By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The media was allowed to watch nearly 30 minutes of the Iowa football team’s practice on Thursday and here are some of observations:
It was weird not seeing Reese Morgan on the field for the first time in nearly two decades.
The 68-year Morgan recently announced his retirement from coaching after having spent the last 19 years of his celebrated career as a member of Kirk Ferentz’s staff at Iowa.
Morgan had coached the Iowa defensive line since 2012, so Thursday’s practice was the first time to watch his replacement, Kelvin Bell, run the show.
It was business as usual, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that Bell had been Iowa’s assistant defensive line coach under Morgan. Bell also played defensive line for the Hawkeyes after signing with Iowa in 2000, but his career was cut short by injuries.
Bell takes over a position that is led by All-Big Ten defensive end A.J. Epenesa and that will add sophomore defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon to the mix this coming season.
Nixon didn’t play in any games last season, but he came to Iowa with a scholarship offer from Alabama, and that separates him from almost every one of his teammates, except for Epenesa. It also excites the fans, who are eager to watch Nixon play.
A native of Kenosha, Wis., Nixon is listed at 6-foot-3 and 306-pounds in Iowa’s spring prospectus and he certainly looked that big on Thursday.
But he also showed a quick burst in the drills in which the media was present and was physical at the point of attack as you can see in one of the videos posted below this article. Nixon is wearing jersey No. 54 and is matched against defensive end Chauncey Golston in one-on-one drills.
One of the top highlights from Thursday’s practice was watching the defensive linemen compete against each other, especially the matchup between Nixon and Golston.
Redshirt freshman D.J. Johnson was the first defensive back to fill the new “cash” role on defense that was vacated by Amani Hooker, who declared for the NFL Draft as a junior. Senior Michael Ojemudia was second in the rotation.
There were several players out with injuries, including senior tight end Drew Cook, who had a boot on his right foot.
Offensive line coach Tom Polasek and linebackers coach Seth Wallace were by far the most animated coaches during Thursday’s practice. Their voices could be heard no matter where you stood.
The head Hawk spent most of his time going back and forth between the offensive line and defensive line, which is hardly a surprise given Kirk Ferentz’s background.
There was also a reminder that recruiting never stops as West High quarterback Marcus Morgan attended Thursday’s practice. The 6-2 Morgan, who is the son of former Iowa basketball player Michael Morgan, started at quarterback for West High as a sophomore this past season and finished with over 2,000 total yards.
Marcus Morgan also excels in basketball and as a pitcher in baseball.