2011 Pre-Season Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

2010 Record: (8-5, 4-4 in Big 10)

Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (89-60 at Iow, 101-81 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2010 Insight Bowl (beat Missouri 27-24)

2010 Preview


CFBZ Iowa Links

5 Players Ready To Breakout In The Big Ten

2010 Exit Survey

Big Ten Roundtable

Pre-Spring All Big Ten Team

Returning Big Ten Offensive Firepower

 

Schedule

9/3: Tennessee Tech

9/10: at Iowa State (2010 result: won 35-7)

9/17: Pittsburgh

9/24: Louisiana-Monroe

10/8: at Penn State (2010 result: won 24-3)

10/15: Northwestern (2010 result: lost 21-17)

10/22: Indiana (2010 result: won 18-13)

10/29: at Minnesota (2010 result: lost 27-24)

11/5: Michigan (2010 result: won 38-28)

11/12: Michigan State (2010 result: won 37-6)

11/19: at Purdue

11/25: at Nebraska

 

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 28.9 ppg (6th in Big Ten, 50th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 148.38 yds/game (8th in Big Ten, 70th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 234.5 yds/game (5th in Big Ten, 49th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 382.9 yds/game (8th in Big Ten, 57th in Nation)

 

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 17.0 ppg (2nd in Big Ten, 7th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 101.54 yds/game (2nd in Big Ten, 6th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 230.5 yds/game (7th in Big Ten, 84th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 332.1 yds/game (3rd in Big Ten, 25th in Nation)

 

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: +1.00 per game (3rd in Big Ten, 7th in Nation)

Penalties: 37.4 yds/game (3rd in Big Ten, 6th in Nation)

 

Returning Starters:

Offense: 5

Defense: 4

Kicker/Punter: 1

 

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB James Vandenberg, Jr (5 of 8 for 45 yds, 1 TD)

Rushing: RB Marcus Coker, Soph (114 for 622 yds, 5.4 ypc, 3 TD)

Receiving: WR Marvin McNutt, Sr (53 rec for 861 yds, 8 TD)

Tackles: S Micah Hyde, Jr (83)

Sacks: DT Mike Daniels, Sr (4)

Interceptions: CB Shaun Prater, Sr; S Micah Hyde, Jr (4)

 

Bowl Predictions

Athlon Sports: Gator (vs Tennessee)

Phil Steele: Meineke Car Care (vs Kansas St)

 

The Iowa Hawkeyes came off of an 11-2 season in 2009 and most were expecting them to follow up that season with the same results in 2010 (we looked at 9 different pre-season polls in our Iowa preview last year and the Hawkeyes were picked in the Top 15 in every poll). Despite a set-back to Arizona in September and a one-point loss to Wisconsin in October, the Hawkeyes were still in pretty good shaped as they won seven of their first nine games. Unfortunately, the season turned on a late Northwestern comeback as the loss to the Wildcats started a three game losing streak which also included a loss to coaching-challenged Minnesota. Despite closing the season on a high note by taking out Missouri in the Insight Bowl, the Hawkeyes finished a disappointing 8-5 and only 4-4 in the Big Ten. As 2011 approaches, the Hawkeyes have lost a lot of talent off of last years team as the Hawkeyes had six players that were picked in the 2011 NFL draft (including three defensive linemen). This appears like it could be a re-building year for the Hawkeyes but the Big Ten also looks wide open. In the first year of Divisional Play the Hawkeyes find themselves in the “Legends” division with Nebraska, Michigan State, Northwestern, Michigan and Minnesota. As an overall group I think it is strong but there isn’t a team that has a stranglehold on the division. After falling short of expectations in 2010, could the Hawkeyes surprise some folks in 2011? We caught up with our buddy Ross of the powerhouse SB Nation blog Black Heart Gold Pants to get a local take on the 2011 Iowa Hawkeyes.

 

Iowa had a very strong defense last year but lose some key cogs going into this year. Who will need to step up their production this year to replace the likes of Adrian Clayborn, Tyler Sash, Christian Ballard and Jeremiah Hunter?

There will be a lot of new faces on defense this year — in fact, only two players who have been regular starters for at least a year are Shaun Prater (cornerback) and Micah Hyde (cornerback)… and Hyde’s tipped to be moving to free safety.  Many other players have started multiple games, though: Mike Daniels started most of the games last year at defensive tackle, Broderick Binns started most of 2009 at defensive end, Tyler Nielsen started two-third of the season at linebacker last year before getting injured, and James Morris wound up starting half the season at middle linebacker after injuries felled the faces ahead of him on the depth chart.  So there will be plenty of new faces… but some of them won’t really be that new.  

In terms of who needs to step up their production, Iowa’s defense always begins with the defensive line.  Daniels and Binns are the only players returning with any amount of experience, so they’re going to need to play at a very high level to replace the departed Christian Ballard and Adrian Clayborn (off to the NFL).  The other obvious question mark for Iowa’s defense is at the safety spot, where Iowa loses two three-year starters (Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood).  Sash was one of the best playmakers Iowa’s had at the safety position in years, so he’ll be difficult to replace; the best bet figures to be Hyde, who displayed impressive ballhawking skills at the corner position last year but who might be even better-suited to freelancing as a free safety.  Finally, Iowa really needs Tyler Nielsen to play at a high level at outside linebacker; Iowa rarely leaves their base 4-3 sets, which puts a lot of pressure on the outside linebacker to cover wide receivers and pass-catching tight ends.  When Iowa has an outside linebacker with very strong coverage skills (like A.J. Edds), they have a very good defense.  When they don’t have an outside linebacker with strong coverage skills (as was the case last year whe Nielsen went down), the defense struggles.  

 

Who is going to step up and replace the loss of “All-American” Ricky Stanzi?

In terms of who’s physically replacing him at quarterback, that answer’s pretty easy: junior James Vandenberg, Stanzi’s primary back-up the past two seasons, is slated to step into the QB1 role.  His career numbers aren’t that exciting (47/95, 515 yards, 3/5 TD/INT) and he’s been rather inconsistent (middling at home against Northwestern and Minnesota, pretty impressive at Ohio State), but the coaches have been high on him for a while and his success in a hostile environment (the 2009 Ohio State game, where he went 20/33, 233 yards, 2/3 TD/INT) is reason to be optimistic.  But, really, the replacement for Stanzi in 2011 figures to be an increased emphasis on the running game.  The offensive line returns three starters (including both tackles, Riley Reiff and Marcus Zusevics, and center James Ferentz) and potentially two other players who have started multiple games (guards Adam Gettis and Nolan MacMillan) and bruising running back Marcus Coker is ready for his close-up as the feature back.  He’s the biggest — and most talented — running back Iowa has had since Shonn Greene and when Iowa had a back like that, they rode him hard (307 carries, 1850 yards, 20 TD).  Stanzi threw for big numbers, statistically, last year, and it would be a shock if Vandenberg approached those numbers.  More likely he gets around two-thirds of that production and Iowa relies on the running game to pick up the rest of the slack.  

 

Iowa is generally being predicted to finish around 3rd in the Big Ten “Legends” division. What needs to happen for Iowa to win their division and compete for a B1G Championship?

Aside from wishing misfortune on the other teams in their division, they probably need to go at least 2-1 in their games with division opponents in November.  The three division opponents they play (Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska) are all picked to finish near (or ahead of) them in the division, so that’s where their division fortunes will be defined.  That assumes they don’t crap the bed in their league games prior to that point, though; in all likelihood, they’ll need to finish at least 6-2 in conference play to make the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, so they can ill-afford many losses to their inter-divisional foes, either.  To attain that record, Iowa is going to need the offensive line and running game to be as beastly as Iowa fans are hoping they can be and for the defense to reload well enough to play at a fairly high level.  If Vandenberg is solid and Coker is good as advertised, Iowa could have a pretty strong offense in 2011 — but they’re still not going to be a team built to win shootouts.  

 

Do you think that the issues Iowa had with the hospitalization of several players in January will have a lingering effect on this season or is that something that Iowa will be able to put behind them?

I don’t think the rhabdomyolysis incident will have a lingering physical effect on the team, aside from the loss of some depth.  All indications are that the vast majority of the affected players have recovered fully and are participating in full during summer workouts and should be ready to go by fall.  A couple players have had slower recoveries (and one has endured other, non-related injuries, to boot) which will likely keep them out of action this fall.  The “good” news (although this sounds pretty callous) is that neither player (Willie Lowe, Jim Poggi) were expected to be major contributors this fall — Lowe is a reserve defensive back who figured to see time on special teams or in nickel/dime packages while Poggi is a redshirt freshman linebacker who likely would have only seen action on special teams.  Obviously, it would be preferable if everyone was fully healthy (and I continue to wish for complete recoveries for anyone who was afflicted during that incident), but in terms of pure impact on the field, I don’t think the rhabdo incident is going to have a significant impact on Iowa’s team.  

 

What do you see as the key games for Iowa this year?

I’d single out four especially important games for Iowa this fall.  The Pitt game is the best of the non-conference slate and figures to give Iowa their toughest test in the first month of the season.  Pitt’s projected to finish near the top of the Big East this year, they return a lot of players from a year ago, and they run an offense (the spread) that’s given Iowa some difficulty in recent years.  That game will be a good early test for Iowa and give an indication of how good they might be in 2011.  The second key game is the home game against Northwestern in October.  Northwestern has been a persistent thorn in Iowa’s side (five wins in six years) and returns almost everyone on offense (including potential all-conference QB Dan Persa).  And now they’re a division rival, too — if Iowa wants to win the Legends crown this year, they’ll likely need to reverse their recent skid against Northwestern.  The third crucial game for Iowa is one of their early November home tilts with Michigan and Michigan State.  I think both games will be difficult, but I’ll single out Michigan State as being the more important one for two reasons: they look like the more balanced team (on offense and defense) and they’re likely to be more of a threat to win the division this year.  Finally, the fourth crucial game for Iowa will be their season finale and the renewal of their dormant rivalry with Nebraska.  This game might be the game of the season for Iowa, frankly.  There’s a chance that the Legends division title could rest on the outcome, but even if it doesn’t this will still be a big, big game for Iowa: it’s the resumption of a series with an opponent that fans have been begging for and an opportunity to set the tone for the rivalry going forward.   

 

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

I’ve been thinking 8-4 for a while now and I haven’t seen much yet to dissuade me from that notion.  I like to break the season into four-game segments and analyze it that way.  I think Iowa goes 3-1 in the first segment, against non-conference foes, beating the two obvious patsies on the schedule (Tennessee Tech, UL-Monroe) and splitting the games with Iowa State (away) and Pitt (home).  My gut feeling is that Iowa beats Iowa State again, but drops a close one to Pitt; that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite happened, too.   I think Iowa goes 3-1 in the second segment also, against conference foes, beating Minnesota (away) and Indiana (home) and splitting the games with Penn State (away) and Northwestern (home).  Recent history suggests that Iowa will beat Penn State but lose to Northwestern and that seems entirely possible again this year (particularly if Persa is healthy enough to engineer some more late-game wizardry like he did in 2010), although I also wouldn’t be surprised if those results were flipped this year.  At some point Penn State will beat Iowa again — and at some point Iowa will beat Northwestern again.   Finally, I think Iowa goes 2-2 in the third segment of the season, beating Purdue (away) and losing to Nebraska (away), and splitting the two home games with Michigan and Michigan State.  As badly as I want to see Iowa beat Nebraska this year, I haven’t seen enough yet that convinces me that they can go into Lincoln and get a win there.  As far as the split with the Michigan teams goes, I’ve been flip-flopping on which one Iowa beats over the course of the spring.  For now I’ll say that they beat Michigan State and lose to Michigan since they seem to match up a bit better with Michigan State, but — again — it would not surprise me at all if the opposite result happened.   8-4 would make for a fairly successful season in my mind, given how much the program has to replace from last year (the leading passer, rusher, receiver, and two-thirds of the defensive starters).  It wouldn’t be a great year, but it wouldn’t be a terrible year, either — it would just be a solid, acceptable season.  Now, if they can finish a few games better than that and make it to the Big Ten Championship Game?  That would be a very satisfying season.  The potential for that is there with this team, but a few things will need to break their way and a lot of guys will need to step up in a big way.

 

 

Next Preview: Ole Miss

Coming in August: Big Ten Preview

Coming in August: CFBZ Top 25 Countdown

 

2011 Team Previews

ACC- Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Maryland, Miami, NC State, Wake Forest

Big 12- Baylor , Kansas St, Texas Tech

Big East- Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, USF

Big Ten- Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota , Northwestern, Penn St, Purdue

C-USA- East Carolina, Houston , Marshall, SMU, Southern Mississippi, UAB, UCF

Independent- Army

MAC- Akron, Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo ,Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Toledo, Western Michigan

MWC- Air Force, New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming

Pac-12- Arizona , Oregon St, UCLA

Sun Belt- FAU, FIU, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy , ULM, Western Kentucky

WAC- Fresno St, Idaho, San Jose St

Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Student Section and founder of College Football Zealots

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