Official Husker Locker Blog
2011 Jun 04
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Blackshirts vs. The Big 10 - Part 4
Iowa Hawkeyes: Last year was such an odd season for the folks in Iowa City. There was the unpleasant visit to Tucson, the heartbreaking losses against Wisconsin and Ohio State and a 1-3 record during the last four games. What’s even worse were the health scares that put numerous players in the hospital. On the other hand, there was the thumping that the Hawkeyes gave to Iowa State, the way that Iowa just demolished Michigan State and the Insight Bowl comeback against Missouri.
Kirk Ferentz returns for his 13th season as Head Coach making him second in tenure at Iowa only to Hayden Fry. He’s also the highest paid coach in the conference. Ferentz hasn't been the most successful or beloved Hawkeyes coach, but he’s always seemed to do just enough to keep his job. Pro teams and other schools have stopped calling for the time being and Ferentz needs to utilize the quiet time to rebuild his team into Big Ten contenders.
Offensively, Iowa loses not only their biggest leader in quarterback Ricky Stanzi, but also both starting guards. James Vandenberg isn’t new to the starting role as he started for two games in 2009 while Stanzi recovered from a broken ankle. He almost led an upset of Ohio State before defeating Minnesota the next week.
Running back Marcus Coker started the last five games for the Hawkeyes in 2010 whose running back depth was nearly eliminated after losing three starters due to a combination of injuries and off the field issues. Wide receiver Marvin McNutt is a first team All-Big Ten selection and deservedly so. After barely a year at the position, he led the school in receptions and yardage in 2010 and could very well be the best receiver that Iowa's ever seen by the end of his career.
Defensively, there was no better team last year in the Big Ten. Giving up only 17 points per game, the Norm Parker-led defense was the best in the conference in pass defense and pass efficiency last year. Iowa’s been no worse than No. 12 in FBS scoring defense the last four seasons. Unfortunately, the Iowa defense did lose quite a bit of depth over the offseason.
Gone are defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard. Linebackers Jeremiha Hunter and Troy Johnson will be absent as will be safeties Tyler Sash and Brent Greenwood. Iowa does return preseason All-Big Ten cornerback Shaun Prater and safety Micah Hyde. This squad will be very green, especially up front
The Hawkeyes have their work cut out for them this year. Vandenberg doesn't come off as being a great passer. During their spring game, the balls that he threw seemed to float pretty hard which led to his two interceptions that day. This team will have to stay on the ground as they try to coach Vandenberg into a true blue starter that can make all of the necessary throws. It's expected for Iowa's defense to drop off somewhat because of all the talent that they lost to the NFL.
Ferentz is probably on one of the hotter seats in the conference given his pay rate and how he didn't finish well last year with all of the talent that he had returning. However, while there is pressure to win, those in Iowa City realize that there will be growing pains this year and will wait until next season for a good run at the Big Ten title.
Since Iowa will be Nebraska’s new post-Thanksgiving rival, there will likely be something on the line when these two teams play in Lincoln. Iowa is good enough to worry about, but not enough to make you panic. If the Nebraska offense can score on the Hawkeyes regularly, it shouldn't be that much of a contest.
Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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