April 20, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Spring is a time of new beginnings and fresh opportunities and the University of Iowa offensive unit has taken advantage through 13 practices.
There is junior Sean Welsh moving from left guard to right tackle to center. Sophomore Keegan Render has worked his way to first team guard. Sophomore receiver Jay Scheel is being mentioned in the same breath as ready-for-action pass catchers Riley McCarron, Jerminic Smith, and Matt VandeBerg.
“One thing spring does is it allows opportunities,” UI offensive coordinator Greg Davis said Wednesday at a news conference in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. “We feel good about where we’re at and we have come a long way, but we’re not anywhere near being ready to play.”
Last season the Hawkeyes were fifth in the Big Ten Conference in total offense at 386.1 yards per game. Senior quarterback C.J. Beathard returns after completing 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for an average of 200.6 yards per game. He also rushed for six touchdowns.
“C.J. has had a heck of a spring,” Davis said. “You can tell he’s totally in charge in terms of what’s going on and decisions that he has to make.”
There was a point when Davis’ news conference assumed a baseball feel with references to long foul balls and home runs. Davis said Beathard will spend the summer working on deep-ball accuracy so when fall rolls around there will be fewer “long foul balls” and more “home runs” in the vertical passing game.
“There were too many opportunities (in 2015) where we had at least one-on-one coverage where a better ball would have given us a chance,” said Davis, referencing the Hawkeyes’ 12-2 season.
“One thing spring does is it allows opportunities. We feel good about where we’re at and we have come a long way, but we’re not anywhere near being ready to play.”
UI Offensive Coordinator
At running back, Davis said senior LeShun Daniels, Jr., and junior Akrum Wadley have been productive during spring drills. In 2015, Daniels rushed for 646 yards and eight touchdowns and Wadley picked up 496 yards and seven touchdowns.
A question is who will be a lead blocker at fullback. The preseason depth chart lists junior Drake Kulick and freshman Brady Ross; Davis said three players are working at the position and that will be whittled to two in August.
George Kittle has advanced at tight end after catching 20 passes (six for touchdowns) in 2015.
“He’s got a chance to be an outstanding player,” Davis said. “He’s a guy that can stretch the field from the tight end position, and we’ll do different things with him.”
“I feel good about where they are at,” Davis said.
Davis is looking for three more receivers to develop that would allow the Hawkeyes to go seven deep at that position.
“You’ve got guys that have played a bunch of ball,” Davis said.
Earlier Wednesday, Iowa completed its 13th of 15 spring practices and for the first time the Hawkeyes were inside Kinnick Stadium. An open practice is scheduled for April 23 at 1 p.m. (CT) in Kinnick Stadium.