By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team passed the eye test during BTN’s annual stop in Iowa City for the BTN Bus Tour. It was the network’s eighth of a 14-trek stop across the league’s footprint.
The Hawkeyes were first stop amongst the Big Ten West Division schools on Monday morning. Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo, and Howard Griffith took in the morning workout, one that Mother Nature forced inside into the Indoor Practice Facility.
“This is a good looking team,” said DiNardo. “You go to every position and it looks deep. I want to say this is one of the best looking teams from one to 105 that I have seen at Iowa.
“It’s obvious, the closer you get to the line of scrimmage, the deeper they are. That’s clear when you look at the offensive and defensive lines work.”
The Hawkeyes have four returning starters on the offensive line in senior tackles Ike Boettger and Boone Meyer, senior guard Sean Welsh, and junior center James Daniels. Three starters are back on the defensive line in senior Nathan Bazata and juniors Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse.
“There weren’t any surprises when we watched Iowa’s offensive and defensive lines,” said Griffith. “They are physical and want to control the line of scrimmage. This group looks the part.”
Griffith sees the Hawkeyes as a program that will perennially compete for the Big Ten West Division title. For that to come to fruition in 2017, he says Iowa will need to iron out the starting quarterback position between redshirt junior Tyler Wiegers and sophomore Nathan Stanley.
“That’s going to be important if they’re going to win the west,” said Griffith. “You have to have a quarterback. You don’t have to win with the quarterback, but you have to have a guy that isn’t going to make mistakes and is going to be able to make the throws on third down.
“I believe the guy that is able to move the team, not turn the ball over, and the guy the team rallies behind is ultimately who will win the job.”
Wiegers and Stanley have split first-team repetitions throughout fall camp. The pair has played in 11 games the past two seasons as an understudy to C.J. Beathard.
“This is a solid team,” said Griffith. “For them to compete in the West, they need some separation at quarterback. It may go into the season before you get a sense of who it will be, but this team has a lot of pieces.”
One major piece is returning 1,000-yard rusher Akrum Wadley. Griffith left Monday’s practice impressed with the Hawkeyes’ senior running back.
“He’s so dynamic in between the tackles,” said Griffith. “But he also has an ease when he catches the football. He doesn’t fight the ball like some backs do when you take him out. He’s a fluid athlete; he is so impressive to me because he continues to expand his game.”
Griffith was impressed with the physicality of Iowa’s defensive line, and he knows what the Hawkeyes have back at the linebacker position with seniors Bo Bower, Josey Jewell, and Ben Niemann. He kept a keen eye on Iowa’s revamped secondary, one that includes three first-year starters in Joshua Jackson, Manny Rugamba, and Jake Gervase.
“This program lost a lot in the secondary to graduation and injury,” said Griffith. “The young guys looked good back there. They are players that look like they’ll be able to step up and make plays.”
Iowa opens the regular season Sept. 2, hosting Wyoming at 11 a.m. (CT) inside Kinnick Stadium. Tickets are available for purchase by contacting the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office at 800-IA-HAWKS or visiting hawkeyesports.com.