Ok, here is Scott Murray with an excellent in depth guest post on the outlook of Hawkeye Football 2008. I took the privilege of adding some photos from spring practice with my own captions and opinions.
Offense Jake is seen here getting ready to lay another big egg. Jake, don't push!
What was the cause of the anemic offense? Travis would have us believe the blame solely rests on the head of Christiansen. I think JC may be the future savior of this program for the next two years, but maybe not. I believe the blame last year can be spread over several areas. At the beginning of the year we lost several receivers before and in the early season leading to back ups who likely hadn’t had many reps starting. It’s OK to have an occasional receiver step in, but to completely replace the crew with new players, is asking for mistimed routes, miscommunication, and variable game play. As well, there was definitely inconsistent line play with JC being one of the most sacked QB’s in the country (arguably because he doesn’t know how to either scramble or throw the ball away). But, I would have to argue that poor pass protection and receive mistakes may be part of the blame. Most of the key pass offensive players are returning, and I see this being vastly improved from last year.
At tight end, this year, we have Moeaki (a likely key to our offense, with soft hands for short passes) will return as well as qualified back ups in Meyers and Reisner. We will have Brodell, Stross, DJK, Sandeman (aka sandman), and Cheney back from last year. Quite inconsistent last year, but I expect improvement for this year. Even though we have had remarkable attrition at the WR position, we still have a fair amount of depth. Incoming recruiting class includes Shane Prater, and a likely position change of David Blackwell to WR from QB (who received a scholarship from LSU), there as well is some talk that Demarco Paine may play both ways. With the arrival of coach Campbell, I can easily see this going from a weakness to a position of strength. As well, there are strong leans for Jordan Cotton and Keenan Davis (Iowan) as well as strong interest from many highly recruited WR in the nation.
Paki, get used to this.
I’m hoping for the elimination of the full back position, but that may not come quite yet. I see a need for the full back in our play action passing schemes with a small running back or a poor blocking running back. With a RB like Greene in the backfield, a FB is just an excuse for the defense to put 8 in the box. At the outset, the RB position looks to be concerning with only 3 new recruits coming in. However, with Greene returning as well, I foresee little if any drop off from last year. Last year, I blame much of the trouble running the ball with the offensive line, not with the running back. In general, I think you can have a very average running back and have a very good running attack with a strong offensive line. The incoming recruits will likely have some roll in a combined effort at running back. Nathan Guillory, junior college transfer, on first glance doesn’t look like a prototypical Big Ten running back, looks a little small and not as fast as advertised-think of a slower version of Fred Russell. Jeff Brinson carried a scholarship offer from Florida, but chose to go to Iowa, likely for early playing time. As well, Jewel Hampton was highly recruited out of high school.
As the Hawkeyes go, so goes the favor of the quarterback position. If the offense is doing well, the quarterback is praised, and if not so well, the first to blame. No matter what Ferentz says, I would be shocked to see anyone but Christiansen start at quarterback. But, to be fair, Stanzi looked about equal on my observation at the spring game, and does throw a nice ball. Right now, I would say it is Christiansen’s position to loose. Everyone talks how we don’t get any “star” power at Iowa. Christiansen was the #2 dual threat quarterback in the country as a senior recruit, received “Mr. Accuracy” at the elite 11 competition. No one would guess that after witnessing last year. I think if Jake gets some unpressured time in the pocket we will see great improvement, or at least some accurate throws to the sidelines. If not, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stanzi step in. McNutt, likely the next in line, is behind these two by a fair amount. It will be interesting to see what happens with Vandenburg (most prolific Iowa passer, among the records Vandenberg set are: most yards passing in a season (3,729), most TD passes in a season (49), most yards in a career (7,677) and most TD passes in a career (93). However, the likely jewel of the quarterback recruits is John Wienke, who turned down an offer from Michigan to go to Iowa after the Lloyd Carr departure.
(Peltgrande editor note: I heart Marvin McNutt)
With everyone back, I can’t help but believe in improvement. It would be a miracle to see Dace Richardson back, but would be fortuitous. Before an injury last fall, Bruggeman was pushing for a starting position and now is again pushing Eubanks. About the only spot that is set in stone is Seth Olson. Otherwise, there are several players vying for each of the other positions. This competition should spurn better play. There are several incoming Freshmen, but I would be shocked if any played a role this year. As well, we do have a commit from a 4 star OL from Des Moines in David Barrent, boding well for the future.
I see new names, but in most positions stronger players replacing the graduating seniors. We had a strong defense through much of the year, but often it seemed as though extended guest time of possession led to a fatigued defense, and subsequent mistakes. With improvement on offense I would foresee improvement on defense for this reason alone. The more 3 and outs the offense puts up, the more the defense is going to struggle.
With the departure of senior ends, Iwebema and Mattison, I feel we will see improvement with Ballard and Clayborn more than replacing their productivity. They play with purpose and are unrelenting in quarterback pressure, as was often witnessed with their 3rd down replacements during the latter half of the year. What can you say about King and Kroul. They will be sorely missed after next year. They have been the backbone of the defense in the recent past, and were actually held out of the “spring game” because they were solidified in their role as starters. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see King move to DE and Clayborn move back inside to DT. Reportedly, Hundertmark, Geary, Daniels, and Klug have been making strides this spring. But, have played so little, it is difficult to assess. Hopefully they will get some playing time this year, so they are ready to go next year. As with the offensive line, there are some good recruits coming in, but will likely not play much role this year. Of note, Bigash from Ohio did receive strong interest and a reported offer from OSU, which he reportedly ignored to come to Iowa.
Klinkenborg and Humpal are gone, we will see a more explosive middle linebacker in Jacody Coleman and little drop off in the WILL position with Tarpanian and Hunter still fighting it out. AJ Edds will continue to be solid at outside, and has looked a little like Greenway with his excellent pass coverage. Coleman brings passion to the game, and hopefully it will be transmitted to the rest of the defense as he is in the “quarterback” position of the defense. There are some exciting players waiting behind these, who will hopefully get some experience on special teams.
Fletcher and Greenwood return with significant playing time, otherwise, much of the two deeps are young. There is more speed in the d-backs than we have had in recent memory, but as well, there is more inexperience than in recent memory. It should be exciting to see Des Moines native Jordan Bernstine play at corner. As well, it will be nice to have Amari Spievy return from a one year banishment in JUCOland to boost the d backs. This year we have a deluge of d backs recruits incoming including Castillo, Cato, Lowe, Paine, Shaun Prater, and Jack Swanson. Some may be moved to other positions.
Here is Don Nordmann, (who HASN'T heard of him?) warming up for special teams. And, I mean really really SPECIAL teams.
Donahue will show us this year, as he did toward the end of last year, why Ferentz gave up a scholarship on a punter. Hopefully the new recruit, Trent Mossbrucker will step in and start kicking for us. Murray and Signor continued to struggle thru spring practice, and the competition for kicking will likely go on until the Friday before the first game. I hope with all the young players available that we will see special team to start to become special again, with punt and field goals blocked. DJK should be exciting on kick returns.
Predictions We continue to have Michigan and OSU off our schedule, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Although, I would expect to see Michigan flounder this year with a new spread offensive coach. All of our difficult games are played at home and our easy games are on the road, aside from an early challenge in Pitt. Not that we aren’t prone to losing games to easy competition at home, i.e. Indiana last year, I think we will see a stronger finish this year and wouldn’t be surprised to go anywhere from 8-4 to 10-2 with a Florida bowl being likely. As last year proved though, never underestimate underachieving.
Chance of winning
Florida International 99.896%
Iowa State 95%
At Pitt 42%
At MSU 82%
At Indiana 87%
At Illinois 84%
Penn State 67%
At Minnesota 93%
If anyone wins any money off of these picks I expect at least 60%.
Final Pelt Editor Note: Scott's analysis is excellent, thank you! Much better and in depth knowledge of football than I could ever hope to provide. I do want to point out though, I think the final win-loss outlook is a little rosier than what I expect, but I hope he's right.