IOWA CITY - The execution wasn't all that crisp. But the weather was.
As Kirk Ferentz was quick to point out, spring football practice never is a thing of beauty, and he said what he and about 5,000 hearty Hawkeyes fans watched Saturday at Kinnick Stadium was no exception.
The Iowa coach was talking about the quality of play, but he could have just as easily been speaking of the weather. The smaller-than-usual crowd that turned out for Iowa's controlled scrimmage endured conditions that were fairly February-esque. Crews had to sweep small piles of snow to the side. The intelligent fans in the crowd were bundled in parkas. Sunshine was a no-show. Spring was a misnomer.
If there was anything bright or picturesque about the day, it was the play of junior receiver Keenan Davis, who seems poised to take his place as the next great Iowa wideout.
The few significant gasps of approval that came from the wind-swept crowd came when a black-shirted No. 6 was snatching footballs out of the air.
"He's sort of our hidden secret," junior quarterback James Vandenberg said of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Davis. "I've always wondered why people don't talk more about him. He's a huge guy with huge hands and he's hard to guard. It's nice to have a guy like that to throw to."
Davis, who was not made available for post-scrimmage interviews, made several leaping grabs and nimble moves during the 2-hour workout.
There was one play in which he ran up the right sideline, got bumped aside by All-Big Ten cornerback Shaun Prater, then reached back with one hand to snare the ball. It didn't matter that the official threw a flag on Prater for pass interference.
"Keenan Davis. Write that name down," Prater said. "He's unbelievable. He's going to make some great plays for us. That wasn't pass interference on that play, was it? He still caught the thing anyway. I couldn't believe it."
Davis arrived on campus in 2009 with some lofty credentials, as arguably the marquee player of that year's recruiting class. He was rated the 21st best receiving prospect in the country and one of the top 150 players overall.
He barely has sniffed his potential since then. He caught just four passes in his first season and only 11 last fall while backing up career receiving leader Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt.
DJK is gone and McNutt, a senior, sat out the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery.
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Davis has been pretty much the only receiver on the field who has played the position in a college game. McNutt said he has seen him step forward as both a player and as a leader of a green receiving corps that includes junior walk-on Steve Staggs, sophomore Don Shumpert and freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley.
"This is definitely the time you're going to see Keenan Davis for the first time, where you're going to see what everyone thought he was going to be when he was in high school," McNutt said. "As you could see today, he can make every catch there is out there."
Ferentz is a bit more reserved with his praise. He has seen the same thing this spring. Now he wants to see it in the fall.
"Keenan needs to play like a starter," the coach said. "He's certainly capable of it. The next thing is for him to play with consistency. It's his time to go.
"He's worked hard. Now it's time for him to step in and do it, and I don't see any reason why he won't."