Five observations from Iowa’s spring game

Iowa might be the most mysterious team in the B1G West this offseason. It’s an awkward combination of big losses and returning talent that has the Hawkeyes surrounded by question marks as the spring season comes to a close.

C.J. Beathard and LeShun Daniels, Jr. are significant pieces this team will miss. Yet four starting linemen from last year return, blocking for a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in Akrum Wadley.

Defensively, the Hawkeyes lost Desmond King and Jaleel Johnson, easily the two biggest playmakers on that side of the ball. But a stout front, an incoming five-star stud and a secondary that has shown promise, the defense could be even better than it was a season ago.

See what I mean? Weird.

Some of the questions were put to rest on Friday night as the Hawkeyes closed the book on spring with one final night under the lights. Here are some of the takeaways from the spring finale.

Sep 17, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes running back Toren Young (28) and teammates walk off the field before the game against the North Dakota State Bison at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Akrum Wadley is the headliner, but he’s got help behind him

There was really no benefit of Wadley playing in Friday night’s spring game. So, he didn’t. And instead, we got a pretty good look at the guys who will be helping him out in the backfield.

Both Toren Young and Toks Akinribade had good outings in the scrimmage and were able to move the football effectively. Depth at running back is going to be a great weapon for the Hawkeyes.

Wadley is going to be the workhorse this season, but Young and Akinribade are going to be excellent relief options throughout the year.

There’s a lot of room for improvement at quarterback

Saying Tyler Wiegers and Nathan Stanley struggled would be an understatement. Both guys posted a completion rate under 50 percent and there were issues with turnovers and overthrowing receivers.

It’s a significant drop-off from the stability the Hawkeyes had under center with C.J. Beathard.

Stanley was slightly better with his accuracy, but not by much. Right now, though, it doesn’t matter who wins the starting job. Both passers have to make up a lot of ground or Iowa’s offense will be in trouble this fall.

Jake Gervase looks like a good replacement for Brandon Snyder

The defense took a huge hit when Snyder suffered an ACL injury that will keep him sidelined in 2017. Gervase picked up the slack on Friday. Or better yet, he picked off the slack.

Gervase had three (!) interceptions in the spring game, and returned one of those 59 yards for a touchdown.

Snyder is going to be a tough guy to replace but Gervase showed he was up to the task.

His effort had to be a comforting sign for coaches.

The line will probably be the offense’s greatest strength

Are you surprised?

The offensive line opened up holes for the running backs and gave the quarterbacks plenty of time in the pocket. Granted, the defense was relatively thin up front, but it still dominated the battle in the trenches.

With four starters returning from last season, Iowa’s play up front was expected to be pretty good. It could be one of the top units in the country again.

Sep 10, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Allen Lazard (5) is tackled by Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Aaron Mends (31) and defensive back Malik Rucker (30) and defensive back Jake Gervase (30) and defensive back Joshua Jackson (15) at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes beat the Cyclones 42-3. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The defense could have a special year

Defense was the winner of the annual spring game by a 63-47 final. Sure, that’s impressive and all, but against fresh faces at quarterback and receiver, why does the result make them special?

Mostly because a good chunk of the starters – particularly on the defensive line – didn’t see the field on Friday.

Iowa’s offense wasn’t very good in the spring finale. Some of that is a credit to the defense, some of it is a credit to inexperience. Either way, the defense made a lot of plays without some of its best players on the field.

Once this unit is healthy and A.J. Espenesa arrives on campus, this is going to be one tough defense.

REFERENCES

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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