Notebook: Some bright spots, some not so much

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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WEST DES MOINES — In all, Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz wasn’t exactly pleased with the way his team practiced on April 12 at Valley Stadium.

In the team’s ninth practice this spring, the Hawkeyes flashed moments of brilliance and promise in West Des Moines’ windy heat. But there were enough miscues and mistakes that gave way to worry for the head coach and his staff.

“Practice today was just OK,” Ferentz said. “… We had more negative-type plays today than we did in any five days combined, so we’ll have some coaching to do.”

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These growing pains — most visible in the secondary — are part of spring ball, of course. And the cause of them might just be enough to give Iowa fans a bit of hope for the future.

While the secondary struggled, the Iowa passing game produced perhaps the most impressive showing on Saturday — most notably because of a few redshirt freshman receivers.

Derrick Willies, Derrick Mitchell Jr., and Andre Harris (numbers 18, 85, and 84) all displayed a lot of speed and playmaking ability during certain parts of the scrimmage.

Willies, in particular, caught nearly everything thrown his way, and showed the ability to make efficient cuts and find holes in the defense after the catch.

It was a performance that was encouraging to Ferentz, who spoke highly about the 6-4, 210-pound receiver after practice.

“He’s got some talent,” Ferentz said. “We’ve got some guys doing some things, but now it’s just, can they do it within the framework of the system.”

Defensive line to help lead defense

Carl Davis understands that a team’s seniors need to assume the role of leaders. It’s a title he knows he needs to own — even more so after last year’s senior linebacking trio graduated.

Davis is one of three seniors listed at defensive line on Iowa’s spring depth chart (the other two being Louis Trinca-Pasat and Mike Hardy). And though being a leader comes with plenty of responsibility, Davis said he doesn’t feel like there’s any pressure that comes with his new title.

“I just try to come out to practice and have fun,” Davis said and smiled. “That’s how I like showing that I’m a leader, telling guys, hey, this is practice. We’re here to get better. Let’s have some fun out here today.”

The defensive line, on the whole, performed well during the April 12 practice. The unit displayed energy at times and seemingly has the potential to be even better than it was during the 2013 season — where the starting four on the spring depth chart totaled 6.5 sacks, three pass breakups, and two quarterback hits.

More specifically, Riley McMinn (listed behind Hardy at right end) and Dean Tsopanides (who’s not on the depth chart) each recorded sacks during parts of the scrimmage.

Nate Meier (listed behind Drew Ott at left end) tipped a Jake Rudock pass early in the scrimmage that allowed a Reggie Spearman interception.

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