Entering the 2015 season the Iowa Hawkeyes have big questions. Gone are six proven offensive performers, including quarterback Jake Rudock, who'll likely enter the season as Michigan's starting quarterback, running back Mark Weisman, and wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. Also no longer on the roster are five defensive starters, namely All-Big Ten tackle Carl Davis.
Last season, the Hawkeyes struggled to maintain consistency, finishing things off with a threegame losing streak. Entering fall camp, questions abound for head coach Kirk Ferentz and his young staff. Can the Hawkeyes dig deep enough to win at least eight games against a relatively weak schedule, and put themselves back in contention to battle Nebraska and Wisconsin for a shot at the Big Ten West Division title? Or will they allow the late-season skid to erode their confidence to the point of no return?
Iowa’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Beefing Up the D-line
Keep an eye on Drew Ott here. Iowa is not expected to line up this season with the size the Hawkeyes have traditionally exhibited on the defensive line. But what they lack in pure size, they make up for in talent and experience. If Ott and his fellow linemen can stop big plays, it could mean a return to the Hawks’ traditional defensive dominance.
2. Quarterback Development
Junior C.J. Beathard's “the guy.” But will he show the potential the Iowa coaching staff foresaw while running off Rudock and his 4,819 career passing yards to Michigan? There's no question Beathard is a more versatile quarterback. He can make plays with his arm and his legs. How he comes together with the rest of this offense in the upcoming practices will go a long way towards putting him firmly in charge of this team’s 2015 fate.
3. How Will the Tight Ends Be Used?
In recent years the more Hawkeye tight ends had their numbers called in key situations, the more likely those plays were successful. With three returning lettermen from the 2014 squad set to line up there, including senior Jake Duzey, how they figure into Iowa's offensive schemes will be a key to how much the offense improves.
4. Will Experience Matter in Secondary?
No question about it, Iowa will likely have to lean on its secondary given the lack of depth and areas of concern elsewhere. The front line is strong, but has holes. And if opposing offenses find a way to exploit those gaps it could be off to the races. The Hawkeyes simply can't give up the long passing plays they did in 2014 and expect to win big games.
5. Coaching, Coaching, Coaching
Eight of Iowa's 14 assistant coaches have fewer than four years’ worth of experience with the Hawkeyes. Given those four years have been when Iowa has underachieved, it's a now-or-never season for this staff. Will the coaches finally gel with their players and each other to find a winning formula, or will they stay in neutral and coast to the anticipated postseason ruling on their fate? The answer to this question could come Oct. 3 when the Hawkeyes line up against Wisconsin in Madison for their Big Ten opener.
— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a native Iowan currently living in Los Angeles. A University of Iowa graduate, Boleyn is a Hawkeye fanatic and former contributing writing for The Daily Iowan. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.