Iowa Football: 12 Players with the Most to Gain in 2011

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJuly 31, 2011

Iowa Football: 12 Players with the Most to Gain in 2011

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    After losing some of its best talent of the last decade, Iowa is in a rebuilding mode heading into 2011.

    Star players such as Adrian Clayborn and Ricky Stanzi are gone, and now the Hawkeyes' young players must step up to replace them.

    Nevertheless, Iowa has a lot of young talent and budding stars who now need to prove themselves on the big stage and prove their consistency over an entire season.

    Check out the 12 players with the most to gain in 2011.

Micah Hyde

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    Ever since coming to Iowa, Hyde has shown that he has outstanding potential.

    He's athletic, quick and is great at making plays on the ball. He also has great vision on the field after making an interception.

    Now, after an impressive Insight Bowl in which he was quite obviously the defensive MVP, he will step into a leadership role as a veteran at either cornerback or safety, after being switched to safety, at least temporarily, by the coaches this spring.

    Hyde's Insight Bowl appearance got him attention around the league, and with a great 2011 season, he could start gaining more attention nationally and make All-American lists by the time he's a senior.

Marcus Coker

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    Coker was one of Iowa's most highly-touted recruits coming out of high school, and despite being injured during fall camp, he proved at the end of the season that he was worth the hype.

    He drew national attention after a 219-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Insight Bowl, and was impressive during the regular season as well when given the chance.

    This year, Coker will be the full-time starter, and due to Iowa's lack of experience at running back, he will likely have a high number of carries each game, much like Shonn Greene in 2008. Coker is similar to Greene in running style as well, as he is a big, physical back with deceptive breakaway speed.

    With a solid offensive line, 2011 could be the year for Coker to capture the attention of the Big Ten and make a run at all-conference honors.

Shaun Prater

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    Prater has become a solid, established player at Iowa and will be the leader of the Hawkeyes' young secondary this season.

    Having already made a number of All-Big Ten lists and a preseason All-American list this season, Prater's opportunity this year will be to raise his NFL stock and not his stock in the college ranks. In fact, he turned down an NFL opportunity this winter.

    Prater will undoubtedly be one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten, and while his stats may not go up due to teams avoiding his side of the field, he should be a solid presence for Iowa this fall in shutting down some of the Big Ten's top receivers.

Marvin McNutt

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    Like Prater, McNutt is already an established figure at Iowa and in the Big Ten and he will be the leader of a young wide receivers unit this fall.

    Since switching to receiver from quarterback in 2009, McNutt has quickly become one of Iowa's top weapons and will be quarterback James Vandenberg's go-to target in 2011.

    McNutt, like Prater, turned down an NFL opportunity this fall and has the frame, speed, size and athleticism to make an impact in the league. And now, as Iowa's top receiver, he has a chance to improve his draft stock.

    Expect him to appear on a number of all-conference lists as well.

James Morris

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    Due to a number of injuries early in the season, Iowa was spread thin at linebacker by mid-October and was forced to play some young players, including Morris.

    However, the true freshman exceeded expectations and was lauded by many as a budding star by the end of the season.

    Morris will be the starter from the beginning of 2011, and he will no longer sneak up on teams. He has an opportunity to become one of the top linebackers in the conference and make a name for himself in the national conversation.

James Vandenberg

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    So far, Vandenberg is remembered most for his performance against Ohio State, when he took the Buckeyes to overtime in the horseshoe in his first ever start.

    He didn't play much in 2010, but will become the full-time starter in 2011.

    Vandenberg has the tools—composure, a strong arm, and leadership abilities—to become a solid quarterback for Iowa, and the coaches have praised his abilities. ESPN's Matt Millen praised him at Big Ten media days, saying that he may be better than Ricky Stanzi, a fifth-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    With September coming quickly the speculation is almost over and Vandenberg will have a chance to prove if he is for real. His first month will be important in trying to win over the fan base and win over the respect of the rest of the Big Ten.

Broderick Binns

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    Binns was a strong contributor to the 2009 Iowa defensive line, which was touted by many as one of the best in the country. He was supposed to be a major contributor in 2010 as well, but he never returned to the level of play he showed in 2009 and eventually lost his starting job.

    This year, with a new-look defensive line, the Hawkeyes need him to improve his play again and be a leader for a young unit.

    He definitely has the potential, but he needs to prove himself again.

    With good athleticism and playmaking abilities, Binns could have a place in the NFL and this season will go a long way in determining his future in football.

Mike Daniels

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    Iowa is known for recruiting little known players and coaching them into NFL talent, and Mike Daniels fits that mold perfectly.

    With no FBS offers, Daniels was set to go to Villanova until Iowa offered, and he has since flourished into a top defensive lineman.

    He earned a starting job early last season and will be a leader this season. If he continues to improve on last year's success, he could be an All-Big Ten performer and work his way into the NFL Draft.

    He doesn't have prototypical NFL size, but he has the motor and the numbers to find a place on a pro team.

Riley Reiff

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    Reiff was the lone pillar of consistency on the Iowa offensive line early last season, and his success grew even more as the rest of the line started to improve.

    This year, he will likely be an All-Big Ten pick and could end up making All-American lists as the anchor of Iowa's veteran offensive line.

    Reiff has a huge frame and a reputation as one of the top offensive tackles in the country, and this year he has a chance to improve and increase his NFL Draft stock. He could end up going even higher than Bryan Bulaga, a left tackle who went No. 23 to Green Bay in 2010.

James Ferentz

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    James Ferentz was arguably the most improved player on Iowa's offensive line last season, and he will be one of the veterans anchoring the unit, which should be one of the best in the Big Ten this season.

    After a rough start to his career, and a rough start to the 2010 season, Ferentz turned into a very capable player, similar to his brother Brian and many other players on his dad's offensive lines.

    It's important for Ferentz to make a name for himself and not be known as the coach's son, and if he can this season, he'll have a better chance of receiving conference and national honors and eventually turning into a solid NFL prospect.

Keenan Davis

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    Davis came into the Iowa program in 2009 and was considered one of the top recruits in his class.

    He has great potential, but hasn't been able to prove himself yet. This year, as the No. 2 receiver, he will have a chance to prove that he was worth the hype.

    Davis showed his athleticism with acrobatic catches in the spring game, and he will have to step up as a leader for a young receiving corps.

    If he can improve his numbers and become a solid complement to McNutt, he can receive more attention from around the conference and the NFL and be a force to be reckoned with as a senior.

CJ Fiedorowicz

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    Fiedorowicz was one of Iowa's top recruits in the class of 2010, and while he failed to make much of an impact last season, he has the potential to be another star in Iowa's line of top tight ends.

    At 6'7'', Fiedorowicz is a huge target and threat in the passing game, especially after the catch. He was the Hawkeyes' third-string tight end last year, so he didn't see the field very much, but he should see much more playing time this year in the second-string position, as Iowa employs a number of two-tight end sets.

    This will be an important year for Fiedorowicz to establish himself as a top player and he will have to become more of a leader, as he will likely move into the starting position next season. Expect him to gain more playing time and more of a reputation around the league in 2011.