Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Hawkeyes
The luster has been wearing off of Kirk Ferentz at Iowa for some time now, and with the resignation of Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, he is now the longest serving FBS head football coach in the nation at one school currently. Of course, Ferenta has never had the success that Stoops had at Oklahoma, so I am hard pressed to understand why he has been there so long, other than the fact that he has one hell of a rdiculous contract buyout clause, and that has handcuffed the school for far too long.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Last season, Iowa had two 1000 yard rushers, and one of them, Akrum Woodley, returns. He rushed for 1081 yards and 10 scores last fall, and scored 10 times, while averaging 6.43 yards per carry. He was the better of the two highly productive backs all around, so he should be the center piece of the offense this season.
He should be running behind one of the best lines in the Big 10 this fall, as every starter returns from last season. Boone Myers (LT), Keegan Render (LG), James Daniels (C), Sean Welsh (RG), and Ike Boettger (RT) will all pave the way this fall.
Keith Duncan will be back at PK, and he hit 9/11 FG attempts last fall as a freshman. Look for him to get a few more opportunities this season as the offense goes through some changes.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
You cannot win in college football without a solid, proven QB, and Iowa has not had one of those in some time. They still don't. CJ Betheard is gone, and Nathan Stanley will enter camp in a battle with Tyler Wiegers for the job. Sophomore Drew Cook could also get a look in the right situation.
There is absolutely no depth at RB after Woodley, and that could be a problem if Woodley were to go down to injury. Toks Akinribade is the most experienced returning reserve, and e carried all of 16 times last fall.
The receiver corps is not in much better shape.Woodley, as a RB, was the second leading receiver last fall. The top WR was Riley McCarron, and he is gone. The two candidates for the open SE job, Devonte Young and Adrian Falconer, did not catch a pass between them last fall. Jerminic Smith and Nick Easley, the candidates at WR, caught 23 passes combined, and that was all Smith. The Hawkeyes even have an issue at TE, where George Kittle has moved on to the NFL.
What To be Excited About: Defense
Iowa has lived and died on defense for quite some time now, and that should continue to be the trend in 2017.
Anthony and Matt Nelson both battled last season at LDE, and both return once again to rotate at the spot. They combined for 14.5 TFLs last fall, and should be a primary force off of the edge. Parker Hesse returns to his starting job at RDE this fall as well. He finished with eight TFLs on his own last season. Brady Reiff was the backup at RDE last fall, but will move into a battle for the starting job at DT in camp.
The starting LBs are all back in OLB Ben Niemmann, MLB Josey Jewell, and WLB Bo Bower. Jewell is the jewel of the defense, as he led the team with 124 tackles last season. He added six TFLs for good measure, and also added nine PBUs and five QB hurries. Niemann finished with 69 tackles, while Bower added 91, which was good for second on the team.
Miles Taylor and Brendan Snyder both return at SS and FS this fall, while Joshua Jackson is back at CB. Snyder finished with 85 tackles, while Taylor was good for another 45. Snyder also broke up four passes and forced three fumbles. Jackson broke up four passes last fall, and played in 12 games.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There are holes up the middle at both DT spots, and Brady reiff may be trying to move inside from DE to take one of those jobs. Cedrick Lattimore is battling him at LDT, while Nathan Bazata and Jake Hulett started a battle at RDT in spring camp.
The CB position looks to be a spot that must see some concern as well. Jackson was not the most productive corner in the conference by far, and losing Desmond King is painful at the other CB spot. If there are two positions where the Hawkeyes are especially vulnerable, it is at CB and DT this fall, and those will be focus areas in fall camp.
The Hawkeyes also need to find a replacement for Ron Coluzzi at Punter. He aveaged 41.07 yards per punt last fall. Colton Rastetter will try his hand in camp, and had one punt for 42 yards last season as a freshman.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Wyoming, 9/9 at Iowa State, 9/16 North Texas, 9/23 Penn State, 9/30 at Michigan State, 10/7 Illinois, 10/21 at Northwestern, 10/28 Minnesota, 11/4 Ohio State, 11/11 at Wisconsin, 11/18 Purdue, 11/24 at Nebraska
Final Overview
The Hawkeyes are in for a long run this fall, especially if they cannot finally find answers at QB and WR, as well as at DT and CB on defense. Iowa has struggled mightily to score on offense for a long while, and if that trend continues, they will eventually get left behind in the college football world. Defense is great, but it is not everything, and there are some cracks in the defensive foundation this season to worry about. Ferentz has been a round a long time, but in my book, he has become stale at Iowa. With a really tough schedule in late October and early November, and with a brutal opener against Penn State in conference play, Iowa could be out of this race fairly early.

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