Essential Hawkeyes: Top Players Needed for Iowa to Win the Big Ten Title

B.Senior Analyst IJuly 30, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 05:  Quarterback Richy Stanzi #12 of the Iowa Hawkeyes rolls out of the pocket against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the FedEx Orange Bowl at Land Shark Stadium on January 5, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Iowa won 24-14.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Unforeseen factors often play a role in shaping how successful a college football team's season will be.

Injuries, rule violations, and other intangibles can throw a wrench in a team’s title hopes if there isn’t a proper plan in place. Since most teams don’t have the depth at positions like Ohio State, Florida, and Texas do, conditional response plans are needed should the unpredictable happen.

Being that those plans aren’t easy to construct, coaches are forced to look at harsh realities. 

As awful as it sounds, some players are just more essential to a team’s success than others.

Even at Iowa, where the team philosophy is next man in and hard work is regularly rewarded with playing time, a few players are more vital to the team’s overall chances at a Big Ten or BCS title than others. It’s not that those players aren’t as talented or skilled, but more related to how much experience a player has or how far in their training program the player might be.  

With the official start of the Iowa football season rapidly approaching, a few of the popular Iowa Hawkeye writers and bloggers put together their lists of indispensable players. Hawkeye Insider’s Rob Howe compiled a list of top 10 indispensable players for 2010 and Hawkeye Nation’s Jon Miller put together a most indispensable players ranking of his own. 

Both Howe and Miller have covered Iowa sports for the better part of two decades. Howe is the Chip Brown of Hawkeye sports; Miller is the Colin Cowherd. 

Both have several of the same players listed as imperative to Iowa’s chances. Their order of importance, however, is a tad different.

Hawkeye Insider's Most Indispensable Players
10. Tyler Nielsen, OLB
9. Shaun Prater, CB
8. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR
7. Brett Greenwood, FS
6. Ricky Stanzi, QB
5. Adrian Clayborn, DE
4. Tyler Sash, SS
3. Ryan Donahue, P
2. Allen Reisner, TE
1. Riley Reiff, LT

Hawkeye Nation's Most Indispensable Players
5. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR
4. Allen Reisner, TE
3. Rick Stanzi, QB
2. Riley Reiff, LT
1. Adrian Clayborn, DE

Howe took his list further than Miller, but both do a good job of pointing out the vital players on offense and defense. Lowe argues in favor of Iowa’s offensive lineman Reiff being the most integral component for success; Miller says that there’s no mistake about Clayborn being the clear-cut key element.

In thinking about their indispensables (no pun intended), my list more resembles Howe’s in terms of makeup and order, but contains all of Miller’s listed players.

Hawkeye Nerd’s Most Indispensable Players
10. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR
9. Allen Reisner, TE
8. Ryan Donahue, P
7. Julian Vandervelde, LG
6. Jeremiha Hunter, LB
5. Adrian Clayborn, DE
4. Karl Klug, DT
3. Tyler Sash, SS
2. Ricky Stanzi, QB
1. Riley Reiff, LT

Howe hit the nail on the head—Reiff is the most indispensable player on this team. With a somewhat unproven offensive line, standout performers like Reiff are vital— especially when he covers the quarterback’s blindside.

Make no mistake about Clayborn’s position on my list, though. He is as crucial as it gets on the Hawkeye defense, but his backup, 6'2", 250 pound junior LeBron Daniel, is a talented player who has seen solid playing time. If the unthinkable or unmentionable should happen, Daniel could step in and contribute better than most backups.

A few names appear on my list that don’t appear on Howe’s or Millers. 

Klug is an intelligent and explosive senior defensive tackle that recorded 64 tackles, 13 tackles-for-loss, five passes broken up, four sacks, four quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles last year. Hunter is a senior linebacker who was second on the team in total tackles for the last two years.

Losing either player would be painful, as both are veteran difference-makers on defense.

Vandervelde also appears on my list. The senior guard is the most experienced offensive lineman in this bunch, and his leadership will be needed in conference play when defenses like Ohio State come to town.

Mitigating the damage of potential player losses is rarely fun to think about. Still, it’s interesting to see who people label as "most indispensable" on the team.

Most fans would agree that everyone on the team is vital.  Not that I wish any harm on a Hawkeye, but if Iowa needs a sacrificial lamb to keep the indispensables safe this season, my finger is pointing at Herky.


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