Tomorrow is Kids at Kinnick Day and it'll be the first real opportunity to see the 2012 Iowa Hawkeyes in action. We got a little taste at the spring game, but that was without the incoming freshmen, and was still at a point where the players were adjusting to the new coordinators. Though Iowa is just one week into fall camp, they've been hammering away with two-a-days and the team we see tomorrow should be a closer representation of what we'll see come September 1 in Chicago.
Right now the weather forecast is looking pretty good for Iowa City tomorrow so I expect to see a lot of you there. I'll be there with my 4-year-old son, so what I'll be watching is probably a lot of him and a little football. But when I do have the opportunity to turn my attention to the field, there are a few things I'll be keeping my eye on.
Let's get the no brainers out of the way first. I think Damon Bullock is going to surprise some people this year and may hold on to that starter spot longer than people are expecting. But I do really want to see how the freshmen--Barkley Hill, Greg Garmon, and even Michael Malloy--are doing and what order they appear to be on the depth chart. The BTN was at practice on Wednesday morning and according to Dave Revsine, Garmon and Hill were splitting time with the twos.
FWIW Garmon has been rotating in 2nd among RB's - then Hill.Garmon had a nice spin move a moment ago— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 8, 2012
I'm also interested in how the fullbacks are getting mixed in to the running game. There was been a ton of practice picks of Mark Weisman carrying the ball, and on the latest depth chart, Brad Rogers was listed as the co-starter at RB. So we'll see how many carries these two actually get.
In additional to the personnel, I going to watch how the running backs are actually used in Greg Davis' offense. I expect the running game will be very similar (inside and outside zone plays), but there may be some more opportunities for the backs in the passing game. I think too, with Bullock's receiving ability (he played some receiver last year), he could be used in a lot of different ways.
Running back is the big question mark on offense, and defensive line is an even bigger question on defense. Here I'm not as interested in individual players. I am kind of curious to see how Carl Davis looks in his new, slimmer build. And Darian Cooper could be interesting too. Last year on Kids Day he showed up in shorts because he hadn't been on campus log enough to go full pads.
But what I'm really watching is how the unit performs as a whole against the offensive line. The past few open practices we've seen the defensive line really pushed around, so I'm hoping they've made some strides.
Though I mentioned two tackles as players to watch, maybe more important is watching the ends to see if they generate any sort of pass rush. Iowa only registered 22 sacks last year and if the defense wants to be more successful, that number needs to go up.
I am really interested in this "up tempo" stuff I keep hearing about. Greg Davis told the media on Monday that he'd like the offense to get up to the line with 18 seconds left on the play clock. That is considerably faster than the past as Iowa has been one of the slowest teams on offense in the country.
I think Davis' plan is to get the plays in to Vandenberg quickly, have a short huddle, then get up to the line. This will allow time for Vandenberg to check out of the play and time for everyone to make their pre-snap reads. I think though, some no-huddle will also be mixed in. I was pretty critical of the no-huddle last year, but it was mostly because Iowa's implementation of it was bad. I think Greg Davis can have some real success with the no-huddle.
Even with all the change, Kirk Ferentz is still the coach, and punting is still going to be a very important part of Iowa football. Especially this year with some projected weaknesses on defense, the Hawkeyes can't afford to give up a short field. Plus, when a backup quarterback is maybe your best punter, that is going to draw my eyes. Think of the trick plays! (Yeah, right...)
I'm hoping that Jonny Mullings has finally figured out how to get his punts off faster, because he has the distance thing down already. If not, then I'm hoping that incoming freshman Connor Kornbrath can be consistent enough to earn the starting gig.
Everyone's favorite player on the team, right?