The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if it’s more than just a coincidence that the Iowa football team is holding an open practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines on this particular Saturday.
It’ll start at 1 p.m., which is one hour before the start of Iowa State’s annual spring game in Ames.
Everything I’ve been told is that it’s just a coincidence, but what else would you expect a UI official to say to the media?
Maybe I’m reaching. It was pointed out to me there aren’t many Saturdays from which to choose during spring football. Iowa also still has two weeks left of spring practice after Saturday, whereas Iowa State will be finished with practice.
Whatever the case, I’m still not convinced that it’s just a coincidence, especially considering what Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said on national signing day in February about Iowa’s recruitment of Urbandale receiver Allen Lazard, who signed with the Cyclones on that day.
Rhoads poked fun of Iowa and Notre Dame for trying to persuade Lazard to change his mind. Rhoads didn’t name Iowa and Notre Dame specifically, but it was abundantly clear which two schools he was referring to.
“He’s (Lazard) not going to a school in Northern Indiana,” Rhoads said. “Boy, they wasted a lot of time and money. He’s not going to another school in this state who feverishly tried to call him about a half a dozen times in the last week.”
“Much to the dismay of people in this room who wasted a lot of space and time challenging his words of commitment, he’s going right here to Iowa State University.”
Perhaps this is a veiled attempt by Iowa to seize the spotlight from the Cyclones on a special day.
Rhoads was out of line with his remarks, but the rivalry in some ways benefits from his bravado, just like it’ll benefit from Saturday’s alleged scheduling coincidence. It has has to bother Cyclone fans that Iowa picked this particular Saturday to practice at Valley Stadium.
Some Iowa fans would prefer not to play the Cyclones every year because it gives Iowa less scheduling flexibility. At least that’s the common line, although Kirk Ferentz’s 7-8 record against Iowa State probably is a factor, too.
It’s a rivalry in every sense of the word, even if the game rarely lives up to the enormous hype and even if nobody outside of Iowa really cares about it.
Saturday’s practice will be a chance for Iowa to flex its muscles in Central Iowa, to show that its influence is statewide.
It’ll be a chance for fans to get a glimpse of the 2014 Hawkeye squad and to rejoice over the turnaround from last season when Iowa finished 8-5, doubling its win total from the previous season.
It’ll be a chance to see if senior-to-be receiver Damond Powell has added some muscle to his slender frame and whether he’s being used as more than just a deep threat like last season.
It’ll be a chance to see if backup quarterback C.J. Beathard has gained ground on starter Jake Rudock, and a chance to see the skills that freshman Nic Shimonek brings to the position.
It’ll be a chance to see what the future holds at linebacker with three new starters, including 17-year old Chicago native Reggie Spearman, and whether Solon native Marshall Koehn is a legitimate threat as a kicker.
“He’s got a really strong leg, he really does,” Iowa special teams coach Chris White said of Koehn. “The ball jumps off his foot. He needs to work on his consistency. At times his ball flight isn’t good, and sometimes he doesn’t get the lift on the ball he needs to, and he knows all that stuff and he’s really working hard at it. He’s a worker now, and he’s a great athlete, too.”
It’ll be a chance to see the four freshman receivers who were redshirted last season, and how the coaches are handling all the depth at running back.
But it’s also important to remember that it’s just one practice against teammates.
If ever there is a time when fans get carried away with hope and expectations, it’s during spring practice or on national signing day.
Don’t read too much into what you see on Saturday except for the timing of the practice.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football