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What we learned Saturday

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Things we learned in Iowa’s 45-0 victory over Ball State:

– The Hawkeyes’ running back depth isn’t nearly as tenuous as we might have thought. Redshirt freshman Brad Rogers and true freshman Marcus Coker combined for 126 yards rushing in the last quarter-and-a-half. While they aren’t as polished or as experienced as starter Adam Robinson, they both offer a power running style that could be effective as a change of pace to A-Rob.
– The kicking job may be less secure now than it was when the season began. Sophomore Trent Mossbrucker was replaced on field goals and extra points by true freshman Michael Meyer, who hit a 25-yard field goal (Iowa’s first of the season) but also missed a 37-yarder. There still is no word about the status of Daniel Murray, who was the kicker all of last season.
– The offensive line isn’t nearly as bad as it looked last week in a 34-27 loss to Arizona. Then again, it probably isn’t quite as good it looked at times Saturday. The line definitely has potential, but it remains a work in progress.
– Mike Daniels may be the surprise player of the entire season for the Hawkeyes so far. The junior defensive tackle was unstoppable Saturday, recording four tackles for losses and Iowa’s only sack of the day. While Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug have had fairly quiet starts to the season, Mike Diesel has become someone future opponents will need to deal with.
– Ricky Stanzi clearly is a better player than he was a year ago. Last season he ran hot and cold, even against lesser opponents. He’s been almost continuously hot in the first 16 quarters of this season.
– Ball State probably isn’t going to win many games in the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals use a lot of different running backs, receivers and quarterbacks but none of them looked very good. This team is going to struggle to score many points even in its own league.

Gearing up again

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

It’s been a long, relatively quiet summer – for everyone except maybe Broderick Binns, Jewel Hampton and Jordan Bernstine – but things are about to start gearing up again. The Big Ten will hold its football media day this week, the Iowa resumes practice later in the week and the Hawkeyes will hold their own media day on Friday.

The Big Ten media day always brings little bits of information, mixed with lots of posturing and happy talk from the coaches. Each coach will have 15 minutes in a massive group interview with the media on Monday, then reporters have a chance to speak to the coaches and three players from each team in a one-on-one setting on Tuesday morning. Iowa’s three players in attendance will be Ricky Stanzi, Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug.

The big topic of discussion Monday figures to be the expansion of the Big Ten – commissioner Jim Delany also will get 15 minutes at the podium – and I would think Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will have some information on what sort of punishments will be levied against Binns, Hampton and Bernstine, all of whom had brushes with the law during the summer.

We will have coverage of Monday’s activities in a live blog at Hawkmania.com and qctimes.com from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will have updates throughout the week from both the Big Ten and Hawkeyes media days.

Depth for fall may be better than ever

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Iowa may or may not have one of its best football teams ever next fall.

One thing that does seem certain: It will be one of the deepest teams it has had.

The Hawkeyes will be pretty well insulated against injuries at almost every position except pos-sibly the offensive line and safety. Everywhere else, there are pretty good players waiting in the wings in case the starter goes down.

A look at the Hawkeyes by position following spring drills:

Quarterback: Ricky Stanzi is going into his third season as the starter and should be less turn-over-prone. That was a major point of emphasis in the spring. James Vandenberg showed last sea-son that he can be a capable backup and you get the feeling southpaw John Wienke gained ground on Vandenberg in the spring. The coaches said he made a major step up and you could see it in the spring scrimmage. Wienke looked crisper and more accurate than Vandenberg that day.

Running back: If Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher all are healthy, this is going to be very interesting. Robinson may have a slight edge in some of the little things like pick-ing up the blitz, but the other two probably are more elusive and have a bigger upside. It’s almost guaranteed that one of them will get hurt anyway. If more than one gets hurt, I still think there is a chance freshman Marcus Coker could be a factor right away.

Fullback: Senior Brett Morse is solid and there’s not a ton of drop-off to junior Wade Leppert. This isn’t an every-down position anyway.

Wide receiver: Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos have a chance to be the Hawk-eyes’ best receiver tandem since … well, maybe ever. Colin Sandeman and Paul Chaney are pretty good, too. If Keenan Davis improves as much as the coaches hope and Jordan Cotton continues to progress and 6-foot-6 Don Nordmann is as good as he looked in the spring scrimmage, they’re loaded.

Tight end: Don’t be surprised if Allen Reisner duplicates the statistical numbers Tony Moeaki provided last year although he’s probably not going to be as good a blocker. Brad Herman and Jonathan Gimm apparently made strides as the backups this spring but they still might have trou-ble holding off high school All-American C.J. Fiedorowicz, who should be game-ready when he arrives.

Offensive line: There is good depth at center, where James Ferentz and Josh Koeppel are bat-tling for the starting job, but this is one place the depth is a bit thin. There are a lot of big bodies behind Riley Reiff, Julian Vandervelde, Markus Zusevics and Adam Gettis but apparently no one who is ready to play with any sort of consistency. Coach Kirk Ferentz said converted defensive lineman Cody Hundertmark is the closest to being ready. If no one steps forward in the fall, there may be an opportunity for Ohio high school star Andrew Donnal to see playing time as a true freshman.

Defensive line: The Hawkeyes may be deeper than ever here. All four starters – Adrian Clay-born, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns – return intact with Clayborn and appar-ently Klug primed for starring roles. And some of us have felt for some time that Ballard ranks among the most underrated players on this team. Backup tackle Mike Daniels is good enough to start for half the teams in the Big Ten and young ends LeBron Daniel and Dominic Alvis have emerged as potential stars of the future. Pencil in Daniels and Daniel as certain starters for 2011.

Linebacker
: This is another area where the competition has been fierce. Jeremiha Hunter is a third-year starter and Jeff Tarpinian and Tyler Nielsen have emerged as the starters at the other two spots, but Bruce Davis and Troy Johnson are still pushing. Even long-time walk-on Ross Peter-sen looked good in the spring scrimmage. You’ll still see some true freshman play here in the fall, though, as the Hawkeyes brace for the future. Hunter, Tarpinian, Johnson and Petersen are seniors and Davis and Nielsen are juniors.

Cornerback: Shaun Prater is solidly entrenched on one side and sophomore Micah Hyde may be a future star on the other side. Jordan Bernstine, projected to start ahead of Prater last fall before breaking his ankle, may have a hard time finding playing time but he, Greg Castillo and William Lowe provide quality depth.

Safety: Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood – known to some of us as Sashwood – are one of the best tandems in the country but it’s hard to even guess at who the backups are at this point. Walk-ons Kyle Steinbrecher and Tom Donatell ran with the No. 1 unit in the spring scrimmage, apparently moving ahead of two scholarship players, Jack Swanson and Nick Nielsen, in the final week of drills. All those players have good size and Nielsen had two interceptions last Saturday. The depth isn’t necessarily bad, just unproven.

Kicker: Daniel Murray is the returning starter, but Ferentz has made it clear he wasn’t com-pletely satisfied with the job he did. Trent Mossbrucker, who redshirted last season after being the kicker for much of 2008, has at least an shot at winning the job.

Punter: Another place where the depth isn’t great behind four-year regular Ryan Donahue. But how often does your punter get hurt anyway?

Hawks will be at least No. 8, maybe higher

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

After handling Georgia Tech 24-14 in Tuesday’s night’s Orange Bowl, the Iowa football team probably is going to finish in a very familiar spot in the final Associated Press poll.

The Hawkeyes are likely to be eighth, which is exactly where they were at the end of the 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons.

They were 10th entering the bowls and they clearly are going to leap ahead of No. 9 Georgia Tech and No. 7 Oregon, which lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

The only way they can go higher is if the voters severely penalize No. 4 Cincinnati for getting routed by No.5 Florida in the Sugar Bowl. It was the Bearcats’ first loss, but I could see some voters dropping them down below the Hawkeyes. No. 3 TCU also lost but it was a close enough game that I don’t think they’ll fall to lower than sixth.

If the Hawkeyes should get up the No. 6 or No. 7, it will be their highest ranking since they were third in the 1960 poll.

The most impressive thing about Iowa’s 24-14 conquest of Georgia Tech, I think, is that the Hawks didn’t even radically change their defense to shut down Tech’s much-feared (and clearly overrated) triple option. They didn’t need to bring their safeties up close to the line to add extra run support.

They left it to their front seven to manhandle Tech’s front, and they did.

I came away thinking that if Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan is a top 10 NFL draft choice, as some experts are saying, then Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn is too. Fortunately, Clayborn is not going pro this year. Look for him on some All-American teams next season.

All-Big Ten teams had some surprises

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

There were only a few surprises on the All-Big Ten teams that were announced Monday night. One of the surprises was that Iowa was as well-represented as it was.

I figured the Hawkeyes might get as many as five first-team selections, but they had a league-high seven first-team players on the team chosen by the BigTen coaches, only four on the media team.
The five I thought were deserving: Linebacker Pat Angerer, strong safety Tyler Sash, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and cornerback Amari Spievey. All of those players made the coaches team and all but Spievey were honored by the media.

The coaches also put Dace Richardson and Tony Moeaki on the first team even though Richardson missed the last 4 ½ games of the conference season and Moeaki was more or less missing in action over that same span.

Other thoughts:

– The offensive line, which never really got its act together, had four players selected. In addition to Bulaga and Richardson, Rafael Eubanks and Kyle Calloway made the second team.

– Although 19 Iowa players received some sort of mention, there was at least one more that merited at least honorable mention. Receiver Marvin McNutt scored six touchdowns in a span of four Big Ten games, including some of the clutch plays of the season.

– Iowa’s defense received the recognition it deserved. The only two starters who didn’t get some sort of mention were Jeremiha Hunter and Shaun Prater.

– Although everyone knew Wisconsin’s John Clay and Penn State’s Evan Royster would be the first team running backs, I thought Adam Robinson had a chance to make the second team. He ended up being honorable mention on both teams with Purdue’s Ralph Bolden and Ohio State’s Brandon Saine making the second team.

– There was widespread disagreement on the first team wide receivers. The coaches picked Minnesota’s Eric Decker and Michigan State’s Blair White. The media went with Indiana’s Tandon Doss and Purdue’s Keith Smith. I would have voted for White and Smith.

– It was interesting that Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick was the coaches’ defensive player of the year, but he wasn’t even first team on the media squad. There’s no way he had a better season than Wisconsin’s O’Brien Schofield, Michigan State’s Greg Jones (the media pick) and Angerer.

– You can’t help but wonder how the coach of the year voting might have gone if the voting hadn’t been done with a week to go in the season. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz won the award, but Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern club finished very strong, beating Wisconsin in the final game to finish 8-4. Fitz might have gotten a few more votes if the voting was done later.

D-line earned an A

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

It was pretty easy to see the biggest area of improvement for Iowa on Saturday in an impressive 27-17 victory over Arizona: The Hawkeyes’ defensive line, especially end Adrian Clayborn, played much better than it did in the first two games of the season.

The other two layers of the defense – the linebackers and secondary – were solid (and occasionally spectacular) in the first two games of the season and the line also came together in a fairly thorough shutdown of what had been a pretty good offense.

The statistics don’t really tell how well the D-line played although the stats weren’t bad. The Hawkeyes had two sacks, five tackles for losses and four quarterback hurries (three by Clayborn). They’d had only two sacks in the first two games against less talented, more pass-oriented teams.

They also allowed 148 yards rushing (about half Arizona’s season average), with almost none of it coming between the tackles. Most of it came on three plays – a reverse, a quarterback scramble and a draw play in the final minutes against a prevent defense.

All told, it was an important step forward for an area of the team that had to be retooled following the graduations of Mitch King and Matt Kroul.