Good Morning, everyone! Welcome to Iowa week, I know you’re all a flutter with anticipation. Let’s get into it.
Iowa was the model of inconsistency last year offensively. Scoring 50+ in multiple games for the first time in over a decade (yes, Ferentz offenses). But also having the single worst offensive performance in over half a century. But that was to be expected a bit with brand new coordinator (checks notes....) Brian Ferentz (I wonder if there’s any relation) and a first time starter, and true sophmore quarterback, Nate Stanley.
The defense was mostly fantastic, somewhere around the top 15 in the country, anchored by some all-time greats, and consensus First Team All-Americans, The Outlaw Josey Jewell and ball hawking Josh Jackson.
Iowa also was able to snap the bowl losing streak (first bowl win since the 2010 season), eeking out one of the ugliest games games of the season against Boston College on a frozen ice rink in Yankee Stadium.
The Offense in 2018
I’ll get more into this tomorrow, but suffice it to say that Brian is a definite step up compared to Greg Davis, but there’s also no way he’s going
Nate Stanley looks every bit like a he could enter his name as a Long Legend in Hawkeye lore. His big arm and frame reminds me a bit of Ben Roethlisberger. He shrugs off would-be tacklers rather easily:
But his fumbling problems and overthrows on deep balls need some work. There are really high hopes for his future, though.
The wide receiver group can’t really get that much worse, hopefully sophmores Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith can take a big step forward. Fortunately, the tight end group is one of the best in the country. Noah Fant is going to be on the watch list for the Mackey Award and T.J. Hockenson is a matchup nightmare as the blocking tight end.
Iowa’s definitely going to miss Akrum Wadley juking fools out of their jocks. His skillset was so unique, there’s just no replacing that. Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin will likely be a two-headed running attack for the Hawkeyes. Both showed some flashes last year as freshmen, Toren being a bigger bruiser, and Kelly-Martin having a bit more break-away speed.
The Defense in 2018
Losing two consensus All-Americans is probably going to put a dent in the upside of this unit. However, Phil Parker is one helluva coach and coordinator, learning from one of the best of all time, Norm Parker (no relation). All he does is consistently churn out all-conference level DBs. I’m not terribly worried about the secondary, they’re in good hands.
The linebacking corp, though, is a slightly different story. Iowa loses all 3 starters to graduation (the aforementioned Outlaw, Ben Neimann, and the mercurial Bo Bower). I think there’s some talent behind this group, but they are very unproven. Could be a bit of a bumpy road in the first few games.
The defensive line, though, should be one of the best Iowa’s had since 2010. They lose Nathan Bazata in the interior, but return everyone else. The defensive ends, especially should wreak havoc with a rotation of Anthony Nelson, Parker Hesse (can’t lose), and A.J. Epenesa. With the glut of DEs, and he’s freakish size (6’8” 285), Matt Nelson was kicked inside in 2017 and should be improved as a DT this season. Cody Lattimore rounds out the DL at the other DT spot. He had a solid, if unspectacular, year getting in the rotation last season, but should be taking a step forward. With 3 of the DL at least 6’7” tall, expect some batted balls from this group.
Special Teams in 2018
So punting was really, truly awful in 2017. Iowa switched between Colten Rastetter (the walk-on relative of the most powerful man in the state, former president of the board of regeants, and one of the biggest boosters of the football team) and true freshman Ryan Gersonde. Both were quite lackluster. And they’re both back. Gersonde actually averaged over 40 yards per punt, significantly better than Rastetter’s (42 to 37), but he was much less consistent. There has got to be improvement here, or Ferentz may be stripped of his Puntiff title.
The non-con looks manageable, if fraught with pitfalls (both ISU and UNI, and a feisty NIU). The wisconsin game is the first conference game, which could decide the division early, as the rest of Iowa’s schedule is maybe not the most daunting. Iowa gets crossovers with Indiana, Maryland, and PSU.
So that’s it. Welcome to Iowa week, we’re gonna have a good time.