IOWA CITY — Jake Gervase doesn’t believe he won a starting job in the Iowa secondary Friday night.
He certainly didn’t hurt his chances, though.
Working to step in at free safety following the ACL tear which has sidelined returning starter Brandon Snyder indefinitely, the junior from Davenport Assumption intercepted three passes during the Hawkeyes’ spring game.
“Nothing’s guaranteed. I’m out there working as hard as I can. We all are,’’ Gervase said. “The first game is a long ways away yet and so the work has to continue. I’m looking at it that way and I’m sure I’m not alone.’’
Playing in front of an estimated crowd of 16,500 at Kinnick Stadium, Gervase played a role in all three touchdowns that were scored in the game.
He set two of them up with interception returns and he scored one himself, picking off a Tyler Wiegers pass and returning it 59 yards.
Gervase returned a Wiegers pick to the nine-yard line during the first quarter, setting up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Stanley to Devonte Young.
In the second half, he intercepted Stanley and returned that ball to the 24-yard line, five plays before Toren Young scored on a 14-yard run.
“It was fun being out there, making plays. That was the first time I’ve picked off a pass at Kinnick,’’ Gervase said. “But, it’s spring. Coach (Phil) Parker had us in the right spots, the guys up front were able to pressure the quarterback and I was in the right spot at the right time to make a play. That’s our job.’’
He took as much satisfaction in stopping Toks Akinribade short of a first down on a third-and-one play in the second half.
“When you’re a safety, making plays like that in the run game is always good,’’ Gervase said. “It was a pretty good night.’’
Gervase was one of a handful of players with standout performances in a typically rough-around-edges spring game which concluded Iowa’s 15 spring practices.
“It looked like he had the script, the way he was picking off those passes,’’ coach Kirk Ferentz said, singling out the effort of Gervase and Young, a redshirt freshman running back who displayed a physical approach as he gained 90 yards on 17 carries.
“Those two did some good things,’’ Ferentz said. “They stood out.’’
Wiegers and Stanley illustrated the growth that remains for an offense working to learn a new system while also dealing with the absence of several key components.
A junior, Wiegers completed 12-of-18 passes for 104 yards while Stanley connected on 6-of-15 attempts for 16 yards.
They will continue to compete into fall camp, as will Gervase.
He joins Amani Hooker and Noah Clayberg in working to fill the void created by the loss of Snyder, Iowa’s third-leading tackler last season from a position that is also responsible for calling signals in the back end of the Hawkeye defense.
“Hooker is a tough kid and a good athlete and Clayberg, he’s only been with us a few days (after shifting from running back) but he’s got some talent as well,’’ Gervase said. “We’ll keep pushing each other to get better all summer and into the fall and that’s good for all of us.’’
Ferentz said the group has held its own since Snyder was injured a little over two weeks ago.
“It looks like we’ve had some guys step up and help us out and that’s what you hope to see,’’ Ferentz said.
Gervase, who moved onto the depth chart at free safety at the same time Snyder did a year ago, said that is the reality of things.
“It was tough to see him go down. He’s a great guy and has worked his butt off to become the player he is, but it’s next man in,’’ Gervase said. “He’d want that. He’d want the best from us and I know that’s what I’m trying to give. I’m putting everything I have into it.’’