The Hawkeyes entered 2008 with a QB controversy of sorts between Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi. There shall be no such controversy this year: Stanzi is the Manzi (oh god, did I really just type that?). The bigger question is who will back up the redshirt junior. Marvin McNutt is now a wide receiver, and Christensen has transferred out of Iowa City. Redshirt Freshman John Wienke, once a Michigan commitment, is the best bet.
|Iowa QBs Passing 2008|
|Iowa QBs Rushing 2008|
The Iowa QB situation improved a ton last year with Stanzi at the helm. He should continue improving, and be among the better signal-callers in the conference this year. Behind him, there might be trouble, as there is virtually no experience with Christensen gone.
Shonn Greene was, for my money, the best running back in the country last year. Stepping up to replace him will be sophomore Jewel Hampton, who looked pretty good as Greene’s backup last year. Walkon Paki O’Meara and Jayme Murphy will also get some action.
|Iowa RBs Receiving 2008|
|Brett Morse (FB)||5||40||0||8.00|
|Wade Leppert (FB)||5||22||0||4.40|
Jewel Hampton is not going to be Shonn Greene. End of story. I’m not going to sit here and go all “losing Shonn Greene doesn’t hurt, because Jewel Hampton is AT LEAST as good” Rittenberg-style. Hampton will fill in for the Hawkeyes, and will probably provide more speed to the RB position, but likely less power and vision. That’s to be expected from a young player, and by the end of the year, he should develop into a good option. I will bet each and every one of you infinity dollars that he will not outdo Greene’s Doak Walker-winning year. I am not stupid, you see.
Darrell Johnson-Koulianos has been in the doghouse a bit this summer, allowing other players like former QB Marvin McNutt to get some serious reps at wide receiver. DJK will still likely be the go-to guy as a redshirt junior, and senior Trey Stross will be the Inexplicably Great White Iowa Receiver in the absence of Andy Brodell. Still, it’s the tight end that looks to drive this passing game, and if redshirt senior Tony Moeaki can stay injury-free (albeit for the first time in his Hawkeye career), he’s a really good option.
|Iowa Receivers Receiving 2008|
|Brandon Myers (TE)||34||441||4||12.97|
|Alan Reisner (TE)||11||200||1||18.18|
|Tony Moeaki (TE)||13||144||1||11.08|
|Paul Chaney Jr.||2||19||0||9.50|
|Iowa Receivers Rushing 2008|
For all his whiteness, Andy Brodell was a really awesome wide receiver, and losing him will certainly be a hit. However, if DJK can stay in the coaches’ good graces, and Stross can step up to a starting role, the wide receivers should be decent enough. If McNutt can be a good third option on the edges, that’s probably gravy for a Hawkeye passing attack that has a number of smaller contributors, and a darn good TE in Moeaki. If Tony can stay healthy, he’ll be able to stretch the middle of the field, opening things up on the outside, and even in the running game.
Center Rob Bruggeman and right guard Seth Olsen depart, but the other three starters return for the Hawkeyes. True junior Bryan Bulaga will man the left tackle spot, redshirt junior Julian Vandervelde will play left guard, and 5th-year Kyle Calloway played right tackle last year. The two spots up for grabs are likely to go to 5th-years Dan Doering at right guard and Rafael Eubanks at center. The backups for Iowa will include Reilly Reiff, Markus Zusevics, and Kyle Haganman.
The line returns mostly intact, though Olsen was good enough to be drafted in the fourth round of the NFL draft, and Bruggeman got some looks of his own, and signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Still, the Hawkeyes who return aren’t without some acclaim themselves. Doering was an Army All-American whose career has been sidetracked by injuries over the years, and Rafael Eubanks will also probably make it into the NFL draft with a good senior year. The incentive for those two to prove their worth to the NFL (on top of their inherent talent, of course), along with the remaining members of the line returning from last year’s campaign, means that the Hawkeye OL will probably be about as good as last year’s, and there’s a chance it could be even better.
Losing Shonn Greene will hurt, but a stabilized QB situation, another strong offensive line, and some weapons in the passing game will all help the Hawkeye offense improve next year. Andy Brodell, despite his injuries over the years, was an explosive weapon, so Iowa will need to either spread the wealth or find a playmaker to take his spot. If Tony Moeaki and the offensive line can stay healthy, however, the Hawkeye offense could be a well-oiled machine in 2009.
Mitch King and Matt Kroul leave the middle of the Hawkeye defense, and replacing the tackles will be a tall task. I wouldn’t be surprised if junior Christian Ballard continued adding weight (he was already listed at 285 on the spring roster) and moved inside permanently, giving Broderick Binns, a redshirt sophomore a full-time role on the edge. That still leaves one defensive tackle spot, which will likely go to [hilarious adverb goes here]-named Karl Klug, though he’s a bit undersized. The most certain role on the defensive line is for Adrian Clayborn, who flashed some star power last year as a redshirt sophomore at DE.
|Iowa Defensive Line 2008|
Sure, there are bodies available to fill the holes left by Kroul and King, but will they be as good as the two departed players? Neither was drafted, but they were excellent college DTs. Without them at the heart of the defense, the outside rushers will probably have a bit of an issue. Still, the defensive line might have some real penetrating power with a couple undersized quicksters both inside and out. Will they be easily manhandled by bigger, stronger offensive lines though?
Redshirt senior Pat Angerer and redshirt junior Jeremiha Hunter will be the key pieces of the Iowa linebackers corps. True senior AJ Edds completes the returning trifecta. Most of the backups, including Jacody Coleman and Jeff Tarpinian return, giving Iowa not only marquee starters, but also depth.
|Iowa Linebackers 2008|
The linebackers were pretty good last year, and unless the new defensive linemen can’t manage to keep them from getting blocked, there’s no real reason that they shouldn’t be even better in 2009. The entire 2-deep returns, and they should all be a year more seasoned.
Redshirt junior Amari Spievey is expected to have a breakout, star-making year at one of the corner positions. Redshirt junior (and former walkon, in case it wasn’t already apparent he was white) Brett Greenwood returns at strong safety. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Sash, similarly melanin-deficient, will probably be the other starting safety. David Cato, a true sophomore, will probably start at the vacated corner position. Shaun Prater, who got some DB reps in 2008, has moved to wideout.
|Iowa Defensive Backs 2008|
For all the ragging on Greenwood last offseason, he actually turned in an honorable-mention in the All-B10 media awards. The other pieces return mostly intact, except for Bradley Fletcher, a third-round pick in the NFL. If Cato can step up and replace Fletcher at least with some degree of adequacy, the Iowa defensive backfield should be pretty strong. Still, a step back might be in order, as the Hawkeyes lost the man who looks to be the best NFL prospect. Only Spievey, among the returners, looks to be a good candidate to make it to The League.
Stopping the run and pressure on the quarterback are two of the biggest keys to a defense, and Iowa lost two big pieces of that puzzle in Mitch King and Matt Kroul. However, nearly everyone else of note returns, so there should be steady improvement in the Hawkeyes’ already-good (#12 in the nation) defense. They should be able to get it done. Against Michigan, the inside running of Brandon Minor, and trying to spread the field to keep experienced linebackers either on the sideline or out in space, will be the Wolverines’ best bet to score.
All of Iowa’s specialists return. They ran with 2 kickers last year, and that will probably continue into next season.
|Iowa Kicking 2008|
|Iowa Punting 2008|
Ryan Donahue is a mediocre punter, but he might get a little better next year, unless he is worn out from punting more often than last year in a sans-Greene offense. Daniel Murray was primarily the long-distance kicker in 2008, though he didn’t seem to be nearly as consistent as Mossbrucker. I don’t see why the Iowa coaches wouldn’t continue going with the platoon system as long as it’s working.
For some reason, I had been down on Iowa coming into the offseason. Mostly Shonn Greene, probably. However, I’m now basically convinced that they will at least contend for the Big Ten title. Nearly everybody comes back on defense except two tackles and a corner, and considering the trajectory of some other players (i.e. from walkon to HM All-Conference in two years), they should be able to improve at every position group, save DL. The offense will be a little weaker without Shonn Greene and Andy Brodell, but an experienced offensive line should be able to move the ball and protect the passer. As long as Iowa stays healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the Big Ten. Of course, road games at PSU, MSU, and OSU should be a hindrance, but this is a strong ans experienced team.