#36 Iowa Football 2017 Preview


Iowa Hawkeyes


Overall Rank: #36

#6 Big Ten

It was not always pretty, but Iowa won eight games last season, including a thrilling 14-13 victory over Michigan. The offense was often stagnant and the Hawkeyes scored 14 points or fewer six times. With some key pieces needing to be replaced on the defensive side of the ball, Iowa needs more production out of their offense in order to repeat their eight wins from 2016.
2016 Record: 8-5, 6-3
2016 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Florida (L 3-30)
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (135-92 at Iowa, 147-113 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Ferentz
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Akrum Wadley, RB, 1,081 yards
Passing: Nathan Stanley, QB, 62 yards
Receiving: Akrum Wadley, RB, 315 yards
Tackles: Josey Jewell, LB, 124
Sacks: Anthony Nelson, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Brandon Snyder, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Matt VandeBerg, LB Bo Bower, LB Ben Niemann, S Miles Taylor, DE Parker Hesse, DE Matt Nelson
Key Losses: RB LeShun Daniels, QB C.J. Beathard, WR Riley McCarron, WR Jerminic Smith, TE George Kittle, CB Desmond King, DT Jaleel Johnson
Quarterback C.J. Beathard was not always productive, but he was relatively efficient and did enough to win games. Sophomore Nathan Stanley was supposed to run away with the starting quarterback job in the spring, but that did not happen. He still will likely win the job, but Tyler Wiegers is an option too. The new offensive coaching staff will likely try and stretch the field more and, unlike last season, the ability to throw the deep ball could come into play in the quarterback battle. Nobody is quite sure who they are going to throw the ball to though. Matt VandeBerg is an experienced senior but reinjured the same foot in the spring that caused him to miss most of the 2016 season. He needs to be healthy or the wide receivers will be terribly inexperienced. But this is Iowa and they have done fine with a tight end and a running back. Akrum Wadley is that running back who will carry this team. Last season he rushed for 1,081 yards and ten touchdowns. LeShun Daniels was a 1,000 yard rusher too, but he is now gone, leaving Wadley to handle a bulk of the carries. A handful of underclassmen will compete for carries as well, but Wadley can handle a bulk of the load. With a deep and talented offensive line, perhaps the best in the nation again, Iowa will be able to move the ball on the ground effectively even if the passing game is going nowhere.
The defense is in decent shape, especially in the front seven. The front four returns starters Nathan Bazata, Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse. And that does not even include sophomore Anthony Nelson who tallied 6.0 sacks or A.J. Epenesa, one of the most highly touted recruits to ever sign with Iowa. If sophomore Cedrick Lattimore can nail down one of the tackle spots, Iowa will be very good in the trenches. All three starters are back at linebacker and all three are seniors. Josey Jewell is the leader of the pack and led the team with 124 tackles in 2016. Bo Bower and Ben Niemann ranked second and fourth in tackles, respectively. The secondary is where most of the turnover will occur. Three starters are gone, including former Jim Thorpe Award winner Desmond King. Sophomore Manny Rugamba started a few games as a freshman and could be the next great cornerback for the Hawkeyes. That could take some time though and in the meantime senior safety Brandon Snyder will have to lead the inexperienced unit.
The Bottom Line:
This should be another season where it is rare to see a big play during an Iowa football game. The Hawkeyes should be able to move the chains on offense and contain big plays on defense. That is more of the same for Iowa. When those few big plays start falling their way, Iowa will win the game. When the big plays go the other direction, at least against halfway decent opposition, Iowa will lose. If the new look offense can have success going down field, it will open things up, but this group may not have the personnel to make that too effective this season. This should be a team that can win eight games again and a Big Ten West title is certainly not out of the question, but the Hawkeyes do have to travel to Wisconsin, Nebraska and Northwestern, who all have West Division title hopes of their own.
Projected Bowl: Holiday Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 171.8 (67th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 153.2 (118, 13)
Total Offense: 325.0 (121, 12)
Scoring Offense: 24.9 (95, 10)
Rushing Defense: 149.8 (45, 7)
Pass Defense: 201.4 (29, 5)
Total Defense: 351.2 (23, 5)
Scoring Defense: 18.8 (13, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.46 (28, 6)
Sacks: 2.15 (58, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.31 (84, 10)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#78 Josey Jewell
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#38 A.J. Espenesa