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You can read the entire Iowa Hawkeyes preview in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big Ten magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
Big Ten Legends PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Kirk Ferentz, 100-74 (14 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Greg Davis | DEF. COORDINATOR: Phil Parker
There was plenty of blame to go around for Iowa’s worst season in over a decade, but nothing was more glaring than its woeful passing attack under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis. Nobody declined more than quarterback James Vandenberg, who threw only seven touchdown passes as a senior after throwing 25 in 2011.
Jake Rudock, a third-year sophomore who did not play a down despite being the No. 2 quarterback in 2012, will top the depth chart heading into preseason camp. He is a pro-style quarterback who threw for over 5,000 yards at national power St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High School. Former junior college transfer Cody Sokol and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard are next in line should Rudock struggle.
The inability of the Iowa receivers to get separation and gain yards after the catch persisted throughout last season. Junior Kevonte Martin-Manley led the team with 52 catches last season, but only two resulted in touchdowns. Massive tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz caught 45 passes but scored only one touchdown. Iowa signed five receivers in its 2013 recruiting class, and several will have an opportunity to play right away.
Iowa has the pieces in place to be a force on the ground. Juniors Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock return at running back after rushing for 815 and 513 yards, respectively, last season. Sophomore Jordan Canzeri also is healthy after being redshirted last season.
The running backs will have the luxury of running behind what appears to be yet another rock-solid offensive line led by junior left tackle Brandon Scherff.
Iowa has depth on the defensive line, but is it quality depth? We’ll find out. The inability to pressure the quarterback was a problem that festered throughout last season. The Hawkeyes recorded a Big Ten-low 13 sacks in 2012. Senior Dominic Alvis started all 12 games at end, while junior Louis Trinca-Pasat did the same at defensive tackle. Massive junior Carl Davis has the size (6'5", 315) to disrupt things up front. It’s just a matter of doing it.
Iowa’s three senior starting linebackers have combined for 65 career starts, but none of them has made first or second-team All-Big Ten. Anthony Hitchens, recruited to Iowa as a defensive back, ranked sixth nationally in 2012 with 11.3 tackles per game.
Only one full-time starter has to be replaced in the secondary, but it won’t be easy, considering everything Micah Hyde did for the Iowa defense. Senior free safety Tanner Miller is Iowa’s most experienced defensive back with 23 starts to his credit. Sophomore Jordan Lomax is expected to replace Hyde at one cornerback spot.
Placekicker Mike Meyer earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season after making 17-of-21 field goals. Connor Kornbrath held on to the punting job throughout last season despite averaging only 37.9 yards on 53 attempts. Jordan Cotton’s emergence as a kick returner was one of the few bright spots last season. He led the Big Ten with a 28.2-yard average.
Kirk Ferentz enters his 15th season as the Iowa coach with his once-proud legacy now hanging in the balance. The Hawkeyes closed the 2012 season with six consecutive defeats en route to a 4–8 record, their worst since 2000.
While there are some bright spots — the running game should be solid and there is decent talent on the defense — it’s tough to envision a big turnaround in 2013. With questions at quarterback and receiver, and a much tougher schedule — Ohio State and Wisconsin replace Indiana and Penn State — the Hawkeyes appear headed toward a second straight losing season.
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