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Willies and the Hawkeyes show good, bad in Saturday practice

[ 0 ] April 12, 2014 |

Sprinkle a little salt on top of whatever you heard Saturday about Iowa’s football practice.

For example: Freshman receiver Derrick Willies drew plenty of applause from the estimated 8,000 fans at West Des Moines’ Valley Stadium, but coach Kirk Ferentz put the performance in perspective.

“He’s doing some good things and flashing,” Ferentz said of Willies. “And then, he’ll have some plays where it’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ ’’

Related: Bryce Miller: Same location, much different feeling

Willies, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound prospect from Rock Island, provided one of the day’s better highlights when he caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback C.J. Beathard.

There were other thumbs-up moments, of course. And a few downers.

The following is my quick take:

Thumbs up: offensive line

It was the same five starters – Brandon Scherff, Sean Welsh, Austin Blythe, Jordan Walsh and Andrew Donnal – who appeared on the initial depth chart released last month, which is a positive step toward forming a cohesive unit.

“We’re getting there,” Donnal said, “but that’s something that takes time.”

University of Iowa linebacker Quinton Alston, right, collides with offensive lineman Jordan Walsh on Saturday, April 12, 2014, during the Iowa Hawkeyes football team practice at Valley High Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

University of Iowa linebacker Quinton Alston, right, collides with offensive lineman Jordan Walsh on Saturday, April 12, 2014, during the Iowa Hawkeyes football team practice at Valley High Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

Thumbs down: kicking game

This was supposed to be a work in progress. Some of the snaps looked a little off target, and a field goal attempt was blocked.

Special teams coach Chris White said last week that punter Connor Kornbrath has responded well to the competition provided by junior college transfer Dillon Kidd, and it looked that way.

The place kicking job might not be settled until late August.

Thumbs up: C.J. Beathard

Jake Rudock is clearly the starting quarterback, but Beathard seems savvier. He not only had the long pass to Willies, but also showed a willingness to make the short pass.

He’s willing to jab, instead of only trying to land a haymakers.

“That was one thing last year, especially in summer camp, I was always wanting to take the big shot downfield, when there might be an open ball underneath,” Beathard said. “That’s one thing I’ve gotten better at this year.”

Thumbs down: the secondary

As good as the receivers looked at times, it’s a little concerning when experienced defensive backs are losing track of them.

“Some of it was good play on the offense’s part,” Ferentz said. “And some of it was broken coverages or people cutting guys loose.”

Jordan Lomax showed he could tackle, but he’ll need time to completely settle into the safety spot.

Thumbs up: linebackers

Anyone who watched Quinton Alston on the sideline could tell he’s a strong leader.

At one point, he grabbed a sheet of paper and was diagramming schemes for his teammates. Travis Perry made a diving interception while Reggie Spearman was letting plays develop and not over-pursuing.

“He got a lot of good, quality work last year with the second group,” Ferentz said of Spearman. “That’s the race we’re trying to run right now, get him where he can really be pretty proficient at being where he has to be, when he has to be there.”

Thumbs down: sloppy execution

For every ovation the receivers earned, there were just as many groans.

Too many passes were dropped, and the running game never really got in sync. Then again, the offensive starters were used sparingly, so it’s too early to call it a trend.

“We probably had more negative-type plays today than any five (previous) days combined,” Ferentz said. “So we’ll have some coaching to do and some correcting to do next week, for sure.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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