Optimism is building around an Iowa program with a very realistic chance to win the Big Ten West Division this season. On Saturday, the Hawkeyes wrapped up a fairly uneventful (in a good way) spring with their annual scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium. The offense beat the defense 46-31 before an announced crowd of 20,400 on a sunny afternoon. There were no official stats from the scrimmage, but our friends at The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette have you covered.
Star of the game: Redshirt freshman Derrick Willies capped a strong spring by dazzling the crowd with 142 receiving yards on five catches (unofficially), including a 42-yard touchdown from C.J. Beathard. The 6-foot-4 Willies, who had similar numbers in an earlier spring scrimmage, provides the explosive threat on the outside Iowa has lacked in recent seasons. Although the Hawkeyes return some experience at wideout, it's hard not to put Willies in the top rotation. "Today was his best day," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Now we have to try and corral him because he will be the spring game sensation, but he really did some good things."
How it went down: Iowa is determined to have a faster, more diverse and more explosive offense in Greg Davis' third season as coordinator. The spring scrimmage provided a preview of potentially what's to come for the Hawkeyes. Jake Rudock is still the team's top quarterback and senior Kevonte Martin-Manley is the most experienced receiver, but Willies and Beathard, who completed 21 of 39 passes for 349 yards and a touchdown, should be part of the plan.
Ferentz traditionally likes to stick with one quarterback, but it will be tough to keep Beathard off the field after some of the things he did this spring. Davis told ESPN.com earlier this spring that a package of plays is possible for Beathard, which Ferentz called "very realistic" on Saturday. The pass-heavy scrimmage didn't reveal much about the run game, but Iowa has plenty of options with Mark Weisman and Jordan Canzeri leading the way. Canzeri had a 16-yard touchdown in the scrimmage.
The secondary remains a work in progress, as Jordan Lomax is transitioning from cornerback to safety, and Iowa is evaluating cornerback options opposite Desmond King, who picked off Rudock in the scrimmage. The linebackers are also worth watching, although Quinton Alston has established himself as a strong leader in the middle. Iowa's defensive line should be the team's strongest group, as tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat recorded two "sacks" in the scrimmage.
"I think a lot of our positions right now won't get decided until well into August camp," Ferentz said of the defense.
Iowa exits the spring as a very solid team capable of taking another positive step this season. The quarterback situation is one to watch -- it's not a competition, but a something, as Marc Morehouse writes -- and several key starting spots will be at stake in camp.