Kirk Ferentz will be 67 when the season starts, and while some members of his staff have recently retired or stepped away from coaching, things are business as usual for Ferentz. He just recently agreed to a new contract extension that runs through the 2029 season, and he already is the longest-tenured head coach in college football as he enters his 24th season in Iowa City.
It also could be argued that Ferentz is getting better with age, with Iowa coming off a season in which it won the Big Ten West Division for the second time and finished 10–4 overall. Iowa has won 10 games in two of the last three seasons and has a 26–9 record since 2019.
However, some will say that Iowa won 10 games last season despite its sputtering offense, which ranked at or near the bottom of the Big Ten in numerous statistical categories. Iowa also closed last season with back-to-losses, getting crushed by Michigan 42–3 in the Big Ten Championship Game and losing 20–17 to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.
The offense has struggled during most of Brian Ferentz's time as offensive coordinator, dating back to 2017. Iowa hasn't had a first-team All-Big Ten quarterback since Drew Tate in 2004, and not since the 2015 season has an Iowa quarterback completed at least 60 percent of his passes (C.J. Beathard, 61.6 percent).
Fans have been left to wonder how good Iowa could be if the offense was simply average. Defense and special teams have been rock-solid, and that should be the case again.
Previewing Iowa's Offense for 2022
You name it and Iowa probably struggled to do it on offense last season. The Hawkeyes averaged just 123.6 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. And that was with 1,000-yard rusher Tyler Goodson, who skipped his senior season to enter the 2022 NFL Draft.
Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams both ran hard and were effective in the Citrus Bowl, and there will also be three other running backs on scholarship, including two incoming freshmen. So, there are plenty of candidates to replace Goodson.
Quarterback is a major concern — at least among the fans — as senior Spencer Petras completed only 57.3 percent of his passes last season and threw almost as many interceptions (nine) as touchdown passes (10). Junior Alex Padilla started three games when Petras was injured, but the results were mixed, as Padilla completed 49.1 percent of his passes and didn't play in the Citrus Bowl.
The offensive line was average at best last season with All-America center Tyler Linderbaum leading the way, but he has since left for the NFL, so it, too, is a concern.
The biggest strength on offense might be the pass-catchers, led by senior tight end Sam LaPorta, who paced Iowa with 670 receiving yards and 53 catches last season.
At wideout, Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV both played significant roles as true freshmen last season, and both should have even bigger roles this season.
Previewing Iowa's Defense for 2022
Longtime defensive coordinator Phil Parker has built some great defenses over the years, and this could be one of his best. Three starters return on the defensive line, along with the top three linebackers, including senior middle linebacker Jack Campbell, who led the nation with 143 tackles last season.
Dane Belton's impact will be missed in the secondary, but Parker has a knack for developing star defensive backs. Iowa led the nation with a school-record 25 interceptions last season, with 11 players picking off at least one pass.
Belton is one of three starters in the secondary from last season who have to be replaced, the others being cornerback Matt Hankins and free safety Jack Koerner. But Iowa also has one of the most experienced cornerbacks in the nation returning in fifth-year senior Riley Moss, who has started 27 games and appeared in 41. Moss was named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year last season despite missing three games with a left knee injury.
Senior strong safety Kaevon Merriweather also has played extensively over the past two seasons, while junior cornerback Jermari Harris came on strong at the end of last season.
Related: Big Ten Football 2022 Predictions
Previewing Iowa's Specialists for 2022
First, the good news: Tory Taylor returns as one of the Big Ten's top punters. Taylor averaged 46.1 yards on 80 punts last season. His 80 punts were the most amongst all Big Ten punters. He also had 27 punts that traveled at least 50 yards and 39 that were downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
The bad news is that Iowa has to replace kicker Caleb Shudak. Aaron Blom, Lucas Amaya and preferred walk-on Drew Stevens were all battling for the No. 1 spot in spring practice. Also, standout returner Charlie Jones entered the transfer portal after spring practice and landed at Purdue. Jones was named the Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year last season after averaging 25.4 yards on 25 kick returns and 7.7 yards on 37 punt returns.
For over two decades, Iowa has sustained a level of success under Ferentz in which winning records and bowl games are expected. The 2022 season should be more of the same, with defense and special teams leading the way to another winning record and bowl appearance.
The question is whether the offense will do its part, or if it will prevent Iowa from climbing to the next level.