Iowa is looking pretty good coming into the 2009 season. They lost seven starters from their whole team after a successful 2008 season, in which they finished 9-4, routed South Carolina, and were ranked 20th in both final major polls. Here's my preview of their 2009 season.
QB Ricky Stanzi returns for his junior season in 2009 after having a pretty good 134.8 QB rating, 40th in the country.
He looked good down the stretch (especially when he led us down the field against Penn State to set up that game-winning FG) and in spring ball, and should be one of the nation's better QBs in 2009—not great, but pretty good. He has also gotten a little bigger, now weighing in at 218 lbs.
Backing him up are former three-star recruits James Vandenberg and John Wienke, both freshmen. One of the nation's best offensive lines and good receivers will help them out as well.
RB Jewel Hampton will likely replace Shonn Greene next year. While many people have not heard of him (yet), Iowa fans know very well who he is.
He ran for 463 yards, seven TDs, and had 5.1 YPC in 2008. He was a big chunk of Iowa's rushing offense. Hampton should break 1000 yards and 10 TDs in 2009, and should, like Stanzi, be one of the better players at his position in the country.
Backing him up are RBs Paki O'Meara, Jeff Brinson, and Brandon Wegher (Wegher is a four-star recruit coming into his freshman year and might get some carries). With a solid offensive line, this rushing offense should be very good.
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (popularly known as "DJK"), former QB Marvin McNutt, and Trey Stross should all get some playing time at receiver.
DJK is a very talented receiver, but is inconsistent. McNutt has looked very good in spring practice after moving to WR, and will probably be at least decent. Stross is experienced and a pretty good receiver as well.
Backing up these main guys are Colin Sandeman and Keenan Davis. Sandeman has been decent when he's played, and Davis was a four-star recruit who should see some time as well. Despite a few questions in spring ball, Iowa looks like they'll have a good group of receivers in 2009.
Iowa will be stacked at the most important part of an offense. Three starters return from a good 2008, including tackle Brian Bulaga (potential All-American), tackle Kyle Calloway, and guard Julian Vandervelde.
Rafael Eubanks moves to center after playing a lot at guard last year. Eubanks was a four-star recruit and has done well so far in his career at Iowa. Dace Richardson, also a four-star recruit, is starting at guard after injuries prevented him from playing.
Backing up Richardson is Dan Doering, a former five-star recruit also plagued by injuries. Iowa has plenty of depth behind their line, most players being three-star recruits. ESPN has called this line "one of the best in the nation" for 2009, and with good reason. Three starters up front are former four-star recruits, the other two are three-stars.
Iowa will probably mostly run the ball again, with plenty of backs to give the ball to and a very good offensive line. But they will pass more than last year, and Stanzi will be improved (along with his receivers). Despite the loss of Shonn Greene, Iowa's offense will have more variety and I think it will be slightly better.
Overall Grade: A-
This is where Iowa's biggest problems are. They lost four-year DT starters Mitch King and Matt Kroul, two of the best in the nation.
Not many players are there to replace them. Karl Klug and Mike Daniels will take over there, backed up by Cody Hundertmark and Steve Bigach. These players will probably be average—not great, but not terrible—but give Iowa some questions there.
Both DEs Adrian Clayborn and Christain Ballard return from very good seasons, with Broderick Binns behind them. Binns, although not a starter, will see considerable playing time and rotate in a lot.
Overall, this line improves on the edges but takes big steps back in the middle. It should still be pretty good, but not as good as last year. Iowa usually has a pretty good defensive line, so that gives us some confidence, but there are still some big questions.
This will be the heart and soul of Iowa's defense. With all three starters returning from a very good season, the Hawkeyes could have one of the nation's top groups of linebackers.
Pat Angerer was tied for the Big Ten lead in interceptions last year and broke 100 tackles, and he could be All-Big Ten (or maybe even All-American) caliber. A.J. Edds and Jeremiah Hunter are the other two, and they were impressive last year as well.
Backing them up are Tyler Nielsen, Jeff Tarpinian, and Jacody Coleman.
Iowa's secondary returns three of 2008's four starters, including Amari Spievey, Tyler Sash, and Brett Greenwood.
Sash was tied with Angerer for the most interceptions in the Big Ten last year, and he was just a freshman. Greenwood hits hard and was also pretty good, and Spievey was very impressive and has received national attention.
The secondary's lone loss is CB Bradley Fletcher, taken in the third round of the NFL Draft. He will be replaced by Jordan Bernstein.
Backing up these players will be Shaun Prater (showed a lot of potential last year), William Lowe and Greg Castillo at CB, and David Cato and Jack Swanson at Safety.
Overall, Iowa's only weak point seems to be defensive tackle. Everywhere else, the Hawkeyes improve. The rushing defense will be strong as usual, with solid defensive ends and very, very good linebackers.
The linebackers will also defend well against the pass, helping out an already talented secondary. This defense again looks to be one of the best in the nation in 2009.
Overall Grade: A
Daniel Murray returns for the Hawkeyes after improving down the stretch in his sophomore year. He is backed up by Trent Mossbrucker and the two can switch off when the other isn't doing to well.
Iowa had some trouble kicking FGs and extra points early last year, but improved near the end.
Ryan Donahue will punt for Iowa, after leading Iowa to a 26th national net punting rank. He won't do anything but improve in 2009.
Iowa was decent returning the ball last year, and kick returner Jewel Hampton returns. Punt returner Andy Brodell is gone, but Colin Sandeman or Brandon Wegher could replace him pretty well. Iowa will return the ball slightly better in 2009.
It's hard to judge special teams, but Iowa looks like they'll be pretty good there in 2009. They need improve their field goals, which will happen as their kickers become more experienced, and their punting will improve as well with a good offensive line and an improved punter. Returning will be okay.
Overall Grade: B+
Iowa returns most of its 2008 starters from a pretty good year. They'll have a run-orientated offense, but will be able to pass the ball efficiently when they need to.
They'll have a very good offensive line and a good overall offense. The defense needs to replace the DTs, but other than that the defense will be very good.
Coaching is also very good, with Kirk Ferentz leading the way. He's known for transforming not so good recruits into big time players, which gives Iowa fans hope at DT.
Overall Team Grade: A-
Predicted Season Results
* indicates tough game
Northern Iowa W
@Iowa State* W
@Penn State* L
Arkansas State W
@Michigan State* W
@Ohio State* L
Overall record: 10-2 (6-2 in Big Ten)
Projected Bowl: Capital One Bowl vs. Alabama