan Lee and Noah Shannon inside.
-Cooper DeJean and Terry Roberts were the first-team cornerbacks with Riley Moss limited and Jamari Harris sidelined.
-DeJean and Arland Bruce IV were returning punts.
-The defense played a lot of base 4-3. It also showed some nickel with true freshman TJ Hall as the back.
-Ethan Hurkett and Max Llewellyn rotated in with the first-team D-Line at end. Yahya Black and Louie Stec saw some action inside with the top unit.
-With the receiver position being hit by injury, tight end Sam LaPorta split out wide throughout the afternoon.