Iowa Football: Which Hawkeyes Recruits Are Most Likely To Contribute As Freshmen
Coming off a disappointing 8-5 season in 2010, a season that began with dreams of a National Championship, Iowa heads into 2011 with a bit of uncertainty.
With many key players departing, including quarterback Ricky Stanzi, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, and safety Tyler Sash, the Hawkeyes will be in rebuilding mode next season.
That means there will be plenty of opportunities for young players, even true freshmen, to pitch in.
Take a look at the Hawkeye recruits who have the best chance to see the field next season.
Rodney Coe, RB
Iowa seems to have found its man at running back next season, as Marcus Coker came out of nowhere to rush for 219 yards in the Insight Bowl against Missouri.
However, the Hawkeyes know better than anyone that the running back position is very unpredictable. Iowa came into this season with a a trio of experienced running backs, but after Brandon Wegher left the team, Jewel Hampton got injured then transferred, and Adam Robinson was kicked off the team, the Hawekeys were left searching for answers.
They found one in Coker, but now they must have a back-up plan.
Coe is a perfect complement to Coker. Both run hard and could have Iowa fans seeing shades of Shonn Greene. As long as they stay healthy, they could be an outstanding duo for the Hawkeyes next season.
Nicolas Law, S
With Tyler Sash's announcement that he will leave early for the NFL, Iowa must replace both of its safeties in 2011.
Sash and fellow safety Brett Greenwood have been co-starters for the past three years and their replacements will have big shoes to fill.
Law, a three-star prospect from Forestville, MD, has all the physical tools to be a great college safety. He is bigger than both Greenwood and Sash and is physically built to be a football player.
And if he can match either Sash's or Greenwood's production, Iowa should be set for a long time at the safety position.
Marcus Grant, WR
With the departure of all-time leading receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, the receiving position could possibly be Iowa's achilles' heal in 2011. The loss of senior Colin Sandeman also stings, and the Hawkeyes will need to be good enough at receiver to help out new quarterback James Vandenberg.
Marvin McNutt will be the leader of the receiving corps and Keenan Davis step in to be the likely number two.
However, Grant has an opportunity to grab the number three spot.
He is good sized at 6'2", 190 lbs, and possesses the athletic skills needed to excel in college. He won't pile up big numbers right away, but expect him to contribute by the time the season is over.
John Raymon Or Riley McMinn, DE
Iowa's group of departing seniors on the defensive line—Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, and Christian Ballard—is perhaps the best and most decorated group to ever play for the Hawkeyes at their position.
That means Iowa has major shoes to fill next season.
Mike Daniels will return to start for the Hawkeyes, as will Broderick Binns, who split time with Daniels last season. Lebron Daniel is the other obvious replacement.
After that, the field is wide open, leaving room for either Raymon or McMinn to grab a spot.
Both are huge, at 6'5", 235 lbs, and 6'7", 220 lbs, respectively. They will likely need to get bigger before they are ready for action, but if the Hawkeyes need help late in the season, expect to see either Raymon or McMinn competing for time on the field.
Jordan Walsh, OG
The offensive line should be a strength for the Hawkeyes in 2011 after an up-and-down year in 2010. Four starters return from a unit that finally seemed to find its groove late in the year, ending the season with an outstanding showing in the Insight Bowl.
However, an offensive guard spot remains open for next year's roster, and it could be filled in by incoming freshman Jordan Walsh.
Walsh is the second-ranked offensive guard in the country, and at 6'3", 275 lbs, has the size to compete in the Big Ten right away.
Kirk Ferentz will try not to start the four-star prospect immediately if he doesn't have to. However, if Walsh proves himself early on, expect him to play a role on the offensive line sooner rather than later.
Quinton Alston, Cole Fisher, Mike Orloff, OLB
After losing star linebacker duo Pat Angerer and AJ Edds, Iowa expected its linebacker corps to be relatively green this season.
However, due to injuries, the Hawkeyes ended up playing more linebackers than they could have imagined at the start of the season.
True freshman James Morris emerged as a solid player and redshirt freshman Shane DiBona stepped in nicely as well. Both have a chance to earn starting spots next season, especially Morris. Senior Tyler Nielsen is likely to earn the other starting spot at outside linebacker.
However, as the Hawkeyes learned the hard way, a team can never have too many linebackers. Outside linebacker seemed to give Iowa the most troubles last season and Ferentz has shown that he isn't afraid to play freshmen.
With a solid trio of OLBs coming to Iowa City in Alston, Fisher, and Orloff, Iowa should have a good selection of players to chose from should any more linebackers become injured in 2011.