Greetings and Salutations to my Hawkeye friends here in the Big Apple, the Twin Cities, and the 2nd City! And to any Hawkeyes around the globe, into whose mailbox this does arrive.
At noon Thursday, we are (say it with me now) – 100 days from Iowa football, 2009 edition! (Eastern, 11:00 am for you Midwest Hawks).
And yes! It’s much more fun writing this update this year compared to last! Nothing like a 9 win season, pre-season rankings, and talking heads saying ‘the Big Ten comes down to Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa’ to get the countdown kicked off with a bang.
Did last season serve notice that we have indeed rebounded, and will now begin another multi-year assault on Big Ten titles? Yes, we did lose some key playmakers from the 2008 squad, but with the guys who are back, the young kids now getting their starting chance, and some often-injured Hawks who seem to finally be healthy, this team is ready for the spotlight. There is enough there to make much more levelheaded Hawkeyes (than me), be downright giddy with anticipation.
Why? We won 9 games last year, and there is good reason to think that this team should be better. It beings with the offense. Clearly, having a solid #1 QB all spring and summer will allow the 1st team to develop a nice rhythm. If the offense can start quickly right out of the gate, they will have 3 games to fine tune before the Big Ten opens with the road test at Happy Valley.
As always, your offense begins and ends with the big uglies up front. Bulaga, Vandervelde, Koeppel at center (maybe the next Ferentz, James), Kumpel/Doering, and 6’7” senior Calloway on the right side. And it seems that finally, senior Dace Richardson has moved past his knee problems that looked to force him from football for good. He could end up in the mix if things go well during the summer camp. What we have is size, depth, and at least a few guys who can play either guard or tackle. The Iowa coaches have all summer to tinker. If healthy, this group could be on the short list for ‘best O lines’ in 2009.
Both fullbacks return – Morse, a junior, Leppart, a sophomore. Carries? Not likely, none last year. But a critical piece of the Iowa attack, none the less.
Remember that last year, we knew Shonn was coming back, but we had no idea what we were going to get out of him. Now, we have some idea what we are going to get out of Hampton. 5.1 per, his touches last year; while he is not likely to bounce off hit after hit like Greene, his speed means once he gets into the secondary, he will outrun you. A hamstring limited his spring ball duty, but he should be good to go come September. Just a sophomore, big things are ahead. But he will not be alone behind the QB. Junior O’Meara returns, not blessed with the best talent, he just gives 110% on every play. Then redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson, whom we have waited a year to see, is the real deal. And then, true freshman Brandon Wegher. The unquestioned stud of the freshman class, he put together a senior season at SC Hellan last fall that landed him on the EA Sports 2nd team All American list. How? Oh, a mere 3,238 on 362 carries (8.9 per), with 54 touchdowns. Clocked as fast as 4.28, he is explosive. (He also did kicking, and picked off 9 passes at DB in high school, but he’ll just run for us). So the talent is there, if the line stays healthy, I think it certain the Hawkeyes will outgain the 2,453 ground yards we racked up last year. In a couple seasons, it would be not out of the possibility for the Hawks to have twin 1000 yard rushers. Remember the Gophers a few years back. But we will have a passing game too, so we’ll be much better than they were. KOK – let’s see it…WISHBONE!
Keep in mind that tailback is one position that a freshman can make the biggest splash. Our ground game will be effective, and a QBs best friend is a solid running game. Stanzi is the unquestioned starter this year, but behind him, redshirt freshman Vandenberg and Wienke wait. They have two years to sit behind Ricky, but both of them are solid QBs (more raw talent than Stanzi, even), so the offense should not suffer much should Ricky go down. But it will be important to get these youngsters snaps in the early season, so they are ready if needed when the going gets tough later on.
Stanzi did make the expected progress in the spring, so now we wait and see just what he is capable of doing with the solid #1 job. Let’s not forget, the Hawks were just 4 plays from being 12-0 last year, so a confidant returning QB could be just the ticket to finishing those games in our favor this fall.
The Iowa wideouts now are in year 2 of Campbell’s tutelage. Here we had the most buzz in spring ball. Sophomore QB Marvin McNutt took a look at the depth chart, and realized his chances at signal calling were dim, at best. At 6’4” and quick (former spread option QB), he made the switch to receiver, and impressed the coaches enough to find himself on the two-deep going into the fall. He is expected to get a lot of early snaps to see just what he can do. He is listed behind senior Stross, also at 6’4”, Trey is turning into the red zone go to guy with his leaping ability. On the other side, juniors Sandeman and DJK - will DJK take the next step this season? The one that has him making the full effort on every play, and being a serious threat beyond the 15 yard maker? If so, he could have very special junior and senior seasons, indeed. If the Iowa running game is churning out the yards, the Iowa wideouts will reap the benefits.
As will the tight ends, and I ask for nothing more than a full season to see what senior Tony Moeaki can do. Behind him, junior Reisner was a very solid pass catching and blocking tight end in 2008. With opposing defenses selling out to stop our rushing attack, these two should find lots of open spaces in the middle of the field. Look for the Iowa passing game to come together much earlier than it did last year.
All of Iowa’s offense will benefit from one other change. As you may have heard, the green grass of Kinnick has given way to artificial turf. There was no choice, the field had to be torn up this year, as the drainage system below it was faulty and had to be replaced. After considering the cost of trying to keep green fluffy grass in Iowa in October and November, it was decided to go with the latest generation of FieldTurf. It is nothing like the old Astroturf (i.e. green painted cement), so it is much better for the players’ health. I have had the chance to dive on such a field, and it feels not bad at all, and I was not in pads at the time. And when you consider that the focus of our offense is about to be super-fast young tailbacks, you want the fastest possible track from them to move on. Short of an actual track, this is it. Here is a picture of what it is going to look like – and nope, I don’t like the mint green striping, I’m hoping it does not look like that once it bakes in the Iowa summer!
Both kickers are back, and as expected, punter Donahue progressed enough last year to be a Ray Guy Award semi-finalist, look for him to make the move up to the finals this season. I suppose we will continue to use the two-kicker rotation, let’s hope both guys get their shots to be heroes so there is no ill will on the sidelines. Course, I’d like to think we’ll put teams away and won’t need any last second field goals…
The defense. The one constant that we have been able to hang our hat on over the past several seasons. No reason to think that will be any different this year. Yes, our stalwarts in the middle have moved on. But both our junior ends are back, Clayborn and Ballard. Junior Karl Klug and Sophomore Make Daniels get the envious position of trying to replace the tackles, but with them are Geary, Binns, Bigach, and Hundertmark. There is a possibility that one of the ends could move inside if needed, but I think Norm will have the new guys ready in the middle.
The best news is that everyone behind the line is back. Well, not corner Fletcher, but junior Bernstine replaces him, so there should be no drop off in the secondary. The ball hawking secondary, that is, we should again challenge for the NCAA interception lead this year. And next – the other corner Spievey is a junior, and strong safety Sash is just a sophomore, with free safety Greenwood, a junior.
All the linebackers are back, senior Edds in the outside, senior Angerer in the middle, and junior Hunter on the weakside. Backed up by Nielsen, Coleman and Tarpinian, none of whom are seniors, our linebackers are set for the future as well.
It ads up to another stellar season for the Hawkeye defense, and look for them to once again, give us a shot at winning every game.
Which, if you look at the schedule below, might seem like quite an achievement. 12 games, 12 weeks; road tests at the Valley, the Horseshoe, back-to-back visits to Camp Randall and East Lansing. We lose Illinois and Purdue and get back the Wolverines and Buckeyes. It is a schedule worthy of a January 1st – or later – bowl game.
Iowa can work on tweaking the offense during the first three weeks, I suppose the Arizona game might be a bit interesting, but they are not going to stay with us in Kinnick. Then, the Big Ten opens with a bang.
Yes, the Nittany Lions will be out for blood, their gridiron loss to Iowa kept them out of the title game, a few months later their last day of regular season loss to us kept them out of the March Madness. It’s a night game, the Valley will be buzzing, and the tailgaters will have a few extra hours to get ready. Unfortunately for them, they have a lot of rebuilding to do on both sides of the line, and their pre-season games of Akron, Syracuse and Temple, won’t exactly measure up to what the Hawkeyes are going to throw at them. And hey, it’s Penn State, we always beat them!
Then, we get a week ‘off’ to recover. You might recall the Red Wolves from a while back. They were the team that the Missouri Paper Tigers choose to play instead of the 11-2 (2002) Hawkeyes. Once Missouri dropped two games with us to play the Wolves, we cancelled the remaining two, and to this day I wish we would end up in a bowl game (not the Alamo, so it would have to be BCS) against them.
Then the Wolverines come to Kinnick for a night game. Know this, they will be better, but I don’t think they will be far enough along to be able to move the ball consistently on our defense. This year.
Then the visits to WI and MI loom. I can’t get a feeling on these yet, but like I said before, the defense will keep us in them.
Home then for the Hoosiers and Wildcats. I suppose Northwestern will make a game of it, but I think the Hawks will ready to put this curse behind us, finally (the Matt playing the Beer Song curse).
And then the Horseshoe. Safe to say that if we are both ranked, it will also be a night game. Might it be THE game to decide the Big Ten title? We shall see.
Last but not least, we see if the Gophers can score on us in Kinnick. Maybe, but Floyd ain’t going north this year, he does not want to hang out in an open air stadium in Minneapolis.
So what do we get? Well, if the talking heads think the Big Ten is still in a down cycle, (and why not, after our bowl record last year), maybe those road games in the middle won’t be all that scary. Illinois is a dark horse and we don’t play them. Did the 4 gut-wrenching losses last year teach us anything? I would think so. And I would think that for the reasons detailed above, this team could make two or three of those plays that we needed then. What does it add up to? Well, if we are going to win the Big Ten, we can do worse than 7-1. We have no business losing any non-conference games so that would make us 11-1. Maybe we come up a game short in the title hunt, so now we are 10-2. We were 8-4 last year, does experience count for just 2 more wins? Yes!
Of course, we have to get through the long, hot summer, which can at times cause young men to make bad decisions. So let’s hope the older Hawks rein in the younger ones, and everyone gets to late July healthy, eligible, and ready to go. Take note of the link below to the spring prospectus pages that detail the new Hawkeye freshmen. Many of them were also exceptional students in high school. That should carry on through their Iowa City years.
All right, so there’s where I think the Hawks stand as we head into the summer. Someone has got to give the 02-04 Hawkeyes a run at their 31 wins in 3 seasons. Now just might be the time to get started!
And now, a couple reminders for you.
1st, ticket sales for the Penn State game are lagging a bit compared to our previous trips. Let me state the benefits of such a trip this year:
1. 8:00 kickoff, bus not leaving NYC at 5:00 am.
2. Food this year from Clem’s BBQ, who was our supplier on our 1st trip to Happy Valley. ‘Yummy’ does not do it justice.
3. 8:00 kickoff, meaning a night game. If you have not been to a night game between two ranked Big Ten teams, well, yes, it’s a bit crazy, and the buzz in the air is like nothing you can feel from a noon kickoff.
4. By crazy, I mean fun; the Penn State fans are actually very good and decent people. And can’t really insult us, with their feeble record against the Hawks.
Yes, we know things are difficult right now, but this is one of those once every 24 month events. And if it kicks off a run to a Big Ten title, well, you would sure like to see it if you can! See Matt’s email for the info, we hope you can join us!
Then a bit closer to home, my 4th annual Big Ten Block Party is June 13th. As you saw from the invite, the 1st 100 peeps to sign up get free food! Right there, that’s 4 bucks you could apply to your Penn State ticket! J
Ok! As of noon Thursday, you have 2,400 hours you have to kill, somehow, someway. The links below should help; if you come across any other interesting Hawkeye links, please send them my way, and we will send them to the group in our regular club updates!
Enjoy the summer my Hawkeye friends!!!
Once again, the NYC Hawkeyes will spend their Saturday afternoons/nights at Blondies West.
212 West 79th, Broadway/Amsterdam.
1 Train to 79th Street.
The 2009 Iowa Football Schedule (times Eastern)
September 5th Iowa v. Northern Iowa Panthers 12-3 in 2008, TBD
September 12th Iowa @ Iowa State Cyclones 2-10, TBD
September 19th Iowa v. Arizona Wildcats 8-5, TBD
September 26th Iowa @ Penn State Nittany Lions 11-2, 8:00 PM, ABC/ESPN
October 3rd Iowa v. Arkansas State Red Wolves 6-6, TBD
October 10th Iowa v. Michigan Wolverines 3-9, 8:00 PM, ABC/ESPN
October 17th Iowa @ Wisconsin Badgers 7-6, TBA
October 24th Iowa @ Michigan State 9-4, 7:00 PM, Big Ten Network
October 31st Iowa v. Indiana Hoosiers 3-9, TBD
November 7th Iowa v. Northwestern Wildcats 9-4, TBD
November 14th Iowa @ Ohio State Buckeyes 10-3, TBD
November 21st Iowa v. Minnesota Golden Gophers 7-6, TBD
Outback Bowl 1/1/10 11:00 AM, ESPN
Capital One Bowl 1/1/10, 1:00 PM, ABC
Rose Bowl 1/1/10, 5:00 PM, ABC
Sugar Bowl 1/1/10, 8:30 PM, FOX
Fiesta Bowl 1/4/10, 8:00 PM, FOX
Orange Bowl 1/5/10, 8:00 PM, FOX
BCS Title Game 1/7/10, 8:00 PM, ABC
#24 Nike Clarke Kinnick, Jr:
College Football News Iowa Preview – ranked preseason, your previews show up first:
Hawk Central Football Page:
Official Iowa Football Page:
2009 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: