Hello again Hawkeye friends, both near and far!
At 12:00 noon Thursday, we are 100 days from our favorite time of the year.
Well, it sure has been miserable waiting ever since November 17th for this day to come. For us, watching the bowl season sans Hawkeyes was no fun, for the players, they lost out on two extra weeks of NCAA sanctioned practice. Then we had to suffer through a hoops rebuild, a quick exit for the Hawkeye women from the March Madness, and another win for the Clones in the Cy-Hawk series. Fortunately, the year was not a total loss, as Iowa Wrestling has restored the proper order of the universe.
The 2007 football season had its ups and downs, and the most frustrating part about the season ending loss was the appearance that the team had thought (as did we) that they had turned a corner in the back half of the Big Ten season, and frankly, flat out blew off Western Michigan because of it. Of course, those wins did indicate that things were getting better, so the hope is that this loss was a lot more about the mental condition of the team than their skill level or their execution. As I think it was, I believe that there is optimism as we head into the 2008 season.
Once again, no Buckeyes or Wolverines, and the Badgers, Lions, Clowns, Wildcats, and Boilermakers must all visit Kinnick. There are several, and some critical, holes to be filled, to be sure, but Iowa seems like it could be prepared in many cases to do so.
Why? 31 true and redshirt freshmen took the field for the Hawkeyes last fall. That was the most, by far, of the Ferentz era, and was in fact the most of any Division 1 team in 2007. At times, the Hawks looked like they were playing freshmen all over the place, but as the Big Ten season wore on it looked less like that. And now that those kids can go through the spring and fall practice with all that real game experience, they will be all the more ready to take the field this fall.
Then there are two injured Hawks that will return, and one more that has done his JUCO penance and will again suit up in the Black and Gold in 2008. Those 3 players alone will go a long way to making the offense more explosive.
All offensive discussion begins with the guys up front. It was not always easy to yell at Jake last fall as often he had two defensive linemen in his face as soon as he got back into his drop back. Likewise, the running game never really met our expectations, considering the two seniors we had, and part of that can be laid on their backs and on the line. But this is an area that the Hawks should excel at, and we do have about 9 guys with extensive playing time who are back, so Ferentz should be able to find the right combination to get us somewhere back near the Iowa offensive lines that we expect.
Then there is the return of Shonn Green. And, just in time, as without him, the Hawks had something like 50 returning ground yards. You recall he was the bruising back of 2005 and 2006, but did not carry the ball a whole lot with the upper class running backs in front of him. It looks like he will get to carry the ball a whole lot now. If he is ready, and the line is getting him into the secondary, it will make things much easier on the quarterback. We do have a lot of young guys, including some incoming freshmen, who are going to challenge for playing time. And we have a JUCO transfer, Nate Guillory, who racked up over 2600 rushing yards in his last two seasons. Just remember, our tailback situation can’t ever be any worse than 2004, and we all know how that turned out.
We will need a new fullback. Thank you to Tom Busch for his 4 excellent years of service, out of the spotlight.
In hindsight, Jake’s first year stats have held up pretty well against the likes of some other young Hawkeye QBs. His faults were just magnified as the rest of the offense was not helping him out for much of the time. Too often he was under pressure as soon as the ball was snapped. In many instances he put balls right on the wideouts’ hands, only to see first downs, touchdowns, dropped with nary a blown kiss from the opposing defenses. And when you can’t run the ball, it means the safeties and linebackers don’t have to hug the line and can spend more time double covering your receivers. Sure, he did hold onto the ball too long trying to make the spectacular play, and yup, it was frustrating watching him overshoot screen passes by ten yards as often as he did. But throwing can be practiced, and that sense of when to get rid of the ball can be learned through game action. If the Hawkeye line is solid and the running game is efficient, I think the quarterback play will improve as well.
And boy could it, because all of a sudden, the wide receivers and tight ends are about to be the most focal positions of the Iowa Hawkeyes. When the Hawks can line up DJK on one side, and the now healthy Andy Brodell on the other, with someone like Stross in the slot and a now healthy Moeaki at tight end, the Hawks will have game changers at every receiving position. Now they will now be coached by one of the best wideout coaches in the country, Erik Campbell, formerly at Michigan. Seniors Andy and Tony are almost certain to get the medical redshirt 5th year, so both of them will be here next year too. I don’t think the Hawks should try and run a spread offense, but if the O-line is any good, it sure would be fun to see us come out in a 4 wideout formation to start some series and watch the opposing defenses shift around in a panic.
The offense might need to score a lot of points in the early season, as the defense only returns 5 starters. Gone are both ends, two linebackers, and both corners. Watching the NFL Draft and seeing Hardy (Hoosiers) keep torching our backs for easy touchdowns reminded me of the routine griping heard in the bar over the past couple seasons, so maybe the top freshman in the class last year (Bernstine) will be part of the upgrade at the cornerback position. He did show signs of his great potential last year. Aside from senior Dalton at safety, the backfield is young, with all but one on the spring two-deep a sophomore or freshman.
Clayborn and Ballard will anchor the ends, outside Kroul and King, and the four of them should be very good, if not downright nasty. But behind them there is not much in the way of experience, so their ability to stay healthy will be key.
Behind the line, junior A.J. Edds seems on his way to becoming another decorated Hawkeye linebacker. There are no seniors amongst the others battling for the other two starting spots.
All the kickers are back, and we’ll see if one of the PKs can nail down the kickoff and point kicks, or if the two will split those duties again this year. The sophomore punter, Donahue, does indeed have a big leg, and he will most certainly play a big role in many games over the next 3 seasons.
So that’s the real quick ‘where we are and what we need’ after spring ball. We will learn a lot more as the reports come out of fall practice, and once the game 1 two-deeps are determined.
2008 marks year ten of the Ferentz era. The first three years were the rebuilding. Then, to our great surprise, three years right to the summit. And now three years of .500 ball. If the team can put things together this year, all the youth around it bodes well for another 3+ year return to January bowl games and Big Ten titles.
I’d like to think Ferentz has cleaned things up to the point that the ICPD Arrest Blotter won’t need to show up this year, but then again, the long hot summer is just about here, so we’ll see.
That’s all 100 days away, and as you all know, the older you get, the more time flies, so before you know it, we’ll be right back at the bar, singing the Beer Song!
As a public service, the links below are provided to help kill the time between now and August 30th. When you live in New York you should have no problem finding something to do on the nights and weekends – these are really to help you get from 9-5, as needed.
Now your reminder for the 3rd Annual ‘Big Ten Block Party’. Presented by SixPoint Craft Ales, but hosted by us. That’s ‘us’, Iowa. Cause this party was founded by me with the help from Jeff at SixPoint (himself, a Lion). So I would really like to see more Hawkeyes there than anyone else. That means you! If you need me to send the invite to you, just drop me a note and I’ll get it right out to ya. Or see Matt’s email from Wednesday with the Block Party info and six pack link.
Stay tuned to Matt’s event emails, as we have a boat cruise, the annual Boat Basin Happy Hour in July, (we like boats) and it’s summer, so who knows what else might pop up!
As always, the NYC Hawkeyes will spend their Saturday afternoons at Blondies West.
212 West 79th, Broadway/Amsterdam.
1 Train to 79th Street.
The 2008 Iowa Football Schedule
August 30th Iowa v. Maine TBD
September 6th Iowa v. Florida International TBD
September 13th Iowa v. Iowa State TBD
September 20th Iowa @ Pittsburg TBD
September 27th Iowa v. Northwestern 12:05 PM, ESPN or BTN
October 4th Iowa @ Michigan State 12:05 PM, ESPN or BTN
October 11th Iowa @ Indiana TBD
October 18th Iowa v. Wisconsin TBD
October 25th Bye Week
November 1st Iowa @ Illinois TBD
November 8th Iowa v. Penn State TBD
November 15th Iowa v. Purdue TBD
November 22nd Iowa @ Minnesota 7:05 PM, BTN
The aforementioned, time wasting, LINKS:
#24 Nike Clarke Kinnick, Jr:
College Football News Iowa Preview – more previews show up each day, the Hawks will soon:
Hawk Central Football Page:
Official Iowa Football Page:
2008 Iowa Spring Prospectus: Check out pages 40-43 – info on the freshman Hawkeyes:
Iowa Rivals Football Page:
Hawkeye Nation, AKA Scout.com:
ScotHawk.com. You can kill many hours here with his excellent collection of Hawkeye highlights and compilation videos:
Iowa Fight Song: If you are spotted NOT singing the Iowa Fight Song after a Hawkeye score, you could be kicked out of the bar:
Iowa Alumni Association ‘Virtual Pub’: Can’t find the drink you want in the office vending machine? Check into the Virtual Pub:
The Iowa Alumni Association Home Page: The best years of our life were in Iowa City? You bet. Keep the connection through the Alumni Association:
You can’t wear your NYC Hawks t-shirt every day. Thus exists, the Hawk Shop: