After a 2008 season that exceeded the expectations of many around the country, the Iowa Hawkeyes are back and hungry for more. Six games into the 2008 season, Kirk Ferentz's job was in jeopardy, as his once mighty Hawkeyes had been mediocre at best the two seasons prior, and were sitting at 3-3 in 2008.
Ferentz got Iowa back on track though, as the Hawkeyes won six or their last seven games, including a blowout of South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. This year, the Hawkeyes return 15 starters and are considered by many as sleepers in the Big Ten. The offense should be solid, and the defense phenomenal. Let's break down the 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes at each position.
Unlike in 2008, Iowa has settled on their quarterback for the upcoming season. After a rocky start to 2009, Ricky Stanzi solidified himself as Iowa's starting quarterback over Jake Christensen by leading his team on a game winning drive against Penn State. Stanzi improved every game last year and has the potential to be one of the Big Ten's better quarterbacks. He has good size and is somewhat mobile.
With a solid offensive line and a good running game, Stanzi could shine in 2009 and if he keeps maturing, he could become one of the top quarterbacks in the conference.
Yes, Shonn Greene is gone, but there is hope for the future in talented sophomore Jewel Hampton. Hampton rushed for almost 500 yards as Greene's backup and seems to have a bright future. Clearly, it will be difficult for Hampton to put up Greene's numbers, but he could still become one of the top running backs in the Big Ten.
Much of Shonn Greene's success last year was due to his offensive line, which is almost completely identical this year. With the help of his line, Hampton could be a star for the Hawkeyes in 2009.
Wide receiver is the main question mark for Iowa heading into 2009. None of the receivers were very consistent last year, and while many, such as Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, have obvious talent, they didn't show much of it on the field. The good news is actually the new part of the group.
Quarterback turned wide receiver Marvin McNutt had an excellent spring and figures to lead the Hawkeyes receiving corps this fall. Freshman recruit Keenan Davis also looks strong and can help to improve the unit. While things should be better than they were in 2008, this will be the weak spot of a tough Iowa team.
Last year, the tight ends were used almost as much as the receivers. Tony Moeaki and Alan Reisner will both be major parts of Ken O'Keefe's offense and could be the key to opening up the passing game.
Moeaki has shown his talent, but has been injured for the majority of his college career. If he can stay healthy, it puts Iowa in a very good position this fall. I he can't, Alan Reisner has shown that he is very capable of picking up the slack.
After a miserable 2007 season in which quarterback Jake Christensen was on the ground more than on his feet, the offensive line completely turned it around in 2008. They were much of the reason for Shonn Greene's success and there is no reason that they shouldn't continue that success next year. Although Seth Olsen is gone, Bryan Bulaga leads a very talented group that ESPN calls "one of the country's best."
Although the D-Line takes a major hit in the loss of All-Big Ten tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, the unit still figures to be strong in 2009. Adrian Clayborn is All-Big Ten material and he, along with his other teammates up front, will look to continue to be the run-stopping machine that they were last year.
Although Penn State is known as Linebacker U, the Hawkeyes may hold that title in 2009. This could be the best group in the country, as all three return after a stellar 2008 season.
They were most of the reason for Iowa's fifth nationally ranked run defense. The group, led by Pat Angerer, also consists of AJ Edds and Jeremiah Hunter. Angerer led the team with 107 tackles and tied for the team lead with five interceptions. All three could be All-Big Ten players and look out for Angerer and one of the other two to be first team.
Almost the whole defensive backfield returns after what was a turnaround 2008 season. Amari Spievey leads a defensive backfield that should be very tough again this year. Sophomore safety Tyler Sash came out of nowhere to tie for the team lead for interceptions, and Spievey had a Shonn Greene type story, transferring back to Iowa after boosting his grades in junior college.
The pass coverage needs to get a little bit better, but that will come with experience, and this young group certainly looks to have a promising future.
The special teams were good for the Hawkeyes in 2008. Not great, but good. Kickers Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker will likely split time again, which was a decent combination for Iowa in 2008. Return man Andy Brodell is gone, but Colin Sandeman seems to be stepping into the role nicely and should do fine next season as the Hawkeyes' main return man.
Sep. 5 Northern Iowa W
Sep. 12 at Iowa State W
Sep. 19 Arizona W
Sep. 26 at Penn State W
Oct. 3 Arkansas State W
Oct. 10 Michigan W
Oct. 17 at Wisconsin W
Oct. 24 at Michigan State W
Oct. 31 Indiana W
Nov. 7 Northwestern W
Nov. 14 at Ohio State L
Nov. 21 Minnesota W
Projected record: 11-1