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Harty: Hawkeyes see positives

[ 0 ] April 27, 2013 |

A smile, two pairs of hands and a burst are what stood out the most to me during the Iowa football team’s scrimmage Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

The smile belonged to 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior defensive tackle Carl Davis, who had reason to be happy with how things transpired on the final day of spring practice. Davis was a disruptive force throughout the four-quarter scrimmage, but especially in passing situations where he collected at least three sacks in front of an estimated crowd of 16,000 fans.

He looked and played like a veteran, and that’s what he’ll be next season as a fourth-year junior.

“I’m starting to understand everything,” Davis said with a wide grin. “Things are starting to click.”

The hands belonged to redshirt freshman receiver Cameron Wilson and walk-on junior receiver Blake Haluska, whose last name probably sounds familiar. Blake is the younger brother of former Iowa basketball star Adam Haluska, in addition to being a nice target at 6-4 and 210 pounds.

Blake, from the sounds of it, hadn’t done much to distinguish himself until this week in practice. It then carried over to Saturday’s scrimmage, with him unofficially catching four passes for 58 yards during the offense’s 61-37 victory.

“I’ll be honest, he was fairly invisible for the majority of spring practice and then this past week he has really done some good things,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Haluska. “He had a good practice both Wednesday and Thursday and caught our eye. And certainly today, he took another step forward.

“And historically for us, we’ve needed people to step forward that maybe nobody saw coming, stories that you didn’t see coming. I’m not ready to crown him right now, but certainly this has been a good three-day period, not just today. And we need help everywhere, so it would be a great thing. I hoped he walked away today feeling better about himself.”

Wilson provided plenty of help Saturday by catching 10 passes for 133 yards. The redshirt freshman from Dublin, Ohio caught virtually everything thrown his way. He caught passes over the middle. He caught passes near the sideline. And he caught them with a defender draped all over him.

“Today was probably his best day out there, too, I would say,” Ferentz said. “He’s been hit or miss a little bit. But today, he did some good things.”

The burst belonged to 5-9, 192-pound sophomore-to-be running back Jordan Canzeri, who did a pretty good impersonation of former Iowa running back Fred Russell, with how he repeatedly darted past defenders. Russell was similar in size to Canzeri and his running style was similar to Canzeri’s style.

“I just hope when the coaches put me in that I can do what I try to do and just make good plays and contribute to the team,” Canzeri said after the scrimmage, which saw him catch a 54-yard touchdown pass and rush for 50 yards.

What the four aforementioned players all have in common is that each of them is mostly unproven. Davis was part of the defensive tackle rotation at times last season, but he only finished with 14 tackles.

Canzeri started against Oklahoma in the 2011 Insight Bowl and appeared in seven games overall as a true freshman that season. But he was redshirted last season while recovering from a knee injury that he suffered the previous spring.

Wilson also was redshirted last season, while Haluska has been buried on the depth chart.

Ferentz is correct that Iowa needs some rags-to-riches stories to emerge in order for the program to climb out of its funk, which included finishing 4-8 last season.

What’s significant about Davis and the two receivers performing well on Saturday is that they play positions that need to be upgraded. Saturday’s scrimmage could be proof that it’s happening.

It’s important to keep things in perspective because it was just one scrimmage against teammates. Lesser-known players have shined many times before in Iowa spring games, only to fall back into obscurity when the season starts.

Another thing that stood out Saturday was just how tight the quarterback race is between Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard heading into the summer. All three of them had their moments, but not enough to say that one was clearly the best.

Saturday’s scrimmage was a success because there were no serious injuries and because the weather cooperated.

But this Iowa team still is suspect in many areas, including receiver.

Only time will tell if Saturday’s scrimmage was a sign of things to come or a day for one-hit wonders.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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