Iowa Hawkeyes Football Has a Bright Future
After Hawkeye fans watched their team go 8-4 in the 2008 season (those four losses by a combined 12 points), they were a little disappointed. But 2009 and 2010 look to be promising years for the Hawkeyes.
In two years, those Hawkeye fans could go from disappointed to very, very happy. Read this breakdown of Iowa's offense, defense, and their 2010 team.
The Hawkeyes' starting QB from 2008, Ricky Stanzi, will return to Iowa in 2009 for his junior season. Stanzi had the 38th best QB rating in the country (135.26), completing 137 of his 235 attempts for 1809 yards, and had 13 TDs with seven interceptions.
I was pretty impressed by Stanzi, and he was only a sophomore. Stanzi steadily improved throughout 2008, finishing off his regular season with a great game at Minnesota. In Iowa's 55-0 blowout of the Golden Gophers, Stanzi completed 15 of his 28 passes for 255 yards while throwing three TDs with no interceptions. His rating for the game was 165.43.
Stanzi's not too bad at rushing, either—although he had no TDs and possibly negative yards, he wasn't that slow, and he looked pretty good at avoiding sacks at times-like Drew Tate did so often.
If Stanzi improves as much as he's expected to throughout this offseason (and into next season), the Hawkeyes could possess one of college football's finest quarterbacks. And if something ever happens to him, they'll still have (don't scream) Jake Christensen, who is better than people credit him for.
He was playing behind an inexperienced offensive line in 2007, and he showed flashes of potential. But I think going with Stanzi as the starter is the right choice, and I'm eager to see him play in 2009.
Offense: Running Backs
Iowa will likely lose their star back from 2008, Shonn Greene, who is probably the best back Iowa has ever had and will have for a while. Greene is a junior who's as old as a redshirt senior, and he's projected to go very high in the 2009 NFL Draft.
But don't worry, Hawkeye fans, true freshman Jewel Hampton will likely step up and take his spot next year. Hampton had 79 carries for 409 yards in 2008, getting seven TDs along the way. He averaged 5.2 YPC and looked very good for a freshman.
Next year, he'll be a bit bigger and better, and although he won't be as good as Greene, he'll be a good replacement.
Andy Brodell, probably Iowa's best receiver, will be gone in 2009 because he will have graduated. But there's plenty of talent behind him, including Trey Stross, who saw decent playing time in the past few years, and Colin Sandeman, a sophomore in 2008, who was a very high recruit and played a little as a punt returner.
And at the other receiver position, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who had 43 receptions for 621 yards, 14.4 yards per catch and three TDs in his 2008 sophomore season. "DJK," as he is nicknamed, had some dropped passes at the beginning of the year, but at the end looked much better. He capped off his regular season with a great game at Minnesota, in which he had seven receptions for 181 yards, 25.9 yards per catch, and a touchdown.
Finally, the tight end. Despite their starting TE Brandon Myers leaving, Iowa has many ends returning, including Tony Moeaki, who is listed on most sites as a senior but actually got a medical redshirt in '07.
Moeaki was a very high recruit-one of the top in the nation, but has been injured frequently. When he has played, he has looked pretty good. Also at tight end, Allen Reisner could see some action. Reisner was a sophomore in 2008, and had 11 receptions for 200 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, these Iowa receivers will have pretty good experience, and those who are filling in a starter's position are high-caliber recruits who have already seen some playing time. QB Ricky Stanzi should have developed by now too, and should help these receivers out.
This Iowa passing game will have developed a lot and should be at least better than average next year. It won't be like Oklahoma's or Texas Tech's, but I can guarantee it won't be 89th nationally again.
Iowa had one of the best offensive lines in the 2008 season. They were much of the reason that Shonn Greene had 1729 yards and 17 TDs. Sophomore tackle Brian Bulaga and junior tackle Kyle Calloway were both excellent, and guard Seth Olsen was named to some All Big Ten teams.
Olsen and center Rob Bruggeman are both graduating, but Rafael Eubanks can play either guard or center and will fill either spot well. Eubanks started in 2007 and was pretty good for a true freshman.
Both tackles (Bulaga and Calloway) are returning, as well as guard Julian Vandervelde. The only question is who will play center or guard (depending on where Eubanks plays)? Iowa has very good offensive line coaches (head coach Kirk Ferentz is a former O-Line coach) and usually can produce a pretty good line.
It shouldn't be too hard with three out of five excellent starters returning, and another lineman (Eubanks) that already has some experience. This line will have improved from the 2008 seasons, and that line was already very good.
Iowa's defensive ends are both returning from their 2008 sophomore years. Adrian Clayborn and Christain Ballard were big reasons that Iowa's rush defense was 10th nationally (in an excellent rush conference). But even bigger reasons for that were defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, who are both graduating.
King was second team All American for the AP, and Kroul was a four-year starter (along with King) who wasn't as good, but still one of the Big Ten's best.
It will be a challenge to fill in those two DT spots, but Iowa has many D-Linemen to pick from. A few played last year, but nobody really stood out. They weren't bad, though- some showed that they have the potential to be pretty good.
They should be at least decent, but that will be one of the very few holes on what should be an excellent defense.
Iowa has every single one of their 2008 linebackers returning. Pat Angerer led the Big Ten in interceptions, Jeremiah Hunter showed strength and will help stop the run, and A.J. Edds was very quick to the ball. These linebackers will improve going into next year after an excellent 2008 season.
But their main focus in 2008 should be to help stop the run. Iowa's secondary will still need some help, but not as much as Iowa's line- they do lose both of their defensive tackles, but their defensive ends will help contain the run.
And hey, you never know-the tackles that step up could be great (but they could also be mediocre). These linebackers played a huge role in Iowa's excellent 2008 defense, which was 13th nationally and should be considerably better in 2009.
Iowa's pass defense was better than average in 2008- it ranked 41st nationally, but Iowa's pass efficiency defense was eighth nationally. And that was when three of their four starters were sophomores or younger.
At cornerback, Iowa has 2008 sophomore Amari Spievey returning, who was probably Iowa's most impressive defensive back. Spievey had a 57-yard interception return for a TD against Minnesota. They lose Bradley Fletcher, who was a senior and was also very good, but behind him is Shaun Prater, a 2008 freshman who was a very high recruit.
Tyler Sash was a freshman safety in '08-he had a huge interception vs. Penn State (see picture above) that set up Iowa's game-winning FG. He, along with the entire Iowa team, improved a lot throughout the year.
At the other safety position, sophomore Brett Greenwood will be returning as well. He had two interceptions and 48 tackles in 2008. Overall, this Iowa secondary will be very hard to pass against in 2009. The combination of excellent defensive ends and great defensive backs will create one of college football's best passing defense.
Overall and 2010
Overall, in 2009, Iowa should be anywhere from 9-3 to 11-1, or if they get lucky or improve beyond my expectations, 12-0. They have a very tough schedule next year, taking on Arizona, Northwestern and Minnesota at home (all that will have improved a lot) and going on the road at Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.
The Hawkeyes have only five out of 11 returning starters on offense, but almost all of those six replacements have seen considerable playing time. QB Ricky Stanzi, who could be very good next year, will have plenty of time to pass behind a great Iowa O-Line, and he'll be passing the ball to excellent receivers.
RB Jewel Hampton has some big shoes to fill if Shonn Greene leaves (which he likely will) for the 2009 NFL Draft, but Hampton was only a freshman, and if he had as many carries as Greene in 2008, would've had around 1445 yards. Hampton has shown a LOT of potential, and he should have a lot of help from Iowa's linemen. This will be a very well-rounded Hawkeye offense.
On defense, Iowa has 8 out of 11 starters returning, with one of those three replacements likely to be pretty good (Shaun Prater, CB). Iowa's excellent rush defense might be slightly worse, but should still be top 25.
Their pass defense should jump way up from 41st in the nation to probably around top 20 or maybe even top 15. In 2008, the Hawkeye defense let up an average of only 13 ppg. It'll be fun to see what they do in 2009.
But, looking beyond 2009, Iowa's future looks even better. In 2010, they could possibly be one of the best teams Iowa has seen. On offense, Ricky Stanzi could have developed to be one of the nation's best QBs, and RB Jewel Hampton might also be one of the nation's best.
Stanzi will be able to pass to DJK, Colin Sandeman, and Allen Reisner, who all will have developed into very good receivers by then. The only question is their O-Line, but they'll still have Bryan Bulaga, Julian Vandervelde, and Rafael Eubanks (Bulaga was in contention for the All American team, but didn't quite make it- he was only a sophomore), all of which good in 2007 and/or 2008.
On defense in 2010, Iowa will have all of their starters from 2009 returning except LBs Pat Angerer and AJ Edds. Jeremiah Hunger, the other LB, was a huge recruit and is already playing well. He will return that year, too. Every single defensive lineman will return, as well as every single defensive back. A tough pass defense will be even tougher, possibly one of college football's best.
And, in 2009 AND 2010, Iowa has all of their kickers and punters returning from 2008. They just need to find a punt returner-Andy Brodell was good at it in 2008 but is leaving. WR Colin Sandeman looks to be a good canidate for the position.
2009 and 2010 look both to be very good years for Hawkeye football. These teams could likely win the Big Ten Championship, and/or possibly even the national championship. After two consecutive 6-6 seasons, Iowa looks like it's finally turning around.