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The Casual’s Guide to Iowa Football in 2023: Let’s Meet Some Dudes

Want to know what’s going on with the Hawkeyes, but don’t have enough time to get super into it this year? Here’s some guys to name drop and convince your friends that you bleed black and gold.

I was trying to think of something different to write for today. Normally I would fire off a satirical article titled The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Cade McNamara, or maybe a simple shitpost about Brian Ferentz.

However, I have “promised” to “temporarily” do “factual journalism and opinion” pieces only. Instead, I’m going to do a guide to 2023 Iowa Football for the casual fan. Maybe you’re an incoming freshman from out of state, someone who just moved to Iowa City for work and want to support the local football team, or just a regular dude with otherwise healthy interests who is trying to impress his new ultra fan girlfriend.

Rather than walking you through all the traditions and history of the football program (I’ve already covered that if you’re so interested), we’re going to focus on some main characters and their narratives that you can talk about and to look like a diehard fan. I will be writing about these guys in no particular order except for how they pop into my head, and we’ll go until I get bored and go to sleep.

The Main Guy

Iowa State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

You aren’t going to get very far as an Iowa fan if you don’t stan the punter. Meet Tory Taylor.

Tory came from Australia, and the first football game he ever played in his life was against Purdue in 2020. Since then he’s been one of the best punters in the country, even leading the nation in both punts and punt yardage last year. This is going to sound like an exaggeration to anyone not familiar with Iowa Football, but Tory Taylor has single handedly won perhaps a half dozen games in his career. I would argue that there’s no single person on the team more responsible for getting the Hawkeyes to a bowl last year.

He’s a punt god, and if there’s any justice in college football he’s winning the Ray Guy award in 2023. A final note: since he’s not American he still has to comply with the NCAA’s amateurism rules, meaning he can’t collect a single dime of NIL money. He still sells shirts with his name on them, but the proceeds go to a non-profit called Count the Kicks.

The Coach in Waiting

(Not really, but I’m trying to will it into existence)

Iowa State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

If you want to fit in with the long time fans, get to know LeVar Woods. LeVar played linebacker for both Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz, even scoring a defensive touchdown in Kirk’s first win. He had a spectacular career in college and went on to play in the NFL. After retiring from the league, he returned to Iowa City to work for Kirk Ferentz where he worked his way up to Special Teams Coordinator.

LeVar rules. He developed George Kittle, Noah Fant, and TJ Hockenson as a tight ends coach. He’s probably the best recruiter in the coaching staff, and Iowa has had arguably the best special teams unit in the country since he took over. If I had my way, they’d name him Kirk Ferentz’s successor tomorrow and unload a dump truck full of cash on his front lawn to keep him in Iowa City.

The Quarterback

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Ok I need to talk about Cade McNamara. He’s going to be the main narrative this year. The short version is: For various reasons, Iowa has had one of the worst offenses in the country over the last three years. One of those reasons was that we simply didn’t seem to have a quarterback on the roster that was actually good enough to play Division I football (or at least not in the power-5).

Enter Cade McNamara: Two years ago he was starting for Michigan, beat Ohio State for the first time in a million years and kicked the shit out of Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. So why come to Iowa?

In 2022 Cade lost his starting job to JJ McCarthy. After the season, he entered the transfer portal and, for reasons I’ll never understand, he decided to come play in a Kirk Ferentz offense. Since then the Michigan fans have retconned him in their minds as a terrible quarterback while he quickly became a fan favorite in Iowa City without ever taking a snap. Also he helped recruit a bunch of other transfers that should hopefully make the offense good average again.

Kelvin Bell

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

I have to give a shoutout to defensive line coach Kelvin Bell. Like LeVar, he’s another former player that joined the coaching staff after graduation. Iowa rarely has the biggest defensive line in any given game, they almost never get help from a blitzing linebacker, but they’re consistently one of the best units on the field for Iowa.

Every year Kelvin is handed a bunch of Just Some Dudes (and the occasional Epenesa, to be fair) and molds them into the unheralded workhorses of one of the best scoring defenses in football. Kelvin’s a dawg who deserves massive credit for Iowa’s success, and if you name drop him at Joe’s Place people will know you’re an authentic sicko Iowa Fan.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Iowa at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Including cornerback Cooper DeJean for a number of reasons. First, he might be the best non-punter on the team, so you’ll need to know about him. Second, I think he kind of looks like Adam Banks from The Mighty Ducks.

Two years ago Riley Moss was an interception factory at cornerback. Last year, opposing quarterbacks wisely started throwing away from his side. Unfortunately for them, Coop was the guy on that other side. He finished the year tied with Jack Campbell for the most solo tackles on the team, and recorded 5 interceptions and 3 touchdowns (for those keeping score at home, that’s only 2 fewer touchdowns than our starting quarterback passed for on the year)

The Higginizer

Iowa Spring Football Game Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Jay Higgins is your new starting middle linebacker, and he’s my pick for breakout player of the season. Last year as a rotation player he recorded 40 tackles and a sack. With Jack Campbell having locked down the Mike spot, nobody would have blamed Jay if he hit the portal and went looking for playing time elsewhere. Instead he kept grinding, stepped up whenever he was needed, and is now in his senior year finally taking his place as the centerpiece on the defense.

I’m telling you all, Jay is going to have a monster year.

Jay’s Dad

Roy Higgins III is a massive fan of both Jay and the Hawkeyes. @higginized on Twitter, he loves to talk all things Hawkeyes and generally has great vibes. Even if you don’t like Iowa, Roy also posts his animals a lot (horses, goats, chickens, etc) and it’s just good wholesome content all around.

If you’re lucky, you might even see Jay tailgating in person at Kinnick Stadium. Hawk Hawk Hawk!!!!

Alright, I think you now know enough about Iowa football to convince people that you are and always have been a die hard fan. Now go chat up your Hawkeye loving boss at the watercooler and start working him for that raise you’re going to be asking for later.

I may or may not edit this article to add some more guys throughout the day as they come to me, so check back