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Down two tight ends, where does Iowa’s offense turn next? // B1G 2019: Iowa Potluck #2

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TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant are gone, and we’re about to learn just how good Nate Stanley is.

Outback Bowl - Mississippi State v Iowa
This is mostly where Iowa’s offense turns next. That is not surprising to you.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Question #1: LET’S CLOG SOME ARTERIES

We got a little heavy—philosophically speaking—yesterday. Sorry about that. Today, let’s bring it back to OTE speed by getting physically-heavy: With a HOT. BEEF. SUNDAE.

Voted as the fourth-most iconic food from the Iowa State Fair, after the seemingly ubiquitous state fair food, the Corn Dog, and the very-Iowa but oft-discussed pork chop on a stick, the beef sundae features “two scoops of hand-mashed, homestyle potatoes surrounded by slow-roasted, fork-tender roast beef topped with savory beef gravy, a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese and finished with a sweet red cherry tomato on top.”

So we ask, writers: (1) Wouldja? (2) What would your State Fair use to spice up this sundae?

WSR: Absolutely! I would devour 2-3 of those and not even feel shame. And you know what Minnesota would do to make it even better? Give it an outer breading, deep fry it, and serve it on a stick. Because that is what we do.

Andrew: Well of course, have to do something to replace all those electrolytes from walking around outside in the summer, sweating and all. I’ve never cared much for Michigan’s State Fair - they may as well have just cancelled it when they moved it out of the old grounds in Detroit - but I’d expect its twist on fair food would be to turn everything into a coney, which is to say dump a shitton of chili and onions on top of it. There are worse things, I guess.

Candystripes: You can keep the cheese and tomato, give me all of the roast beef, gravy, and potatoes that you can fit into a bowl and keep them coming.

Boilerman: What Candy said. That’s basically a Beef Manhattan sans the piece of bread on the bottom.

Beez: I would 100% eat this open-faced roast beef sandwich in a bowl, although the cherry tomato is frankly kind of odd. This looks like a superior version of those awesome KFC bowls that were popular a while back.

BRT: I probably would not--that’s just too much food. I’m not disgusted by the concept though, and I’d definitely steal a bite or two off it if someone I was with had one. And I’m from Nebraska, so we wouldn’t spice up anything, come on.

Creighton: I’m pretty adventurous food-wise, but honestly I’d never touch that yobagoya monstrosity.

I’m not a fan of throwing beef on things for the hell of it. That’s chicken’s job. Beef should be prepared carefully and meticulously, and then certainly not watered down with gravy (the most unappetizing of the food sauces, non-mayonnaise category) and Hy-Vee brand shredded mild cheddar. If I were running the Iowa State Fair I’d make a meat sundae out of pork loin nuggets (Busch Light battered, of course), corn (duh), muenster cheese (idk we have Germans here), and Oreo fluff. Shut up, you’d eat that.

BrianB2: I would actively not trust someone who wouldn’t eat that, giving Creighton a pretty aggressive side-eye right now ...although I do really appreciate a good League reference. In Maryland we’d obviously ruin it with Old Bay, right?

Thumpasaurus: Well that’s just divine. Give me two, and another to go. Since Andrew already covered what would happen in the Detroit metro, I’ll vouch for Urbana, which would almost certainly add sweet corn to it. Adding corn to things is highly underrated.

MNW: I would scoop off the sour cream and cherry tomato (yuck, health food), then proceed to eat that beef, potatoes, gravy, and cheese concoction like it was going out of style.

WSR has pretty accurately summed up what the Minnesota State Fair would do (how do we NOT yet have deep-fried beef commercial on a stick?!), but I am also intrigued by Andrew’s idea of turning it into a coney. At the very least, grilled onions would be excellent on this. Otherwise just a little salt and pepper to spice it up, thanks.

Poll

How would you improve the HOT BEEF SUNDAE?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    You DARE to improve on perfection?
    (28 votes)
  • 13%
    Bread it, fry it, put it on a stick.
    (16 votes)
  • 3%
    Make it a coney.
    (4 votes)
  • 13%
    Strip off the cheese, cream, and tomato.
    (16 votes)
  • 4%
    By stealing a couple bites from my friend.
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    With pork loin nuggets, corn, and...Oreo fluff? YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR, CREIGHTON.
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Old Bay, as I am a Marylander.
    (2 votes)
  • 40%
    Add sweet corn.
    (49 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now

Question #2: Life After (Wasted) Tight Ends

Football: T.J. Hockenson at #8 to the Detroit Lions. Noah Fant at #20 to the Denver Broncos. That’s a helluva NFL Draft.

But what does Iowa have left on offense in their wake? In our preview of the best tight ends in the Big Ten, we gave requisite love to new Iowa starting TE, junior Shaun Beyer--and surely senior Drew Cook will make some noise, too. QB Nate Stanley—don’t call him Nathan—returns for his senior year well below the radar but possibly the best QB in the West, and mountain-moving bookends Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs return at LT and RT, respectively.

But Iowa’s running backs, while possibly deep (if you believe in Mehki Sargent, Ivory Kelly-Martin, and Toren Young are RBs ready to thrive--and you would be forgiven for your skepticism, as I believe at least one of them has just fumbled again), were an enigmatic bunch in 2018: Sub-4 yards per carry in three straight losses to Penn State, Purdue, and Northwestern, then 5.5 ypc or better in wins over Illinois and Nebraska. (Incidentally, still no idea how Iowa beat Mississippi State in the bowl game.)

And so, writers: More of the same for Iowa’s offense in 2019? Any reason to believe the Hawkeyes will pull it together with new TEs, or will the not-worthy-of-mention WRs (Ihmir Smith-Marsette, for SEO purposes), green TEs, and running-back-by-committee nonsense evoke the futility of 2012 Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock?

Bonus: What’s the last successful position group your school has had in one NFL Draft?

WSR: Have I mentioned that I love Brian Ferentz? Because I do. He’s a useless idiot. God bless him, he’s survived a couple games against the Gophers because their defense did some work. But yeah. Idiot. And now that they don’t have A PAIR OF FIRST ROUND TEs, I think we can all get ready to point and laugh this fall. The best part is that Kirk will find all of the field goals that they’re forced to kick some sort of symbol of love.

The last position group that the Gophers put into the NFL draft was DB, although there was far more success with their play in the league than their draft position. Between 2014-2017, Jay Sawvel and Tracy Claeys sent Brock Vereen (4th round), Cedric Thompson (5th round) Eric Murray (4th round), and Jalen Myrick (7th round) along with undrafted Briean Boddy-Calhoun whose played in 43 games with the Browns since they picked him up in 2016. Is that a great record? No. But what from the Brewster/Kill era screams NFL about the Gophers other than the fact that it was regularly horrible to watch?

Andrew: It’s fair to assume the next dude at TE, Shaun Beyer I believe, will contribute some, but just because Iowa’s TEs are usually good doesn’t mean they’ll get even half the impact they had last year - that was a special combo. If they have the sense to keep using Mekhi Sergent as their lead back the way they did down the stretch (and yes, I get that they ended the year with Illinois and Nebraska), maybe a more efficient run game will make it less necessary for bailouts by the pass-catchers, which would be helpful because they ain’t contributing the same way next year, they just aren’t.

BRT: Oooo, please let it be the futility option! Is Fant the one that the Ferentzi just kept “forgetting” about for stretches last season even though he was really good? Anyway, it’s nice he’s gone, and I hope that the Father-Son duo in charge find ways to forget about whoever their new best playmaker is in multiple games this season.

Boilerman: Iowa has offensive options outside of TE? Dallas Clark still has a piece of my heart he ripped out in 2002. I’m praying for the futility option.

When it comes to Purdue, people want to talk about the Cradle of QBs but it’s been the Defensive Ends that been carrying the bag of late.

Creighton: The tight ends won’t replace Hockenson and Fant, but I think they’ll still be some of the best in the Big Ten. I’m expecting big things out of Shaun Beyer, and Drew Cook was a high school QB (and the son of a Hayden Fry tight end). If there’s one thing Kirk Ferentz loves almost as much as punting and high school wrestlers, it’s high school QBs.

Having said that, this is still a Ferentz offense. Iowa is only going to be as good on offense as they are at running the ball. It’s not going to look different or put up substantially better numbers over previous years, but if they’re more efficient at scoring and controlling the clock they’re going to do fine.

Thumpasaurus: They’d better be good, because they’re going to get a lot of work no matter how good they are. You could more easily convince me that Illinois has a winning season this year than that Iowa tries to use their receivers more.

Illinois had DT Akeem Spence and DE Michael Buchanan drafted in 2013, and prior to that had OLB’s Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey taken in 2011. 1995 saw two All-B1G linebackers drafted from Illinois in John Holocek and Butkus award winner Dana Howard.

My research also showed a 1996 draft where Illinois had defenders taken at #2 and #3 overall, with 1995’s Butkus winner Kevin Hardy and legendary DE Simeon Rice going at those spots. Maybe if Pat Fitzgerald had won the Butkus in 1995, Hardy would be a perennial winner as the Illinois head coach and Fitzy would own a nightclub in South Beach.

...Who else has had a kicker drafted? Shoutout to my boi Neil Rackers

MNW: I guess Northwestern had John Kidd drafted as a punter in like 1984! That’s exciting! Otherwise I’m sure there were a couple at the same position drafted back in like 1965 or something, but there haven’t even been three Wildcats in the same draft since Corey Wootton, Mike Kafka, and Sherrick McManis all went in 2010. Who woulda thought McManis would be the one still playing?

Anyway, I evoked the Weisman-Bullock combination because...well, Iowa, I’ve got my concerns. Now, take with a heap of salt the fact that I really only remember Sargent and Young playing dropsie in the last 6 minutes of NU-Iowa last year, but outside of the things Iowa always does, is there anything here to scare me? Reader, there is not. This is a 6-6 offense. Any better, and Stanley will be deservedly chosen in the 3rd Round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Stew: The TEs will obviously take a step back, but still be quite good. The receivers will be better, but still not great. The running backs will be better, but it won’t matter that much unless they throw some constraint and gap plays in to keep defenses honest against cheating to the outside zone. When Brian was only the run game coordinator in 2015-2016, he actually implemented these concepts, and what do you know, Iowa’s running game was much better. Now that he’s the full OC, though, it’s back to all zone, all the time, and once again, Iowa’s running game is also terrible. Akrum Wadley was certainly able to help, but this group of runningbacks isn’t nearly as bad as that Weisman/Bullock combo. This is a scheme issue.

Beez: Iowa’s offense will be fine, and not like “Oh I’m not worried about the losses they’ll be easily replaced” fine, I mean middle of the B1G fine. Glad they have some dudes to plug in for perpetually overrated QB Nathaniel Stanley to throw toward, but only actual good teams replace first-round draft talent with nearly as good players, and Iowa is nothing close to an actual good team.

Bonus: It’s gotta be O Line, right? Does Wisconsin put players other than O Line and Watts and sometimes a TE into the league?

Poll

How does the Iowa offense finish up in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Lookit that o-line! Nate Stanley will be a pro! This is a top-tier offense, sir.
    (24 votes)
  • 37%
    Top-half, brutally-efficient, prone to let you down at the worst moments.
    (71 votes)
  • 41%
    Mediocrity defined.
    (77 votes)
  • 7%
    A step back, bottom-half in the conference.
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    Shades of 2012.
    (1 vote)
187 votes total Vote Now