This isn't the year for the Iowa Hawkeyes to rely on standouts. Thankfully, it appears that they realize that fact as much as we do.
No year is a good year to rely too heavily on just a few star players. Look at the 2010 season as a prime example. Iowa looked to be a contender for serious BCS considerations with the likes of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Ricky Stanzi and Adrian Clayborn.
Instead of the 10-win season that was expected, Iowa struggled through a 7-5 regular season before pulling things together to beat Missouri in the Insight Bowl. It was a thoroughly disappointing season in light of the lofty expectations coming in.
It was doubly disappointing because the Hawkeyes didn't seem to really come together as a cohesive unit.
I read a story in the Quad City Times regarding advice upper classmen were giving to incoming frosh Greg Garmon following his arrest for possession of marijuana. Well, that was supposed to be the focus of the story.
That angle played a part, but what really stood out to me—and seemed to be the real focus of the story—was the strong emphasis the team is giving toward teamwork. The players have been working together for charity events. They've been working together in ways they haven't in the past. They've been working together despite playing on very different units.
Those are all great things. They're also immensely important in a rebuilding year.
Don't confuse what I'm saying here. Iowa has always relied heavily on teamwork over the star power of a select few. The Hawkeyes have typically done a very good job of playing as a unit and allowing those exceptional few to add a little "stank" to the equation. They've largely discouraged players trying to take the team on their back unless absolutely necessary.
However, Iowa doesn't have a lot of star names this year. I've already hammered this out in the few articles I've written since the season ended. Everybody is gone. Repeat...repeat...and repeat some more.
It then becomes easy—and I have already fallen into that trap—to predict doom and gloom for the Hawkeyes this fall. It's easy to quantify the production of those who have played for years, but much tougher to do so for incoming freshmen or even juniors who haven't seen a lot of playing time during their career.
That's not fair and not likely all that accurate. The Hawkeyes' future is up to them. It's wide open and no lack of star power can take away what they can potentially accomplish.
It will be up to all of them, however. There is still James Vandenberg calling the signals. There is still James Morris hammering down a linebacker position. There will still be James Ferentz centering the offensive line. Micah Hyde will still be out on corner.
None of those players are in position to single-handedly change the fortunes of the Hawkeyes. None of them can (necessarily) be the singular face of the Iowa program. None of them should be.
If this group comes together now—if they don't wait until fall—then absolutely anything is possible. Ten wins? Why not? Eleven? Sure.
Undefeated? Let's not get out of hand here...
Iowa will face many challenges this year. From learning the expectations and intricacies of a new(ish) coaching staff to a lot of new faces stepping into starting roles, there's a lot to overcome. That's not even taking into consideration a schedule that includes road games at Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan.
If they approach this season with everyone trying to be the difference-maker, they could be in for a very long and heart-breaking season. It could easily be a struggle to earn bowl eligibility.
On the other hand, there is nothing they can face this year that they can't overcome. There is nothing they can't accomplish if they can come together quickly.
That includes surprising everyone and putting together a very successful season.