IOWA CITY – Kirk Ferentz is finding a lot to like in Logan Lee, including the way he has embraced a new challenge at defensive tackle.
The Iowa freshman from Orion, Illinois, was recruited as a tight end, shifted to defensive end before arriving on campus in June and eight practices into his first camp spent Saturday lining up inside on the Hawkeye defensive line.
Lee displayed the toughness needed to play tackle and put his quickness and athleticism to work in recording a tackle for a loss in Iowa’s first scrimmage of camp Saturday as part of the annual Kids at Kinnick Day.
“We knew coming in he was a good football player in high school and an even better person,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said following the scrimmage. “He’s done a good job here so far and has taken to coaching well. He’s an intent listener who has done a lot of nice things in practices so far.’’
It’s still early in camp and Ferentz said discussions about whether the 6-foot-5, 251-pound Lee or any other true freshman has a chance to see the field this fall for the Hawkeyes remain 10-to-12 days away.
“There will probably be a couple of guys on each side of the ball, part of it will come down to what they have been doing and part of it will be based on our needs at certain positions,’’ Ferentz said. “That’s usually the way it works.’’
A starting point: Saturday’s public scrimmage played out in front of a couple thousand fans at Kinnick Stadium and it served a couple of purposes.
It gave youths a chance to collect autographs from their favorite players and it gave young Hawkeyes a chance to play in front of fans at Kinnick Stadium.
“This is our first time in Kinnick this fall and especially for the young guys, it’s a good chance for them to get out here and feel what it’s like to be on the field here with a crowd in the stands,’’ Ferentz said.
“It’s a good deal for them. We’re eight practices in, so we’re hardly a finished product. We have a lot of room for improvement, but this will give us some good teaching tape for tomorrow.’’
Iowa will practice under the lights at Kinnick on Thursday prior to its next scheduled scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday, workouts that are both closed to the public.
Through the air: Spencer Petras, competing for the back-up quarterback role along with Peyton Mansell, completed the only touchdown pass of the scrimmage when he hit tight end Nate Wieting in the end zone for a five-yard score.
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He also hit Oliver Martin for a 22-yard gain and spent some time working with behind the No. 1 offensive line as he continues to compete with Peyton Mansell for the second-team duties behind third-year starter Nate Stanley, who took only a handful of snaps in the scrimmage portion of the practice.
Ferentz said the late-practice work with the starters for Petras in a two-minute drill was simply a byproduct of it being his turn in the rotation.
“We worked both those guys a lot today and we’ll let them continue to compete with each other. They’ve been back and forth a little bit,’’ Ferentz said, adding that he didn’t want to dissect any work of the quarterbacks until after watching it on tape.
On the ground: Running back Toren Young reached the end zone twice as well, part of a solid performance by Iowa’s veteran running backs that extended beyond their ball-carrying skills.
“All three of those guys (Young, Mekhi Sargent and Ivory Kelly-Martin) have been practicing well and they’ve all been blocking really well, which is a big part of it,’’ Ferentz said. “Typically, the running backs have a tough time when we scrimmage our defense, but they’re doing a good job with it.’’
Catching on: Redshirt freshman receiver Nico Ragaini showed on a couple of occasions why he has caught the eye of coaches, pulling down a 43-yard pass and successfully executing a reverse.
“The redshirt year helped him a little bit. He got more comfortable last fall,’’ Ferentz said. “He’s playing faster. It’s encouraging to see him keep moving and Tyrone Tracy is right there, too. Both those guys are doing good things for us.’’
Night moves: Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta said Saturday he likes the idea of Iowa opening its season under the lights at Kinnick Stadium, kicking off the season with a 6:30 p.m. game against Miami (Ohio).
“The time is pretty much dictated to us by TV, but I love opening at night at Kinnick,’’ Barta said. “It’s good for our fans and for the players, too, it should be a little cooler.’’
Barta said he sees the Iowa-Penn State game on Oct. 12 as potential primetime possibility although kickoff for that game will not likely be set for at least another six weeks.
“I would think there is a chance,’’ he said.
Extended stay: Fielding questions for the first time since his three-year contract extension was announced Wednesday, Barta said he appreciated the support he has received from university administrators.
“I said when I came here in ’06 that this was a dream come true job and 14 seasons in, the feeling is the same,’’ Barta said.