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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #40 Iowa

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 3, 2017

#40 Iowa Hawkeyes

2016 Recap:
The Hawkeyes finished the year 8-5 after getting destroyed in the Outback Bowl 30-3 by the Florida Gators. An early season misstep against FCS darlings North Dakota State raised a lot of eyebrows. The Hawkeyes won three striaght heading into the Bowl game against Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska by a combined score of 82-23.


Coaching:
Kirk Ferentz remains one of the best in the business even as he enters his 19th season at Iowa after a Pair of Conference Championships, 4 Big Ten Coach of the Year awards and a pair of National Coach of the Year honors. Son Brian will now lead the offense, one that has been under constant criticism for it's ultra-conservative approach. Phil Parker is back to lead a unit that was 23rd in total defense a season ago and 13th in scoring defense allowing just 18.8 PPG.


Offense

When you think about an Iowa offense the first thing that should come to mind is a plethora of 310 and above pound lineman all standing six-and-a-half feet tall. The strength of Iowa has always been the muscle up front and this season will be no exception. Right tackle Ike Boettger is the prized jewel of the line but he is surrounded by experience...and I mean surrounded. All five positions along the line sees a returning starter for the Hawkeyes. Fellow seniors Sean Welsh and Boone Myers have plenty of gamesmanship to fall back on while center James Daniels is an up and coming junior. The Hawkeyes lineman have the pleasure of blocking for one of the most underrated running backs in the country in senior Akrum Wadley. Wadley was not a full time starter last year but still ran for nearly 1,100 yards. Iowa may have to rely heavily on running the football so look for backup Toks Akinribade and even fullback Brady Ross to be involved heavily in the rushing attack. With the departure of C.J. Beathard the quarterback position is up in the air and the receiver spot is even more unsettled. Nathan Stanley is who we are projecting to be the quarterback but we could see a rotation at the position to start the season.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Ike Boettger OL 3rd Round 2018.

                                       James Daniels C 5th Round 2019.


Defense

Josey Jewell flirted with the idea of declaring as a pro after last season but he is back and will be the leader in the middle of the defense. Jewell and his 124 tackles by far led the team and his 9 pass breakups shows he can be effective in man-to-man coverage. Bo Bower and Ben Niemann are back on either side of Jewell meaning the linebacking corps should be the strength of the defensive unit. This ensures that 3 of the 4 top tacklers from 2016 are back and starting for the Hawkeyes. Parker Hesse will be looked at as the next dominant lineman for Iowa with the hopes that he can crack double digits in sacks. As a part time starter last season he registered 4 sacks with 8 tackles for loss. Jaleel Johnson is the biggest loss up front and fellow tackle Nathan Bazata is the leader along the defensive line. Bazata looks like he has bulked up from his 280 pound playing weight from 2016 but still looks explosive off the ball. Only Miles Taylor returns in the secondary and this is the area of biggest concern for Iowa. Getting pressure on the quarterback will be key as the corners are largely untested and frankly a huge question mark coming into the season.

Best Draft Prospects: Josey Jewell ILB 2nd-3rd Round 2018.

                                       Miles Taylor S 6th Round 2018.

Special Teams:

Keith Duncan will kick for Iowa this year and the sophomore is already a member of Iowa folklore after his kick late against Michigan won Iowa their biggest upset of the season (Michigan was ranked #2 at the time). A full time punter has not yet been decided upon although we are predicting sophomore Colten Rastetter comes away with the job. Receiver Devonte Young looks like the leading candidate to replace Desmond King on kickoff and punt returns.


Schedule:

Iowa gets tested right out of the gate against our #39 team top open the year at home (who is that you might ask.....come back tomorrow and see when #39 is released). If Iowa can survive at home against Penn State late in Septemeber they have a favorable scheduled in the beginning of the year and Big Ten slate. Ohio State is also a home game with Wisconsin looking like the top road test. Michigan will have to wait to try and extract revenge as they do not appear against Iowa in 2017.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

Ike Boettger has the potential to move up the boards as we have seen Iowa linemen late in their careers blossom into first round talent before. Jewell is the prize of this draft class but both lines, offensive and defensive seem to have the most gems for future classes. Iowa could have the best starting offensive line unit in The Big Ten and this is a conference known for producing quality lineman. Iowa should match last years total of at least 8 victories unless the transition at quarterback proves rockier than expected.

DJ Boyer