After a 2008 that featured loads of breakout stars, 2009 will be the year for those stars to prove themselves. The defense and the offensive line are stacked and will field some of the best players in the Big Ten, and in the country for that matter, but some offensive skill position players also find their way onto this list of the ten best players Iowa has to offer.
10. Jewel Hampton, RB
Hampton has the talent to shoot up this list, but comes in at tenth right now because he is a first year starter. The sophomore from Indianapolis showed flashes of brilliance last season as Shonn Greene's back-up, rushing for 461 yards on 91 carries. Hampton isn't as big as Greene, but has better athleticism and speed. While he is only a sophomore and has yet to start his first game, he will be a big part of Iowa's offense in 2009.
9. Tony Moeaki, TE
Moeaki is another player that has the talent to shoot up this list, but hasn't had enough playing time to prove himself. But from the time he has spent on the field, it is clear that he has the potential to be one of the top tight ends in the Big Ten, or even in the country. Ever since he came to Iowa City as one of the top tight end recruits in the country in 2005, Moeaki has been plagued by injuries. He has been great when on the field, but has had very limited playing time. He is healthy heading into 2009 and could make a huge contribution to the Hawkeye passing game as a fifth year senior if he can stay that way.
8. Julian Vandervelde, OG
Unlike Hampton and Moeaki, we have already seen a lot of what Vandervelde can do, and he should be one of the leaders on one of the country's top offensive lines. The junior had a breakout season in 2008 and will look to improve even more in 2009. While he will likely be overshadowed by fellow offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway for most of the season, he will be a vital part of the Hawkeyes' premier offensive line.
7. Ricky Stanzi, QB
For Stanzi, 2008 was all about winning the starting job as Iowa's quarterback. 2009 will be about building on last season's success. Stanzi showed great improvement in every game last year, and showed his agbility to win big games down the stretch, leading the Hawkeyes on a game winning drive against No. 3 Penn State. He also showed tremendous poise, especially in the second half of the year, with big games against Minnesota and South Carolina. He has a strong arm, good mechanics, and tremendous accuracy. If he keeps improving throughout the season, he could become one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten.
6. Tyler Sash, S
Sash broke onto the scene last season as a freshman, recording 53 tackles and a league leading five interceptions. He should improve on an outstanding freshman year and be a major player in Iowa's defensive backfield. Sash also made a number a big plays last season. He intercepted Penn State's Darryl Clark to set up the Hawkeye's winning drive and intercepted South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia twice in the Outback Bowl, which helped to blow that game wide open. If he continues at the same level of player or better, he will be a nightmare for opposing offenses next season.
5. Adrian Clayborn, DE
Contrary to popular belief, the defensive line, not running back, was the most weakened position for the Hawkeyes over the offseason. After the departure of defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, Adrian Clayborn will be the leader of the Hawkeyes' defensive front in 2009. The line will still be strong, as it is ranked third in the conference by ESPN, but this year, the strength will come from the outside instead of the inside. That should mean a lot more sacks for Clayborn this year. He will have to step up to fill the void left by King and Kroul, but definitely has the talent to do so. As the new leader, we should see a major spike in his stats for 2009.
4. Kyle Calloway, OT
Calloway is the second best player on Iowa's elite offensive line, and he proved it in 2008. He was a major part of Shonn Greene's success last season and should do the same for Hampton this season. As suggested by many pro scouts, Calloway will likely be wearing an NFL jersey sometime in the future. He has the size and strength the make a great professional lineman, and a good college player, for that matter.
3. Amari Spievey, CB
While Greene stole most of the spotlight as the comeback story in 2008, Spievey was another junior college transfer that burst onto the scene last season. He quickly became one of the top corners in the Big Ten and is probably the cest in the conference heading into 2009. Spievey is an outstanding cover corner and his speed, along with his size make him one of the best in the business. While he will likely be overshadowed by the likes of Tennessee's Eric Berry and USC's Talyor Mays, he will definitely be a force to be reckoned with on the national scene.
2. Pat Angerer, LB
Angerer is another one of the many players who burst onto the scene in 2008 that nobody outside of the Hawkeye State had ever heard of. He quickly became one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten and is a first team All-Big Ten candidate in 2009. Angerer recorded 107 tackles last season and was a pass converage machine, tying teammate Tyler Sash for the league lead in interceptions with five. He isn't huge for a linebacker, but he has tremendous spead and toughness that make him a hard hitter. His speed also allows him to be all over the field and is in on nearly every tackle in his visinity. While he is amazing against the pass, he may be even better against the run, which should be a major help to the defensive line, which is trying to fill the holes left by departed star tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul.
1. Bryan Bulaga, OT
Bulaga is the leader of an offensive line that is seen by many as one of the top five in the nation. Both ESPN and Phil Steele rank the unit in the top five and Fox Sports ranks them third. Bulaga is everything a team could want in an offensive tackle. He is big, but also has tremendous speed and athleticism. That combination is the reason some scouts think he could be a top five NFL Draft pick either next year, or the year after that. He is only a junior and has the tools to improve his already outstanding game. He should be a shoe-in for first team All-Big Ten and is on many preseason All-American teams.