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B1G 2015 // Iowa Cocktail Party Preview

Iowa football 2015: This is a year.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If we're to talk about year sixteen of the Kirk Ferentz era it's best to understand the current state of Iowa football. It's been five seasons since the Hawkeyes brought home the Orange Bowl trophy. In that span Iowa has gone 34-30 overall. They have a losing record in the Big Ten at 19-21. They've gone 2-3 against Iowa State, 2-3 against Minnesota, 0-3 against Wisconsin and 1-3 in bowl games. Unbelievably, they've gone 2-2 against MAC schools.

Looking at national recruiting rankings, Iowa's recruiting has (almost) gotten progressively worse each season: In 2011 Iowa ranked 30th in the nation, 4th in the Big Ten; in 2012 Iowa ranked 43rd in the nation, 8th in the Big Ten; in 2013 Iowa ranked 53rd in the nation, 10th in the Big Ten; in 2014 Iowa ranked 59th in the nation, 11th in the Big Ten; and in 2015 Iowa ranked 58th in the nation, 13th in the Big Ten. The conference rankings are particularly harrowing.

As it stands right now there are zero trophies in Iowa's trophy case. The Cy-Hawk, Floyd of Rosedale and Heroes Trophy were lost in 2014. The Heartland Trophy has resided in Madison since 2010. The newest bowl game trophy Iowa has to display is from their win over Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl.

In March it was announced that one-time starting quarterback Jake Rudock was seeking a transfer as he'd lost his job to C.J. Beathard. Safety Malik Rucker, one of Iowa's better 2013 recruits announced his decision to leave in early May. Only a few weeks later John Kenny, a sophomore linebacker transferred to Arizona.

Kenny's story is somewhat laughable. Arguably the best recruit of the 2013 class, Kenny simply couldn't crack the depth chart at linebacker. Even though Iowa was starting a walk-on redshirt freshman at OLB, a senior at MLB and a 2-star sophomore at WLB, John Kenny couldn't even fill in as a backup in 2014. So where does he end up? At fullback. Iowa's best recruit from 2013 was moved to fullback. I can understand how one would want to transfer out of that situation.

And this isn't negativity. This is numbers. Facts. Data. Lost in all of this data is what's going to happen in year sixteen. How will Iowa look under C.J. Beathard? Who will replace Mark Weisman and Brandon Scherff? What, exactly, is Iowa's strength on defense? Where is Iowa going? That brings us to today.

About Last Season:

The Good News...

There wasn't any.

The Bad News...

I've already done this.

On the Offensive Side of the Ball:

The Good News...

This sounds awful but let's be honest with ourselves Iowa fans: Mark Weisman graduating is a good thing for Iowa's offense. Despite it being obvious that he wasn't getting the job done in the non-conference portion of the 2014 schedule, Iowa continued to ride him as their number one back for the remainder of the season. Now, Iowa has no choice but to actually try something different. That's a good thing.

Jordan Canzeri enters his senior season listed as Iowa's co-starter at running back. Canzeri has all the tools necessary to have a great year: speed, vision and elusiveness. He was the one positive thing about the Taxslayer Bowl. He continued to run hard despite the game being over in the first quarter. Canzeri's only problem in 2015 is the same problem he's had his entire career: injuries. He'll need to keep his ankle healthy if he wants to be successful.

The counterpoint to Canzeri's speed and quickness is junior LeShun Daniels, the second co-starter. At 6'0, 225, Daniels is a brusier who was actually told to lose weight this offseason. Daniels had his 2014 campaign cut short by foot surgery and didn't exactly raise any eyebrows prior to his injury. Since he's lost 10 pounds running backs coach Chris White has nothing but great things to say about Daniels:

"He's down to about 225 or so. He just looks unbelievable, and it shows on the field. His speed, his pad level, and as a matter of fact, I think he broke the running back's shuttle record for [Strength and Conditioning] Coach Doyle, which is pretty amazing."

Number one wide-receiver Tevaun Smith is a legitimate playmaker and could be poised for a breakout season, assuming someone can throw him the ball. Tight-end is of no concern as Henry Krieger Coble and Jake Duzey return for their senior seasons.

While the interior of the line is experienced it's worth noting that all three players have played multiple positions throughout their careers. Senior right guard Jordan Walsh is a two year starter who has spent the majority of his career at the position, aside from a lone start on the left side back in 2012. Senior center Austin Blythe is also a two year starter who spent majority of 2014 at center but also played right and left guard. Sean Welsh starts at left guard, where he primarily played in 2014 but also got a couple starts on the right.

They'll block for the man who Iowa football is resting all of its hopes on: C.J. Beathard. Having Beathard return as Iowa's starting quarterback is undoubtbely a "good" thing but I honestly have no idea what to expect from him in 2015. He can scramble, throw the deep ball and has a cannon. He can also make questionable decisions and turn it over. Time will tell on whether he's Iowa's savior at quarterback.

The Bad News...

OK so who else is there are wide-receiver? Matt VandeBerg, the second starter, has three career starts and only 315 yards and one touchdown to show for it. Jacob Hillyer started four games in 2014 but only managed 105 yards. Senior Andrew Stone is a JUCO transfer who has only seen the field four times. Tevaun Smith may be Iowa's "superstar" wide-receiver but aside from him there's question marks.

Iowa's biggest question mark on the offensive side of the ball is at tackle. Replacing Brandon Scherff at left tackle is Boone Myers, a sophomore walk-on with no career starts. Oppsite Myers is sophomore Ike Boettger, who was originally recruited at tight-end and has zero starts to his name. Last year he actually saw action at tight-end (at least it wasn't fullback).

Oh and yes you read that correctly. Iowa, a school that prides itself on putting offensive linemen in the NFL, still has to field walk-ons on their offensive line for some reason. Feels like recruiting offensive linemen shouldn't be an issue for Kirk Ferentz but WELP.

On the Defensive Side of the Ball:

The Good News...

Iowa returns seven starters on defense, including two seniors at defensive end in Nate Meier and Drew Ott. Two starters from last years team return at linebacker and the secondary is anchored by senior safety Jordan Lomax and junior cornerback Desmond King. The Hawkeyes have some serious shoes to fill following Carl Davis' graduation but once 4-star recruit Jaleel Johnson will finally get his chance to shine at tackle. With all of the returning experience Iowa's strength is their second level.

The Bad News...

It's great that Iowa returns two linebackers but let's have an honest discussion about the unit as a whole. One of the problem areas in 2014 was Iowa's inability to contain the outside edge. That's because the linebackers were, for lack of a better word: slow.  Not only slow but also inexperienced. OLB Bo Bower was a walk-on redshirt freshman. WLB Josey Jewell was a redshirt freshman 2-star recruit whose only other offer was from UNI.

To give the coaching staff some credit, Jewell has been moved to MLB and Bower has been moved to the opposite WLB. Sophomore Ben Niemann will start at OLB. Niemann, a two-star recruit, played wide-receiver and free safety in high school and chose Iowa over the likes of NIU, Eastern Michigan and Illinois State. If you're starting to see a nasty trend in this linebacker core it's because there's a nasty trend on what Kirk Ferentz fields at linebacker.

On Special Teams:

The Good News...

Marshall Koehn returns as Iowa's kicker. His early season struggles forced Iowa to take a more aggressive approach on fourth and short situations, which resulted in fewer field goal attempts. However, as the season progressed so did Koehn and he went 8 for 9 with his only miss being a 40+ yarder against Illinois. Koehn also boasts a strong leg on kickoffs, resulting in a high percentage of touchbacks.

The Bad News...

For all the jokes made about Kirk Ferentz punting it's odd (or sad) that Iowa hasn't fielded a reliable punter in years. Connor Kornbrath, listed as Iowa's starting punter on the spring prospectus has decided to step away from football, leaving senior Dillon Kidd as the only realistic option in 2015. Kidd looked less than fantastic in 2014 and shared starting duties with Kornbrath.

Oh, and the punt and kick coverage. That's become a tradition of awfulness for Iowa.

On the Schedule:



Opp. Record Last Season


Illinois State



@ Iowa State






North Texas



@ Wisconsin



Illinois (HC)



@ Northwestern






@ Indiana









@ Nebraska


Normally, you wouldn't be too concerned about opening the season against an FCS team. Unless that FCS team made it all the way to the FCS Championship last season, is a preseason top five team and has Tre Roberson. Illinois State is probably the better of the two ISU's on the schedule and will be ready to play on September 5th.

As for the other ISU, who knows? The Cyclones went 2-10 last year and didn't win a conference game. But, they beat Iowa and they've won three out of the last four. It really doesn't matter if Iowa has "better players." They've supposedly had "better players" for years and Kirk Ferentz keeps finding ways to lose.

Pittsburgh is interesting as they'll be breaking in new head coach Pat Narduzzi. James Connor also returns his sophomore season after rushing for over 1,700 yards last season. He racked up 155 yards and a touchdown against Iowa. North Texas is coached by Dan McCarney, an Iowa alum and the ex-Iowa State coach who knows a thing or two about beating the Hawkeyes with "inferior" teams.

The conference schedule pairs two tough away games with two manageable ones. Wisconsin and Nebraska are likely losses but Indiana and Northwestern are in the winnable category. The home schedule sets up nicely as well. Illinois and Purdue are getting better but I still think Iowa can beat them. Maryland and Minnesota? I'll believe it when I see it.

If I were a man making predictions I'd say that Iowa will go 3-1 in the non-conference. Kirk Ferentz simply can't go undefeated in the non-con any longer so I'd pencil in a loss to either Iowa State or Pitt. I think Iowa splits their road contests and goes 2-2 at home. That would put them at 7-5 (4-4) on the year. The Chan Gailey tradition of Iowa football continues.

If You're Talking to an Iowa Fan...

Do Mention:

Iowa baseball or Iowa basketball.

Don't Mention:

Pretty much everything I wrote in the first part of this article.


Wait, why do we call this a cocktail party preview and then not even talk about cocktails? My favorite Iowa beer is pseudoSue, which is brewed by Toppling Goliath out of Decorah. I'm also a big fan of Peace Tree Brewing's Blonde Fatale, which is brewed in Knoxville. Do you drink Iowa beer? Well if you don't you should. They're getting pretty darn good at making it around here.