This is the first of two or three scrimmages Iowa will schedule during fall camp. The keyword here is “first.”
What you’ll see Saturday will not resemble the finished product you’ll see Sept. 3 against Tennessee Tech. And even then, that lineup will be subject to change. The Hawkeyes might not congeal until the Big Ten season starts at Penn State on Oct. 8.
Iowa coaches are trying to figure out a couple large position groups with the defensive line and secondary. Each unit has some givens. DT Mike Daniels and DE Broderick Binns have spots. Iowa has proven playmakers in the secondary with Micah Hyde and CB Shaun Prater.
There are as many as six to 10 bodies fighting for the other two spots. And that’s part of what you pay attention to today.
1. Who, what, where in the secondary
Following Tuesday’s practice, the Iowa video staff put out a portion of seven-on-seven drills on YouTube (see below). You have to look closely for numbers, but first-team safeties were Hyde and junior Collin Sleeper. Prater and junior Greg Castillo were the corners. Second team was senior Jordan Bernstine and sophomore Tanner Miller at safeties; sophomore B.J. Lowery and freshman Torrey Campbell were the corners.
Freshman Nico Law could punch through. Senior Tom Donatell has his best shot at playing time.
What will probably shape this group more than anything else is who secondary coach Phil Parker likes out of Castillo and Lowery at corner or Miller at free safety. If Castillo and Lowery don’t grab corner by the facemask, Hyde probably moves to the position he started all last season and Miller moves in at free safety. If Castillo and/or Lowery impress, Hyde is a free safety.
“We obviously have a huge battle at the strong safety position,” Sleeper said. “There are a lot of bodies. It’s going to be a battle.”
2. Pretty much the same deal with the D-line
The first unit Tuesday was senior Joe Forgy and junior Joe Gaglione at ends; senior Daniels and freshman Carl Davis at tackles. Second unit was ends Steve Bigach and Mike Hardy with Louis Trinca-Pasat and Thomas Nardo at tackles.
The expected starters at ends — seniors Broderick Binns and Lebron Daniel — didn’t participate. Coach Kirk Ferentz announced a week ago Daniel would be slowed at the beginning of camp.
Sophomore Dominic Alvis began camp listed as a starter at DT and could end up there or end, where he played his first two years at Iowa. Freshman DT Darian Cooper was a late arrival in camp, but could factor once he gets started.
Binns and Daniels are the only ones with any real experience. This is the bill for sending three D-linemen to the NFL this year.
3. Punter, kicker, special teams
Senior Eric Guthrie seems to have locked down punter.
“Eric is one of our more improved guys on the entire roster,” Ferentz said. “I think he’s worked hard. He’s a very conscientious young guy. He might be up-and-down early, but I think he’ll settle down and go. This is another position where we’ve got to get a No. 2 guy ready just in case.”
Freshman Jonny Mullings is still on the roster. Connor Kornbrath is a punter committed to the 2012 class. Something has to give, maybe?
Sophomore Mike Meyer should keep his job as kicker after going 14 of 17 as a freshman. Junior Trent Mossbrucker is still around and will push Meyer.
Outside of punt teams, special teams won’t show you much today. You can track the kickers, but remember, this is just one of 25-plus preseason practices. Careful putting too much weight on today’s performance.
4. No. 2 RB
It’s been in the back of your mind since Marcus Coker’s last carry in the Insight Bowl. Plus, the way Iowa has chewed up running backs the last two seasons, maybe the question is who’s Nos. 3 and 4.
Coker calls himself the No. 5 running back, and that’s the exact kind of attitude a coach wants out of his returning leading rusher (622 yards as a true freshman).
Chronologically, junior Jason White and redshirt freshman De’Andre Johnson would be Nos. 2 and 3. Three freshmen — Mika’il McCall, Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri — are next.
At 220-plus, McCall might be the most ready after White and Johnson, who’s earned praise after a freshman year hampered by a torn ACL suffered his senior season in high school. Johnson and White split No. 2 carries Tuesday.
5. No. 2 QB
A.J. Derby is a quarterback and that’s that. He said during media day he’s all in at the position. Going by the video, he seemed to have No. 2 snaps, but junior John Wienke had a few with the 1′s. So, nothing congealed here.
There is some lip service that competition exists for No. 1, but junior James Vandenberg is driving this car.
No. 2 might be dictated more out of situation than talent. If Iowa needed No. 2 in a catch-up, desperation situation, maybe Wienke’s knowledge of the offense edges out Derby’s athleticism? If offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe sees an opportunity for Derby in goal line, maybe that’s how it plays out. Iowa with a big lead? The QB with the least experience who coaches want engaged and productive gets the nod.
That describes Derby and Wienke to a T.