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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #14 Iowa

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 9, 2016

#14 Iowa Hawkeyes

2015 Recap:
Iowa seemed destined to wear the Cinderella slipper a season ago as they defied all expectations making it to the Big ten title game. Iowa started 12-0 before falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship in a hard fought 16-13 defeat. Had Iowa won that game they would have been BCS bound, instead they got crushed by Stanford in the Rose Bowl 45-16 but it was still a remarkable season.


Coaching:
Kirk Ferentz had our vote for National Coach of the Year and after years of being dubbed as the "next coach to leave for the NFL" things have been quiet for Ferentz at the school, until last season. It's hard to believe Ferentz will be starting his 18th year at Iowa making him the elder staesmen among coaches in the Big Ten.


Offense

 It's all about the offensive line for Iowa...always has and it always will. Cole Croston and Ike Boettiger hold down the tackle spots and both will have jobs ion the future on Sundays at the next level. The interior Line is strong as well as Sean Welsh steps in for the departed Austin Blythe and the offense shouldn't miss a beat. LeShun Daniels had 646 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns as a backup a season ago and he will now be the primary focus running the football. Keeping C.J. Beathard healthy will be key this season. While he was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the conference we are not as excited about his next level prospects. Beathard does have some targets with Matt VandeBerg back and a very sneaky tight ends by the game of George Kittle, he could be well known by the time the season is through. What kept this offense afloat is what hurt them the season before...winning the turnover battle. Iowa finished 2nd in the Big Ten at +11 and they have a defense that can force turnovers. the offense just needs to do its part and not turn it over themselves.
 

Best Draft Prospects: C.J. Beathard QB 4th Round 2017.

                                       Cole Croston OT 3rd Round 2017.


Defense

Desmond King is the best cornerback in all of the country, not just the Big Ten, entering this season. We were high on him going into the season and were questioned a bit but that quickly changed once the season was halfway through and King was not only showing his value, he was a darkhorse on Heisman ballots for some. Iowa was only 60th defending the pass as teams then tried to steer clear and the defenisve line was so active and good at stuffing the run (where they finished 15th nationally). Eight of the 11 starters from a year ago are back so Iowa will have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. Jaleel Johnson is an emerging talent at defensive tackle who could pace this line in sacks and quarterback pressures. Josey Jewell just continues to make big play after big play and his 126 tackles and 4 interceptions show just how versitile he is in this defensive alignment.

Best Draft Prospects: Demond King CB 1st Round 2017 (Possible first cornerback off the board and top ten overall pick for 2017).

                                      Josey Jewell LB 3rd Round 2018.


Special Teams:

The largest question mark surrounding the Hawkeyes this year will be special teams as a new punter and kicker are both needed. We already talked about jusy how good Desmond King is and he will be on display as the return man. Although he didn't register a touchdown on a kickoff or punt last season he posted dangerous 24.4 and 14.2 YPR averages. Iowa also gave up 3 return touchdowns against themselves in 2015, an area that will need to improve and quickly.


Schedule:

The schedule is more difficult then a season ago but it is far from unmanageable. Minnesota looks to be the toughest road test and Iowa better not overlook a home date with North Dakota State on September 17th. Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska are all solid games at the end of the schedule and the Hawkeyes get to avoid Ohio State and Michigan State. We don't think a Big Ten Title game is in the cards for a second consecutive year but Iowa will make some noise and be in the mix for the Conference.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

Iowa has long been known for offensive lineman and senior Cole Croston and junior Ike Boettiger will ensure that doesn't stop anytime soon. There is no question the real treasure here is Desmond King and we felt he would have won the battle for second player in the secondary off the board in 2016 had he declared as he would have followed Florida State's Jalen Ramsey.

DJ Boyer