I’m not breaking any news by saying it has been an incredibly eventful 2009 for Iowa Football. In fact, I would argue it has been the most eventful season in the history of the program.
Well, now that both Thanksgiving and Christmas are in our rear view mirror, the time has come to look forward toward 2010. Yes, this is the time of year when optimism reigns and we go out of our way to devise ways to better ourselves.
Given that mindset, I thought I’d offer up a few New Year’s resolutions for the Iowa Football team. As good as 2009 was, if the team can focus on accomplishing some of these resolutions, it is possible that 2010 could hold even bigger and better things for Iowa Football.
No. 10 – Ricky Stanzi: Cut down on the interceptions
While Stanzi’s results as the starting quarterback ultimately speak for themselves (he is 17-4 as a starter), he made things more interesting than they needed to be. Critical “pick six” interceptions against Arkansas St. and Michigan were nearly too much for Iowa to overcome in 2009. Stanzi’s struggles in the first three quarters against Indiana were well documented, along with his monumental turnaround in the 4th quarter.
Stanzi already is a tremendous leader for this team. If he can raise his level of play on the field to match his leadership skills, 2010 should be another special year for Iowa.
No. 9 – Brian Bulaga and Amari Spievey: return for one more year of seasoning
While both Bulaga and Spievey are projected to go in the first few rounds of the 2010 NFL draft, both would benefit from one more year in college. Bulaga especially stands to see his draft stock rise because he faced the health issues early in 2009. The advantages to playing one more year under Ferentz, one of the great offensive line coaches in college, would outweigh the benefits of entering the draft early.
Similarly, Spievey would benefit under one more year in Norm Parker’s defensive system.
Both guys should also recognize that this team has all the makings of a very special team. Adrian Clayborn has already announced he is returning for his senior year, which will hopefully make Brian and Amari’s decisions a little easier if they are on the fence.
No. 8 – Make the makeable plays in the kicking game
As gritty and determined as this Iowa teams is, it just doesn’t have the talent to overcome critical mistakes from the field goal team (see the Ohio St. game).
In 2010, Iowa must get points whenever it ventures into the red zone. The field goal team probably is going to factor in at some point and when they do, they must put points on the board on the makeable kicks.
No. 7 – Running Backs: stay healthy
The 2009 season got off to an inauspicious start when projected starter, sophomore Jewel Hampton went down with a season-ending knee injury over the summer. Promising freshmen Jeff Brinson was also injured early in the year and never saw game action.
The freshman duo of Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher stepped in admirably for Paki O’Meara after the Iowa State game to carry the load most of the year. Yet, each was dinged with various injuries during the year.
This seems to be a position with great depth for 2010 and that depth will certainly be needed, as running back is probably the most physically demanding of any position in college football. My guess is that most of the above will make a significant contribution in one way or another during 2010.
No. 6 – Play better in the first half as at team
There is no question that the 2009 Hawkeyes were slow starters. They trailed in the first half in eight of their 10 wins. If they didn’t need to work as hard to earn these wins, who knows what they would have had left against Northwestern and Ohio St. (their only two losses)?
Iowa has a nasty habit of playing down to their competition. Of course, the object is to win and they did plenty of that in 2009, but the truly great teams should be able to put a way inferior opponents. Iowa will need to do more of this to take it to the next level in 2010.
No. 5 – Adrian Clayborn – take your game to the next level
Clayborn announced last week that he will return for his senior season in 2010. Clayborn dominated games at times in 2009. Here’s hoping Clayborn puts in the work that is required to do this on a more consistent basis in 2010.
No. 4 – Ken O’Keefe – introduce a bit more imagination into the play calling
Ken O’Keefe has been Kirk Ferentz’s offensive coordinator since the beginning and there certainly is something to be said for consistency. O’Keefe presided over a serviceable offense in 2009. For the most part, they didn’t take a lot or risks and made the plays they needed to.
The knock on O’Keefe’s play calling is that it is too predictable. On what ended up being the most important play of the season, Northwestern seemed as though they were in the Iowa offensive huddle before Stanzi was sacked in the end zone that lead to a Northwestern touchdown (and Stanzi’s severe ankle injury).
Adding some new wrinkles to the Iowa offensive scheme would provide future opponents with a few more things to consider when facing the Iowa offense.
No. 3 – Norm Parker – good health
Coach Parker battled through varying illnesses that hospitalized him during 2009. Here’s to hoping he is able to get the upper hand on those complications related to diabetes in 2010.
No. 2 – Iowa Linebacker Corps: stay in your lanes against Georgia Tech
Iowa will face the vaunted spread option attack in the Orange Bowl. Plenty has been made about the strength vs. strength match up with the Iowa defense.
The Iowa defense is too well coached and will be able to devise a scheme to defend this offense and the key will be staying in your lanes and not over pursuing. There is just too much quickness on the other side of the ball.
No. 1 – Kirk Ferentz – Keep doing what you are doing
He certainly isn’t the flashiest coach around. On most days, he isn’t going to give you that great sound bite. He generally tries to avoid controversy. Yet, he has integrity, is incredibly loyal to his players and staff, and believes deeply in his principles, which are dominated by the “team concept”.
Hawkeye football was able to reach great heights in 2009 and with Ferentz at the helm, it appears that the sky is the limit for 2010.