Cooperative weather finally allowed the Iowa football team to hold its first outdoor practice of the spring on Wednesday, but the Hawkeyes’ linebacker situation remains clearly cloudy.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said during a Big Ten teleconference that after two-thirds of Iowa’s 15 spring practices competition continues to determine who will move into the roles filled by three senior linebackers last season.
“We haven’t made any strong determinations on anything yet,’’ Ferentz said.
The Iowa coach said seniors Aaron Mends and Jack Hockaday, juniors Amani Jones and Kristian Welch and sophomores Nick Niemann and Barrington Wade continue to angle for the opportunity to replace Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann and Bo Bower at the core of the Hawkeye defense.
Ferentz said Mends and Hockaday, who have filled special teams roles and are currently the most experienced linebackers on the roster, have been solid.
“They’re the older guys and they’ve done a good job,’’ Ferentz said. “The others guys are right there, too. It’s been close.’’
While the other linebacker candidates have gained some attention, Ferentz said Wade is “quietly doing a good job’’ as Iowa works toward its April 20 spring practice under the lights at Kinnick Stadium.
Jones said Tuesday that linebackers continue to see time at multiple positions on the practice field, spots that change from one day to the next as coaches search for the strongest combination.
“Everybody is learning a lot,’’ Jones said. “We’re all out there, working hard. We’re all trying to get better every day.’’
Ferentz also echoed comments made Tuesday by quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe and receivers coach Kelton Copeland that the Hawkeyes are working with improved speed on offense this spring.
That is the case in part because sophomores Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith weren’t on campus to participate in spring practices a year ago.
“Akrum (Wadley) gave us some quickness but a year ago with our whole passing game, there wasn’t much there,’’ Ferentz said. “We’re hardly there yet, but we’ve certainly improved this spring. Ihmir and Brandon stepping in have helped a bit. … Things look a little better than they did a year ago, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.’’