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Iowa Hawkeyes Football: 2019 Cocktail Party Preview

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Is this the year for Iowa to cycle up? Or did they miss their chance in 2018?

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Mississippi State vs Iowa
Nate Stanley is probably good.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa week is here, so let’s all take a minute to get re-acquainted with your favorite team.

2018: Wha happened?

The Hawkeyes went 9-4, winning 3 out of 4 trophy games, winning the Outback Bowl against a good Mississippi State team. It was a successful season by several measurements, and yet, there was also a feeling of a disappointment in opportunities not taken. Iowa lost to a very beatable wisconsin team. Completely forgot they had the two All-American tight ends against jNW. Refused to jam Purdue receivers. And had Stanley completely meltdown against Penn State, who was desperately attempting to give the game to Iowa. 2018 certainly seemed like it should have probably been the up in the Ferentz cycle.

2019: The Offense

Nate Stanley is the very definition of prototypical pocket passer. He’s big, strong, and not really mobile. This will be his 3rd year as the Iowa starting QB, and results have been positive, but with some fairly glaring blips. While he’s likely to pass Chuck Long, and own the all-time passing TDs number at Iowa, he’s also had some of the most awful passing performances of the Ferentz era against wisconsin in 2017 and Penn State in 2018. He has a penchant for overthrowing receivers, and isn’t the most accurate QB out there. In other words, he’s going to be drafted way too high. He’s going to be well protected, though, as both Junior tackles, Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson, are likely to take their talents to the NFL next year as projected high draft picks.

Iowa also has to replace the production of the two best tight ends in the country last season in T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom left early and were first round draft picks. Look for Shawn Beyer to step up to be the receiving threat at tight end, but there’s just no way to replace all that production without the receivers to step up. Nico Ragaini seems to be the guy in the slot, where Iowa gets most of the receiving production, but he’s yet to do much of anything on the field. Brandon Smith has shown some flashes, and the junior will need to be step up to be a big play guy down the field.

The running game can’t really get that much worse. After having success in the running game a few seasons ago mixing in some gap plays in with the more traditional zone, the Ferentzii have returned to all zone, all the time. The results have been a resounding disappointment. The RBs (Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young) are fine, not great, but decidedly ok. They’ve got a fairly big time recruit in Tyler Goodson coming in, as well. But really, the biggest issue is an incredibly predictable scheme.

2019: The Defense

Iowa fielded one of the better defenses in the country last season, thanks in part to a beastly defensive line and an evolution in philosophy, going to a base 4-2-5 defense for the 2nd half of the season. And while Iowa does lose a few key cogs (Parker Hesse is now an NFL tight end, Matt Nelson is now an NFL offensive tackle, and Anthony Nelson left early for the draft), the DL should still be quite the threat with preseason All-American A.J. Epenesa looking to terrorize on the edge. Meanwhile, Phil Parker continues to churn out the best DBs in the conference. Losing Amani Hooker is significant, but that was the only loss in the secondary, and there are safeties in line waiting. Corners Matt Hankins and Julius Brents will both be somewhere on the all-conference team at the end of the year.

2019: Punting

It was bad in 2018. Really, really, bad. 118th in the country bad. Luckily, Iowa brought in a grad transfer punter in Michael Sleep-Dalton, a 26 year-old, native Aussie, who spent his first few seasons at Arizona State. His average of 43.8 would add more than 5 yards per punt for Iowa, which would be greatly appreciated.

2019: The Schedule:

It’s not the easiest schedule out there. Having to go to a suddenly frisky Iowa State, Michigan, wisconsin, and UNL.

Do Mention:

Tight ends, offensive line, getting players to the NFL

Don’t Mention:

NFL talent to wins discrepancy, outside zone to the short side of the field on 3rd down.

Poll

Are you excited for Iowa week?

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