Iowa a Big Question Mark in the Big Ten
It has almost become the punch line of a joke, how many running backs do the Iowa Hawkeyes even have left on their roster? The top four rushers from last year are not going to see the field this year. Mik'il McCall and Marcus Coker were suspended by Kirk Ferentz at the end of last season and ended up transferring out. De'Andre Johnson was just kicked off the team because of a couple police run-ins (disorderly house, speeding and eluding). Jordan Canzeri tore an ACL in the spring. For those counting at home, only 1 back returns with a college carry.
Looking at the schedule, the path is not littered with land mines. No Wisconsin and no Ohio State means that their toughest opponents are divisional only. Iowa has to hope that Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan State beat up on each other enough to leave a crack in the door to Indianapolis this year. Coupling that with 9 fairly winnable games on the schedule, a few breaks, and they could be headed to the Conference Championship Game.
The other important piece of the puzzle will be leadership. Senior QB Vandenberg had an exceptional 2011 campaign, topping 3000 in the air with a 25-7 TD-int ratio. While the loss of number one target Marvin McNutt may hamper some of those numbers this year, Junior TE C.J. Fiedorowicz returns, and is looking to make an impact. With him, three of the top four receivers will be back.
On defense, the biggest question mark is on the line. They will have a wide range of experience as there will a RFr, So, Jr, and Sr as expected starters. The offensive line coach was switched over to this unit after Rick Kaczenski left to coach the D Line for the Huskers. The linebacker department will be stout as they return 220 tackles between the top two tacklers. In the secondary, the loss of an All Conference corner will have an impact, but their experience level is near to what it was last year. They need positive play from these groups to bring down that 28 ppg allowed last season.
Iowa has a good shot to surpass last year's 7 win total. The question remains whether or not the Hawkeyes will compete for a division title this year. If they do manage to stay in the race into November, it will be because of two things: the friendlier schedule and play of quarterback James Vandenberg.
- Ferentz to shake things up
- Best and Worst Case for Hawkeyes
- OC Davis needs to utilize TE Fiedorowicz
- RB Johnson Dismissed
- FB Rogers may be backfield answer
- Stassen: Consensus #4 in Legends