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2018 spring football final

Hawk Talk
Hawkeyes wide receiver Dominique Dafney (23) catches a pass during the final spring practice Friday, April 20, at Kinnick Stadium. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

Last Friday at Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeye football team had a controlled scrimmage to wrap up spring ball.
I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’m not a fan of Friday night spring scrimmages. I really enjoy Saturday afternoon for ending spring practice.
There was an announced attendance of 9,300 which was a little high, I thought.
Also the media gets to sit in the press box and I would rather be on the field.
When I’m in the press box, it’s like you are watching the games from the moon.
Last year I didn’t bring binoculars and had trouble seeing the player’s numbers.
I brought some this time, but it still wasn’t the same.
Finally, when I’m on the field taking pictures, you get the atmosphere of the game, the crowd noise and hear the hard hitting.
I guess it’s OK once a year, but since I have a choice, as long as I can still walk around, I’ll be on the sideline.

As for the game it was sad to hear the Aaron Mends could be lost for the season with a knee injury.
Aaron was injured in a no-contact drill two days before the scrimmage and since he has already redshirted, might be done as a Hawkeye.
“Aaron is a great young guy and can’t seem to catch a break right now,” said head man Kirk Ferentz. “That’s really, really tough.”
I thought the other linebackers stepped up, as Kristian Welch, Amani Jones and Nick Niemann saw the first-team reps.
“He’s got a natural vibe to him or juice,” Captain Kirk said of Amani, who started at middle linebacker.
“He’s athletically insane,” said Nick Niemann. “He’s a vocal leader, too. He’s a fun guy to play with and has great energy.”
All three of the starters have good speed and like to hit.
Coach Ferentz also talked about Jack Hockaday and Barrington Wade having good springs.
The defensive line will be solid, even with Matt Nelson being held out to recover from injury.
Parker Hesse also sat out as a precaution.
Sam Brincks and Cedrick Lattimore lined up at starting tackle with Brady Reiff and Garret Jansen as backups.
The defensive ends should be the strength of D-line as A. J. Epenesa and Anthony Nelson have All-Big Ten possibilities.
Phil Parker has got to be smiling watching his defensive backs perform.
Amani Hooker was my defensive player of the game.
The junior from Minnesota intercepted a pass, tipped a pass that was intercepted by Jake Gervase and forced a fumble.
Brandon Snyder should be ready this fall, giving the safeties some depth and talent.
Michael Ojemudia and Matt Hankins started at the corners with Trey Creamer and Manny Rugamba running with the twos.

offense

The Iowa offense scored 13 points in the scrimmage on three field goals and a late touchdown pass from walk-on junior Ryan Schmidt to walk-on Dominique Dafney.
Nate Stanley looked okay, going 12-24 for 120 yards.
Nate did throw two interceptions, although one was tipped. He did have a couple of dropped passes.
Last week I talked about Nate throwing 25 touchdowns for the season.
I didn’t include the 8-yard touchdown pass he threw to Noah Fant in the second quarter of the Pinstripe Bowl.
My bad, Nate.
Nate’s 26 passes tied Brad Banks for the second-most touchdown passes ever thrown by an Iowa quarterback.
Chuck Long had 27 in 1985, the Rose Bowl season.
Chuck and Brad were runner-up in the Heisman race those seasons.
I liked Peyton Mansell and the way he moved around the pocket.
Payton was 8-9 for 75 yards and had a couple of nice scrambles.
Payton did overthrow a certain touchdown pass to Nico Ragaini.
“Payton really struggled in August but he’s really progressed,” said coach Ferentz. “I think he’s a lot closer to being able to get into a game than he was.”
Spencer Petras got his first action and showed the strong arm that made him a top quarterback coming out of California.
“Spencer surprised us a little bit,” said the head coach. “He caught onto things a little quicker then you might imagine.”
The offensive line started with Keegan Render at center, Landan Paulsen and Cole Banwart at guards, Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson at tackles.
The opened some decent holes, especially on draw plays, and did a pretty good job protecting the quarterbacks.
“Keegan has done well,” said Ferentz. “I’d say he’s exceeded our expectations.”
Ross Reynolds and Levi Paulsen, both listed as starting guards at the beginning of spring ball, were held out.
“We are not very deep and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Captain Kirk. “I think we have a chance to have a good line.”
It looks like Iowa could have three running backs that will get carries.
Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin looked good with the first unit, while redshirt freshman Kyshaun Bryan showed some quickness hitting the open holes late in the scrimmage.
The tight end position is deep with Drew Cook getting a look late and catching a pass over the middle in traffic.
Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson are primed to have breakout years.
Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette got the start at wideouts, but Max Cooper had eight receptions to lead the scrimmage.
“The good news about Cooper is that it wasn’t just today,” said the head coach. “The last couple of days he’s come alive.”

Special teams

Colten Rastetter and Ryan Gersonde shared the punting duties.
Both had some good punts and decent hang time.
Last fall, Colten averaged 37.9 yards on 56 punts, Ryan 42.5 on 13.
This will probably be a battle until the first game.
There were no punt returns, kickoffs or kickoff returns, so we will have to wait until Sept. 1 to see the return players.

I was a nice night and it felt like football weather, although not too cold.
It was interesting to see the north end zone construction.
The huge steel beams are up and progress looks good.
The photo media is moving into the northeast corner and hopefully bigger quarters.
Since I park in the ramp right across the street that will save me some walking.
I counted 65 steps from the ground level to the Kinnick turf and at 64 years old, those steps don’t get any shorter.
This will be my 37th year of going to Hawkeye football games, 17 covering them for the North Liberty Leader. I’ve missed one home opener in 37 years.
That was in 2011 in the opening game against Tennessee Tech.
The Hawks won 34-7 but it rained so hard they had to delay the game for over an hour.
When the fans came back there were only around 20,00 left to watch the game.
My nephew Kasey was married to Rachael in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that day and before the wedding, I watched the game with brother Arne at a sports bar.
There were about 10 other Hawkeye fans at that bar.
After that, I told my two nieces, Robyn and Kym, that seven Saturdays (Iowa home games) were off-limits to get married.
Robyn was married to Richmond in Las Vegas in March of 2013, while Kym was married in Missoula, Montana, in August, 2016.
I did miss my first football media day when Kym married Ryan, but it was worth it.
I will still be excited Saturday, Sept. 1, when “Back in Black” blasts out of the speakers at the Hawkeyes’ first home game.