Young Hawkeyes use bowl practice to prep for 2014
For senior stars like James Morris and B.J. Lowery, Iowa’s first
game of 2014 will be their last for the Hawkeyes.
That’s why the preparation for the Outback Bowl against LSU is
as much about Iowa’s youngsters as it is about the Tigers.
Though the Hawkeyes should be one of the most experienced teams
in the Big Ten next season, they’ll still have holes to fill. Iowa
will need three new starting linebackers, a couple of defensive
backs and a few starting offensive linemen among other needs.
For the Hawkeyes, finding replacements for those who helped key
a resurgent 8-4 season has already begun. Iowa, like most teams, is
using much of its practice time ahead of its bowl game to get its
inexperienced players primed for bigger roles in 2014.
”There’s always an advantage of bowl practice because you get
to work the young guys,” Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis
Iowa will return most of its skill positions players, linemen
and quarterback Jake Rudock next season. But Davis pointed to
freshman wide receiver Derrick Willies and running back LeShun
Daniels Jr. as two players who’ve shined in practice over the past
Willies, who is being redshirted this season, is a 6-foot-4
native of Rock Island, Ill. with a track background – and the
Hawkeyes always seem to be on the lookout for more explosive
players on the outside.
Iowa’s coaching staff didn’t wait long to take the redshirt off
of Daniels this season, even though the Hawkeyes have three quality
backs in juniors Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock and sophomore
Daniels has rushed for 142 yards on 35 carries. If Daniels keeps
progressing like he has since arriving in Iowa City he might get a
lot more carries in 2014.
”He’s a very good running back – and we’ve got a lot of them on
this team,” Weisman said.
The Hawkeyes will be forced to start at least five new players
in the back of their defense next season – including all three
Iowa will lose Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens –
who’ve formed one of the nation’s best linebacker trios – and
junior Quinton Alston, sophomore Travis Perry and freshman Reggie
Spearman will likely get the first crack at replacing them.
”It’s exciting for me to know that those guys have another
whole offseason, another summer to continue to improve. So, I think
the future is bright,” Morris said.
The secondary will also be a bit unsettled heading into the
offseason with Lowery and safety Tanner Miller set to graduate.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker mentioned sophomore Sean Draper
and redshirt freshman Maurice Fleming as among the young backs
who’ve improved in recent weeks, adding that the coaching staff has
toyed with playing sophomore Jordan Lomax at both cornerback and
safety during bowl preparations.
Lomax was in line to start at cornerback this season. But Lomax
got hurt and was soon overtaken by talented freshman Desmond
”What he does best is he works hard and he gives you 100
percent,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said of Lomax.