While there are still eight months to go before the start of the season, there is plenty to work on for the Iowa football team.
While they are considered by many to be a Big Ten Championship contender for 2009, they have a few issues to address to make them even better going into next year. Let's take a look...
1. Replace Mitch King and Matt Kroul
Obviously, it will be very hard to find a good replacement overnight. These two made up one of the best defensive lines in the country.
There are some returning starters on the line that will make an impact, including Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard at end. Broderick Binns will also compete for the end spot.
Right now, the tackle position is questionable. Karl Klug should fill in at one spot, but the other one is wide open. That may need to be filled by a true freshman, or, Binns might have to step up and change positions.
2. Get Better at Wide Receiver
This was Iowa's main weakness last year. So far, though, the Hawks have been good at addressing this need. They were able to sign four-star wide receiving recruit Keenan Davis who should help fill in Andy Brodell's vacated spot.
The good news is everybody else is coming back. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos needs to emerge as the leader this season, which he started to do at the end of last year.
Trey Stross also returns, along with Colin Sandeman, and it seems like Iowa is already starting to get much better at wide receiver.
3. Learn How to Win the Close Ones
It seems like this has gotten much better, as it does a lot towards the end of the season, but at the beginning of the season, it was horrid.
All four of Iowa's losses came by a combined 12 points, mainly at the beginning of the season because of coaching mishaps among others.
At the end of the year, confidence started to rise and the Hawkeyes were able to end their streak of losing by three points or less with a shocker against Penn State. They were also able to win a somewhat close game against Purdue.
The thing is, it was a young team last year and confidence needed to grow in a new quarterback. This year, the quarterback situation is set in stone and the team isn't as young, making it easier to raise confidence at the beginning of the year.
Still, it is a fault that Kirk Ferentz will need to work on with his freshmen and first year starters.
4. Win Non-Conference Games
This is something that the Hawkeyes have struggled with in the past. They always seem to lose a non-conference game, whether it is a fluke loss to Iowa State or some coaching mishaps that led to a loss at Pittsburgh.
This year, the non-conference schedule shouldn't be bad. Obviously, the two gimmes are Northern Iowa and Arkansas State. Iowa State on the road shouldn't be too bad, considering how bad they should be next year.
The only "tough" test is Arizona at home, which should be a win for the Hawkeyes. While the non-conference prognosis for 2009 does look good, Kirk Ferentz definitely needs to make sure he doesn't have another fluke loss to Iowa State.