By Pete Ruden
Iowa football is now closer to taking the field for the season-opener, but questions still remain after the team’s annual Kids’ Day practice on Aug. 12.
While quarterback competitions, wide receivers, and graduate transfers are on everyone’s mind, there is still one thing that isn’t a question: Kids’ Day is a good time.
“It’s awesome,” wide receiver Matt VandeBerg said. “Any kind of fans that we got here are awesome. The little kids, always hilarious when they’re out front … It’s awesome to have all the fans out here and especially the kids that are up front. That’s a lot of fun for us.”
Now that the team is closed off to the public for the rest of preseason camp, the anticipation keeps building.
However, while Aug. 12 might’ve been the last look at the team for a while, it was a good glimpse.
At last week’s Iowa football media day, quarterback coach Ken O’Keefe said this was a time that Nathan Stanley and Tyler Wiegers could separate themselves in pursuit of the ever-elusive starting quarterback job.
One week later, Stanley might have done just that.
The sophomore outplayed the “veteran” Wiegers in the scrimmage portion of practice, connecting on 3 touchdowns; Wiegers didn’t get on the board.
Along with a red-zone touchdown pass to freshman Max Cooper, Stanley launched a strike to Devonte Young’s outstretched arms for what appeared to be a 55-yard touchdown. The pair connected again when Stanley tossed a beauty to Young on a fade from just outside the 20.
While he had his shortcomings, Stanley played solidly throughout the day. After taking the first snap, that’s what Iowa needed from him.
Still, it was only one practice, and the Hawkeye coaching staff wants to take everything into account before naming a starter.
“This is one exposure out of 12, so we’re trying to measure the whole body of work,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. ”Both guys have done some really good things, and both of them have some things they’d like to change and take back, but that’s what you’d expect.”
While it may not have been counted as an official stat, Nevada graduate transfer James Butler scored his first touchdown in front of Hawkeye fans during the scrimmage.
After he compiled 1,336 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground and 37 receptions for the Wolf Pack last season, there has been a lot of hype around the Hawkeye backfield.
Though there’s a fellow 1,000-yard rusher returning, there was little question about how Iowa could fit both backs into the rotation.
Hawkeye running back Akrum Wadley said both Butler’s skill and personality helped make the new addition to the backfield easier.
“James, he’s a great guy,” Wadley said. “He’s versatile, he can catch out the backfield, and he can run. One thing about James I always talk about is he’s a good guy off the field, too. He’s not arrogant or any of that.”
Now with one transfer situation going smoothly, the Hawkeyes hope they can do the same thing at another position.
Ferentz announced after the practice that wide receiver Matt Quarells is officially a part of the team.
Without much experience at wideout on the roster, Iowa will be getting a seasoned player with potential in the New Mexico graduate transfer.
The quarterback competition isn’t the only position battle going on.
In a day that Ferentz called “probably his best day as a Hawkeye,” junior kicker Miguel Recinos ensured that there would be a competition at placekicker.
Recinos didn’t miss a kick all day, nailing a 51- and 48-yarder in the scrimmage section of the practice.
On the other hand, Keith Duncan, who made the heroic kick to take down previously unbeaten Michigan last season, struggled.
While neither kicker missed during drills, Duncan missed two kicks inside of 35 yards and had a rough go on longer kicks during the 11-on-11 portion as well.
With there also being a competition at punter between Colten Rastetter and Ryan Gersonde, this is another battle the coaching staff is going to let play out.
“A little bit like the quarterback situation, we’re going to keep watching everything over the course of time, not just one day,” Ferentz said. “With that being said, it was really encouraging today … The ones [Recinos] hit, they were true. They weren’t limping over the goalposts. It was good to see. It’s the best he’s been.”