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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #18 Iowa

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 31, 2014

#18 Iowa Hawkeyes

 

2013 Recap:

There weren’t huge expectations for the Hawkeyes last season but they registered 8 wins after scoring late season wins over Michigan and Nebraska. Iowa had 5 losses but Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and LSU are no slouches. Iowa performed well with the difficult schedule they faced.

 

Coaching:

Hard to believe Kirk Ferentz has already been at Iowa for 15 years as he is always rumored to be leaving for the NFL and is seen as one of the top coaches at his level. Iowa has no problems in the coaching department.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Jake Rudock showed some flashes of true promise last season throwing for over 2,800 yards. The biggest question comes in the way of decision making as Iowa would need to see an improvement on his 18 TD/13 INT ratio. Rudock was a sophomore in his first season as a full time starter, so the numbers should improve.

Mark Weisman is the starter at running back although he is built more like a fullback, which is where we see him fitting in at the next level. Weisman is a tough and durable back but his production dipped during the second half of the campaign last season. After posting 100 yard games in 4 of the first 5 he only got above 60 yards in one contest after (Michigan).  Jordan Canzeri is a nice change of pace back that needs to be more involved. Many Big Ten Opponents dared Iowa to beat them throwing the ball but the Hawkeyes and their tough defense hung with many of those teams. Look for Damon Bullock to also get some time in the backfield, where he will spell Weisman and Canzeri and also serve as a third down back as he is the most accomplished receiver of the trio.

Best Draft Prospect: Mark Weisman RB/FB 7th Round 2015.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Kevonte Martin-Manley led the team with 40 receptions and less than 10 YPC as Iowa was one of the few teams in the country to not have a receiver with at least 400 yards in receiving. Tevaun Smith will be the other wide receiver as he also averaged under 10 YPC. Having a system with a lot of short passes is fine but Iowa lacks game breakers that can take it to the house with every catch or make defenders miss in space.

The best threat Iowa had a season ago was tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and he is now NFL bound. Fiedorowicz was a nice red zone threat and a great tight end but he didn’t make a whole lot of catches as evidenced by his numbers at 30 catches for 299 yards and leading the team with 6 touchdowns.  Ray Hamilton is a nice tight end that will fill the void left by Fiedorowicz as best he can. Hamilton will be an undrafted free agent type player in this draft class but he will have a chance to catch on somewhere. Iowa will have to rely more on their running game and fantastic defense to get the job done.

Best Draft Prospect: Ray Hamilton TE UFA 2015.

 

Offensive Line:

Iowa collectively as a group has three starters returning but they have arguably the best offensive line in the Big Ten. They are led by the best tackle in the country, projected Top 5 overall selection Brandon Scherff. Scherff certainly would have been a top 10 pick had he declared after last season and probably would have battled Jake Matthews to be the second lineman off the board behind Auburn’s Greg Robinson. Scherff is far from being the only prospect on the line as center Austin Blythe projects as a fringe 3rd/4th rounder for 2016. Iowa gets the job done up front despite being one of the smaller lines, averaging 298 pounds for the starters. That does not mean they are a finesse-only line as Iowa has some maulers who can pancake block with the best teams out there. Sophomores like Cole Croston and Ryan Ward will ensure that there is depth along the line, as Iowa will mix in players from time to time to spell the starters. This is a deep unit that is in great shape which looks like they can play up tempo if needed or just block all day in the trenches and run the ball right at the opposition.

Best Draft Prospect: Brandon Scherff OT 1st Round 2015.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

The strength of the defense is along the line even though this team registered only 24 sacks a season ago where they trailed only Michigan State in total defense. Iowa finished with the #6 rated national defense and wound up #9 in scoring defense allowing a paltry 18.9 PPG. One thing that helped Iowa was finishing 10th in the NCAA in time of possession. It’s easier to keep a defense fresh when they are constantly off the field. Iowa’s secret was pressure right up the middle of the defense with a pair of tackles that formed the best 1-2 punch in the Big Ten at the position. Carl Davis is the big prospect here with the NFL body at 6’4” 315 pounds. Louis Trinca-Pasat is a bit smaller at 6’2” and 290 pounds, but he is fast off the ball and showed a massive improvement last season especially on third down and short yardage situations. 80 tackles with 12.5 for loss and 3 sacks is what the pair registered as a team but they were disruptive even when not making the play themselves. Drew Ott and Mike Hardy will man the defensive end spots. Ott is the top returning sack man with only 2.5, clearly showing that Iowa’s defense deals more with pressure and sound tackling then actually sacking the quarterback. There are a host of backups at both positions with game experience, so this truly is the strength of the defense. It is why they will certainly rank among the top 20 overall defenses in the country again in 2014.

Best Draft Prospect: Carl Davis DT 2nd Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

All three starting linebackers from last year's team were seniors and have moved on so this is the question mark for the Hawkeyes. Quinton Alston has a ton of experience as a backup in the middle and on special teams. He is a fringe draft prospect but right now we have him on the outside looking in for that area. Reggie Spearman and Travis Perry will be the outside linebackers and both made exactly 10 tackles a season ago. Cole Fisher is another player that will see action and is the primary backup at every position. Iowa is hoping one of these players will be able to provide a pass rush and make things easier on the front line.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Secondary:

Don't look now but Desmond King, had a huge impact for the Hawkeyes as a freshman so much so that he is being mentioned as a possible 1st rounder for 2017 or at least early candidacy for the NFL Draft in 2016. King lacks the ideal size and speed but the instincts and aerial ability seem to match what you would be looking for in 1st round talent. He had 69 tackles with 8 pass breakups, and many of them coming as highlight variety. John Lowdermilk is back at safety but the other two players in the secondary are new. Iowa has mentioned using some packages employing a rover but this would not be part of their standard formation. Yet there will be more corners and safeties employed so Iowa needs to ensure the youngsters are ready to step into starting roles.

Best Draft Prospect: Desmond King CB 3rd Round 2017.

 

Special Teams:

The coverage units were among the best in the Big Ten last season and Kevonte Martin-Manley averaged 15.7 YPR with a pair of touchdowns, proving that is an area where Iowa is solid. The kicking game is not very solid though. The kicker and punter positions have yet to be decided or announced for that matter. In a conference like the Big Ten this could swing at least a couple of games if they are not up to speed in those areas.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Schedule:

August and September look to be relatively easy months while down the stretch in November the resolve of the Iowa team will be tested. Iowa gets Wisconsin and Nebraska to close the season and they do it at home. The schedule is very favorable for a big season.

 

Draft Outlook:

Brandon Scherff will be demanding attention while the possibilities of Demond King leaving early looms. This is a big year because if Iowa proves themselves in back-to-back seasons, it lends the ultimate credibility to the program.

 

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