IOWA CITY – Inside and out, there are some moving parts on the Iowa defensive line.
Working his way back in at defensive tackle after coping with a nagging high ankle issue, senior Nathan Bazata has watched Hawkeye defensive line coach Reese Morgan experiment a bit during the first week of fall camp.
“Guys moving in, guys moving out, it’s interesting to see what the coaches are looking at and at the end of the day, it will make us a better line,’’ Bazata said Saturday at Iowa’s annual media day.
“We rotate a lot of guys anyway and I think the coaches are looking for the strongest combinations.’’
Early movement has included some experimentation with defensive ends Matt Nelson, a junior and returning starter, and true freshman A.J. Epenesa taking a few snaps at defensive tackle.
Tackle Brady Reiff, who has worked his way back from spring injuries, has taken a few snaps on the outside at an end position.
The Hawkeyes rotated six players at the four line positions with regularity a year ago and with openings at two-thirds of the tackle rotation, early camp is a good opportunity to survey the inventory.
Bazata said his work has been constant at tackle and his objective is to stay healthy.
“I’m at 100 percent for the first time since the Wisconsin game last year,’’ Bazata said. “It took some time. I’m feeling great and that feels great.’’
PIECING IT TOGETHER: There is early-camp mobility on the Iowa offensive line as well.
Beyond a collection of four returning starters, coach Kirk Ferentz said coaches are looking to figure out who fills those next spots.
He said Levi Paulsen has shuffled between guard and tackle and Lucas LeGrand has lined up at both positions as well as center.
"We'll go through camp doing that and at some point try to figure out what out what our best mix is,'' Ferentz said. "We'll figure out who are top five, six, seven, eight are.''
UP FOR GRABS: Iowa’s kicking and punting positions are works in progress.
Sophomore Colten Rastetter and freshman Ryan Gersonde are battling to replace Ron Coluzzi as the Hawkeyes’ punter while sophomore Keith Duncan and junior Miguel Recinos are battling for the placekicking and kickoff positions.
“That’s a wide-open book,’’ Ferentz said. “I’d say it’s a coin toss at both spots. We’ll let both positions compete.’’
Duncan said Recinos, a former Mason City prep, may be close to earning the kickoff role.
“He’s really been booming them and doing a great job with that,’’ Duncan said. “It’s all about consistency. That’s what the coaches continue to talk about. Consistency is what they’re looking for and what will decide it.’’
YOUNG GUNS: Ferentz likes what he sees from the Hawkeyes’ freshman class, although he isn’t prepared to single out players who might be in a position to contribute early in their rookie seasons.
“It’s important in the next couple of weeks to determine who might help us. In pads for four days, but I think there are a couple of guys who have a realistic chance,’’ Ferentz said.
“There a couple guys who might and I’m sure there are a couple we aren’t thinking about who may surface once they figure out where they’re at.’’
Ferentz said he is keeping an open mind and will play freshman who can contribute.
FAST TRACK: At first blush in fall camp, Iowa’s reserve receivers have impressed Ferentz with their progress since spring but he said that growth must continue as the Hawkeyes work toward their Sept. 2 season opener against Wyoming.
“The guys who are back are better and we’re better with the new guys in there, but now the question is how fast can we get to where we’ve got to get to?’’ Ferentz said. “Can we do it before Sept. 2? The good news is that’s a group that ought to continue to improve. They’re off to a good start, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead.’’
STILL WAITING: Matt Quarells, a wide receiver from New Mexico who announced plans to join Iowa as a graduate transfer, is not currently on the Hawkeye roster.
Ferentz declined to specifically mention Quarells, but did confirm that Iowa has one potential graduate transfer waiting for paperwork to clear proper channels for admission to graduate school which would allow him to join the team.
FULL HOUSE: Iowa has 124 players on its roster this season, with the NCAA maximum of 105 currently participating in fall camp.
The rest will be allowed to join practice on the first day of fall semester classes, which will be on Monday, Aug. 21.