Iowa sought to improve their offense through the portal this year, starting by adding the quarterback who beat them in the 2021 B1G Conference Championship Game, Cade McNamera. They’ve tried to build around him by adding receivers and offensive linemen. Here’s what The Hawkeyes will look like in 2023.
Cade McNamera is going to be the starter next year, and his arrival coincides with lots of turnover in the quarterbacks room. Spencer Petras has departed (technically he’s still around, but his playing days are over). Two of his backups, Alex Padilla and Carson May, have transferred. That leaves Joe Labas as the only returning quarterback on the roster.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting Joe’s turn under center, and while they were briefly teased with that future when he started the Music City Bowl last year, his arrival has been (at the very least) delayed yet again.
Joe will be competing with wisconsin transfer Deacon Hill for the backup spot. With a proven Big Ten starter, a player who’s been in Ferentz’s Rube Goldberg machine offense for years and knows it well, and a highly touted backup, Iowa will enjoy the most depth they’ve had at quarterback for years.
Iowa returns two players that had more than 20 carries last year, Kaleb Johnson and Leshon Williams.
Kaleb will be the presumed starter. He was the most explosive member of a three headed monster running back situation last year, rushing for 779 yards and 6 touchdowns on 151 carries.
Leshon Williams and Jaziun Patterson are likely to split the rotation handoffs. Neither one was able to gain much traction behind some extremely poor run blocking last year, but hopefully an improved offensive line will help them find their groove in 2023.
The offensive line was arguably the biggest liability of last year’s team and, like the quarterback room, Iowa hit the portal to try and shore things up. Rusty Feth and Daijon Parker joined the team as grad transfers and will be looking to earn a very much up for grabs starting role.
From left to right, the starting OL in spring was Mason Richman, Connor Colby, Logan Jones, Beau Stevens, Nick DeJong. If Feth and Parker win the starting job (like I think they will) they will most likely slot in at left guard and right tackle, respectively.
Iowa lost three receivers from last year (two to the portal and one to baseball), but once again added some firepower through the portal.
Nico Ragaini will return for his COVID year. So does the next most experienced receiver, Diante Vines, who only had 10 receptions last year but earned a lot of his playing time towards the end of the season. OSU transfer Kaleb Brown will look to make an impact right away, and speedy Charleston Southern transfer Seth Anderson is in the mix now as well.
After those four, Iowa returns a whopping 2 combined receptions from the rest of the receivers on the roster.
The only position on the offense that doesn’t have any bit of uncertainty around it. The tight end room will be absolutely stacked, like it usually is in Iowa City.
Luke Lachey played behind Sam LaPorta last year, and quietly racked up 400 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 28 receptions. He was poised for a breakout year even before adding Cade McNamera.
Opposite Lachey is Michigan transfer Erick All. These guys are two proven weapons playing in an offense designed around having them be the biggest playmakers, so I imagine they’ll be on the field at the same a lot together.
Cael Vanderbrush, Addison Ostrenga, and Steven Stilianos are all in the running for the 3rd TE spot.
In contrast to Iowa’s offense, the defense will not have a lot of new names. Most of the new starters were contributors last year, and it really exemplifies the Phil Parker next man in style of reloading.
Deontae Craig and Joe Evans are the presumed starters at the end, with Noah Shannon and Logan Lee returning inside. This group typically sees a lot of rotation, so expect to see a lot of snaps going to Max Llewellyn, Ethan Hurkett, Yahya Black, and Aaron Graves this year as well.
With the departure of Jack Campbell, Senior Jay Higgins will finally move into a starting role on this defense after waiting patiently for his chance and being a solid contributor whenever his name was called. On the weakside he’ll have Virginia Transfer Nick Jackson, and opposite him you can expect to see either Karson Sharar or Kyler Fisher. Senior Sebastian Castro is expected to soak up most of the snaps at CASH this year.
Once again, Phil Parker’s secondary is primed to be the best unit on the team. Cooper DeJean and Jermari Harris are locks for the starting cornerbacks, with TJ Hall, Brenden Deasfernandes, and Deshaun Lee backing them up. Xavier Nwankpa and Quinn Schulte return at strong and free safety, respectively. I think most of these positions are pretty fleshed out, but DeJean and Nwankpa are capable of moving around to different positions so if there are some injuries to the secondary you may see Phil shuffling things around to make sure he simply has his best 4 players out there.
Worry not, Hawk fans. Tory Taylor and Drew Stevens are both back. Special teams are in good hands.