August 31, 2017

The Eternal Season - Sedge's 2017 Hawkeye Football Game Notes. Week 1: Wyoming @ Iowa

Sedge's Hawkeye Football Game Notes - 2017 Edition
Iowa’s Record: 0-0, 0-0 Big Ten, 0-0 B1G West 
Iowa’s Rankings:
Coaches: 5 votes
College Football Playoff:
*Times Eastern

September 2nd, v. Wyoming, 12:00 pm, BTN
September 11th, @ Iowa State, 12:00 pm, ESPN/ESPN2
September 16th, v. North Texas, 3:30 pm, ESPN2
September 23rd, v. Penn State, TBD
September 30th,  @ Michigan State, TBD
October 7th, v. •Illinois, 12:00 pm, TBD
October 15th, Bye Week
October 21st, @ •Northwestern, TBD
October 28th, v. •Minnesota, TBD
November 4th, v. Ohio State, TBD
November 11th, @ •Wisconsin, TBD
November 18th, v. •Purdue, TBD
November 24th, @ •Nebraska, 4:00 pm, FS1 Black Friday

•Big Ten West Division Game
December 2nd, Big Ten Championship Game
Lucas Oil Arena, Indianapolis  

Scouting next opponent: 
September 2nd, Northern Iowa @ Iowa State, 8:00 pm, Cyclones TV

*Wondering which BTN channel we are on? Click, enter, find.
September 2nd, 2017, Iowa v. Wyoming Cowboys, 0-0,  0-0 Mountain West
Previous Meetings: 2, Iowa leads 2-0
Last Meeting: 1987 Holiday Bowl, Hawks 20, Cowboys 19

Kinnick Color of the Week:

Current Line: Iowa -11.5

Turnover Margin: +,  B1G #, FBS #

Interceptions: , B1G #, FBS #

Hawkeye Stat Pack - 2016 Final
Total   333.3  Pass 161.2  Rush 171.9  Scoring 26.8
B1G    #12           #13               #8                    #6
FBS    #120    #114             #69                  #76
Total   352.8  Pass 199.7 Rush 153.2    Scoring 17.9
B1G    #7               #6              #8                    #4
FBS    #24             #27            #48                  #9
Wisconsin  10–3, 7-2 B1G, 6-0 B1G West
Iowa                 8-4, 6-3 B1G, 4-2 B1G West
Nebraska     9-3, 6-2 B1G, 4-2 B1G West
Minnesota   8-4, 6-3 B1G, 4-2 B1G West
Northwestern   6-6, 5-4 B1G, 3-3 B1G West
Illinois     3-9, 2-7 B1G, 0-6 B1G West
Purdue     3-9, 1-8 B1G, 1-5 B1G West

First, there is a new turf at Kinnick Stadium!

For the first time since 1980 (when there had been a Hawkeye ‘I’ for several years), Kinnick will now have a Tiger Hawk at midfield!  But as of this typing - still a plain boring white water tower just outside the stadium

This is the first phase of the $90 million project that will tear down and replace the South end zone, to be completed by the start of the 2019 season.  You can see how this will look here:

As I begin these notes, it’s mid July, and there are some things we know about the 2017 Hawkeye Football team, and some things we don’t  Such as it is with college sports, guys graduate, and move on.  We are still a couple weeks from camp opening up, so we are going to be guessing our way on some of the positions until the puck drops on September 2nd.

With the retirement of Bob Stoops, Kirk is now the dean of all FBS division coaches.  Also of note, our new offensive coordinator is Brian Ferentz, (Greg Davis retired), and look who is back, Ken O’Keefe is back as our Quarterback coach!  What do they have to work with, as we creep through the dog days of summer?

The group that won the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line in 2016 has 4 starters back.  When Iowa is good, we have a good, mean offensive line.  From the left side,

Meyers, Senior.  6’5, 310
Render, Junior. 6’4, 310
Daniels, Junior. 6’4, 295
Welsh, Senior. 6’3, 295
Boettger, Senior. 6’6, 307

That should do nicely.  

Running back, Wadley, now a senior.  There has been some concern about him being a true feature back, with 20+ carries a game.  After him, it’s young guys - but then about 10 days ago, we had a shocking change to our running back stable.

James Butler, an Illinois kid who did not have an Iowa offer out of high school, made his way to Nevada, where all he did the last two seasons was run for 1,300 yards (each season), and also show great hands out of the backfield with 37 catches in 2016.  Oh, he also graduated Nevada in just 3 years, so he is now a graduate transfer, and he chose Iowa.  So his Mom could drive over to see him play his final season.  

When you are a graduate transfer, you do not have to sit out a season, so he will share the load with Wadley.  James is about 5’9, 210, here is a youtube video of some of his success at Nevada: 

Of note, Nevada ran the Pistol a lot, which Iowa never does, but he is a running back, I think he can handle the I formation and single back look.  

(Not only did he want to have his Mom be able to see his final season, Nevada has new coaches this year, and they are installing an Air Raid type offense, so running backs would be less often featured).

That will not be the case at Iowa.  Over the past few days, video of Wadley discussing the addition of Butler has come out, and he seems fine with it.  Hawkeye fans are already salivating at having the two of them on the field at the same time, both threats to run and to catch the ball.  Will give defenses something to think about.

The addition of Butler means the Hawkeyes are they only FBS team with two returning rushers who topped 1,000 yards in 2016.  

Then there are the young guys, Akinribade, now a sophomore, he got in a bit last year, then it gets down to true and redshirt freshman.  Obviously with the addition of Butler, we hope we won’t need to get too far down into the depth chart here. Bad memories of other seasons where we had to.  But also some good memories (2004).  Ivory Kelly-Martin has also gotten a lot of talk as camp has progressed, he may also see carries this season.  

Then there are the receivers.  Per usual, this is causing a lot of stress on the Iowa message boards.

We are really hoping that VandenBerg (First Down, aka Meer Cat), is healthy and good to go - he had an injury setback and missed spring ball, little word out of Iowa City this summer, but we should learn more once camp opens.  

Of returning guys that have played, Falconer, now a junior, and Young, now a sophomore.  But the star of spring ball was true freshman Brandon Smith, at 6’3, 205.  

One of the other freshman is Ihmir Smith-Marsette, #6, who is continuing the long tradition of Iowa wideouts with 3 letters to his name.  

As we know, First Down is especially dangerous in the slot, using the middle of the field.  So the opportunity here is for the outside receivers.  We will see who steps up.

Of course, we are Iowa, and we will feature tight ends.  Reminder, at Iowa, you won’t see the field as a tight end until you show you can block in the running game.

Returning, sophomore Fant, at 6’5 202, senior Pekar, at 6’4, 252, and senior Wisnieski, at 6’5 250.

Then there will be a couple of redshirt freshman, and some highly rated true freshman who may see a bit of time.  But those 3 up top will get much of the field. and we have had success in the past using 3 tight end sets - may see more of those early, as we get the wideouts up to speed.  

We can’t forget about the fullbacks, if we are going to have the dynamic running game we think we may have, they will play a key role in opening those holes up.

Kulick, a senior, at 6’1 240, then Kelly, a junior at 5’11 245, Ross, a sophomore, at 6’1 245, and a sophomore Akre, at 6’0 240.  With all the attention defenses will have to pay to the running backs, let’s throw a few plays in there for these guys!

 Oh yeah, the Quarterback!  We were sure it was Stanley, he got all the true back up snaps last year as a true freshman.  But we still have Weigers, now a junior,  and in the spring ball that was open to the public, they seemed to be splitting the first team reps.  As far as the younger guys, Peyton Mansell, #2, is a 6’3 210 true freshman out of Belton, Texas.  He will probably redshirt, based on his high school production, he looks to be the future.  

This could be one of those seasons where Iowa uses 2 QB’s through the non con games, looking to see who will stand out in time for the B1G slate.  But for purposes of building up our receiver corps, I hope we can settle on a starter out of camp.

So now with Brian calling the plays, and KOK mentoring the quarterbacks, what will the Iowa offense look like?

It is hard to glean much from open spring ball practices, but the Iowa QBs did throw down the field with regularity (one of the other stars of the spring was a junior safety Gervase, who picked off 3 of those deep passes in the Des Moines open practice).  

I do think that Brian will look to use the play action passes often, clearly if our tailbacks are having success, that opens those up.  

And with Wadley and Butler both being good at catching the ball, we can see plays where they may be both lined up in the I formation, then one shifts out into a slot - heck, let’s bring back the wishbone offense of the 1970s!  

Whoever is the QB, I do hope that the era of throwing 4 yard passes on 3rd and 7 is over.  

Then there are the  very important special teams.  When Iowa is good, they must be good.

At kicker, Duncan is now a sophomore, we will forever remember his kick to knock off Michigan at the buzzer.  We do wonder if this offseason will give him any more distance on those field goals.  If not, Recinos is now a junior, he has the bigger leg, so he may continue the longer field goals if Duncan can’t.  Then there is a redshirt freshman Shudak, #94.  At least we know what we had last year in the kickers.  

That is not the case with the punters, however.  A sophomore, Rastetter, #7, and a freshman  Gersonde, #90 (he, 6’4 185, continuing the tall punter tradition).   

So the biggest questions for our offense, who will be the QB, and who will step up to fill our receiving slots.  Obviously those are key areas, but we do have returning stars at tailback and our offensive line.  It’s enough to think the Iowa offense could be pretty lethal as the season goes on.

And then, the Iowa defense.  Some holes to fill, mainly on the back end.  But what we have coming back, reason to think this could be one of those mean, stingy Hawkeye defenses.  

End, Nelson (Anthony), a sophomore, backed up by Nelson (Matt), a junior.
Tackle, Lattimore, a sophomore, backed up by Reiff, a sophomore.
Tackle, Bazata, a senior, backed up by Hulett, a senior.     
End, Hesse, a junior, backed up by Brincks, a junior.  

And that does not even include the ultra rare 5 star recruit that Iowa gets, A.J. Epenesa, #54. He is 6’5 and 270, out of Edwardsville, Illinois.  A legacy Hawk, at those high school senior all star games, he was manhandling offensive line recruits going to Alabama, Florida, USC, among others.  Most Hawkeye fans seem to think he will be starting by week 6.  Whenever he gets on the field, pay attention.  

And then, 3 senior linebackers.  The Outlaw Jewel, Bower, and Neimann.  Then we have a good assortment of juniors, sophomores, and even Neimann’s little brother, a redshirt freshman, to back up the seniors.  The Outlaw is an almost no brainer All American, Neimann and Bower have played a lot, so they should be ready for any kind of formations other teams run out at them. 

One corner spot is locked down, Rugamba, now a sophomore, thrown into the fire last year, and he handled it very well.  In fact, he looks like a 3 year starter who may have some All American in him by the time he gets done.

The other corner, TBD, likely between Jackson, a junior, and Ojemudia,  a sophomore.  

At free safety, TBD, Snyder had in ACL tear in spring ball, return is up in the air.  Taylor, a senior looks to regain his strong safety spot after losing it to injury last year.  Hooker, a sophomore and Gervase, the junior, will also see action at the safety spot.

So while the back end does seem to be more in play for 3 of the 4 spots, all the guys in competition for those spots have played.  Look for those to firm up as camp progresses.  

Is it enough to get Iowa to a top 10 defense?  The 2016 defense was there scoring wise.  Yes, the success or failure of the offense does play a role in how well the defense does.  Too often last year, we could not sustain drives, and the defense paid the price.  Reason to think, maybe we can hang onto the ball better this year.  


And, the back end of the Iowa defense will have their hands full to start the season. Wyoming features a now junior QB, who is likely to be the the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.  Josh Allen, #17.

At 6’5 and 222, he became the starter in 2016, and he completed 209 of 373 passes (56.0%), for 3,203 yards, with 28 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions - not a very good ratio there.  

He also does like to run the ball, not a true dual threat, Wyoming does run a pro-style offense.  In 2016, he rushed 142 times for 523 yards, with 7 rushing touchdowns.  He especially likes to call his number when in the Red Zone.

Of note,  however, to graduation, Wyoming lost their top two receivers, their top two running backs, and their top tight end.  So Allen is working with a new crew of skill position players this summer.  We shall see how long it takes them to mesh. (late summer update, they have lost both a new starting running back and starting wideout to season ending injuries during camp).

Allen is most dangerous when the play breaks down, and he has to scramble - he does a very good job of keeping his eyes down field, and with the cannon arm he has, he can fire the ball deep down field while on the dead run.  So the Iowa front 7 is going to have to keep him contained in the pocket, and then make him pay should he venture outside it.  

Likewise, the back four must stay with their receiver targets longer than usual, which is never easy to do.  Under Phil Parker, Iowa has used the nickel and dime defenses more than Norm did, this might be the game we use those formations the most, until the Ohio State game.

In 2016 Wyoming went 8-6 overall, 6-2 in the Mountain West, winning the Mountain division in the process.  They fell to San Diego State 27-24 in the Mountain West title game, and then lost 24-21 to BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl.  So, despite the great talent of the QB, this is not a North Dakota State paying a visit to Kinnick to start the season.  

Still, they are the presumed winner of their division again, we will see how the season turns out.  

Wyoming is coached by Greg Bohl, formerly of NDSU, he was the coach of their first 3 FCS championships.  This will be his 4th season in Wyoming. In his 3 seasons at Wyoming, the Cowboys are 14-24. 

Wyoming did play a Big 10 team last year, Nebraska, where Bohl was a defensive back in the late 70s.  Nebraska was a rude host, winning 52-17.  We recall what Iowa did to that Nebraska team to finish the season.

The best way to limit a QB’s damage is to keep him on the sideline.  With our dual threat running game (Wadley, eluding, Butler, like a bull through a china shop) behind our presumed great offensive line, Iowa should be able to grind out drives, finish them in the end zone, and control the clock for close to 40 minutes.  That will limit the opportunities for Allen, and will also keep our defense rested, all the better to contain and tackle him. 
Update - August 28th

It is now official, the true soph Stanley has won the QB battle in camp and will start on Saturday, but Wiegers may get into some of these early games if Stanley isn’t moving the offense well.  

Now to the Wyoming Game 2 Deep just release today,  here:

(scroll to the bottom of the page for the 2 Deep)

Of note - Brandon Smith, the true freshman wideout, listed behind VandeBerg at split end.

Quarells, who missed about the first 3rd of camp due to transfer red tape, is on there.

Of course. the only receiver to play Saturday who has caught at pass at Iowa - First Down.  

Epenesa the Younger is there, backing up at right defense end.  Bold prediction -  he gets his first TWO Hawkeye sacks Saturday.

Wadley and Kelly-Martin at kickoff returns, First Down and Jackson at punt returns.  

Everything else pretty much as expected, except that Manny broke a team rule and is out for this game,  so the starting corners are Ojemudia, the soph, and Jackson, the junior.  Gervase the junior at free safety, and Taylor the senior at strong.

As expected, the 3 senior linebackers.  As mentioned, we may see more nickel and dime coverage this week than normal, due to the QB we are facing.

So, now that we know who is playing, what to expect Saturday?

As dangerous as Wyoming’s offense might be, they had a subpar defense in 2016, and again they are counting on the offense carrying the team.  So Iowa should be able to establish the running game early.  Knowing as we do that Brian spent time in the NFL and KOK is back, look for Iowa to go downfield via play action if the running yards are grinding down the Cowboy defense.   

Especially if the Cowboy defense stacks the box to try to limit the rushing attack - sure our wideouts are question marks, but we also have some potentially lethal tight ends, who can sneak behind those tight defense boxes for big gains down the middle.  From what little we have seen, it does seem that Stanley does have a cannon, and has no problems going deep.

This may be a closer game at first as the Iowa offense works out the kinks with a new QB, but by the 2nd half, the superior Iowa size will wear down the Cowboy defense, and the Hawks will be able to run the ball down their throat.  Stanley throws for 247 in his 1st start, with a long TD to Smith over 50 yards.  The Hawks combined rushing tops 250 as Iowa controls the clock for more than 38 minutes.

Hawkeyes 42, Cowboys 16.



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