#31 Iowa Football 2014 Preview

Iowa Hawkeyes

Overall Rank: #31
#5 Big Ten

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After an awful 2012 season that finished with four wins, Iowa looked much more like themselves in 2013. An opening game loss to Northern Illinois had many worried, but the Hawkeyes won the next four games in a row before struggling through the heart of the Big Ten slate. But this team did win their last three regular season games, and that included a home game against Michigan and a big road win in Nebraska. They were rewarded with a trip to the Outback Bowl, where they held in there nicely against a better LSU squad.

2013 Record: 8-5, 5-3
2013 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. LSU (L 14-21)
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (108-79 at Iowa, 120-100 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Davis
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Mark Weisman, RB, 975 yards
Passing: Jake Rudock, QB, 2,383 yards
Receiving: Kevonte Martin-Manley, WR, 388 yards
Tackles: John Lowdermilk, S, 78
Sacks: Drew Ott, DE, 2.5
Interceptions: John Lowdermilk, S, 1

Other Key Returnees: RB Jordan Canzeri, RB Damon Bullock, WR Tevaun Smith, WR Damond Powell, OL Brandon Scherff, OL Austin Blythe, DL Carl Davis, CB Desmond King

Key Losses: TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, OL Brett Van Sloten, LB Anyhony Hitchens, LB James Morris, LB Christian Kirksey, CB B.J. Lowery, S Tanner Miller, K Mike Meyer

The Iowa defense was the main reason for the massive turnaround. The unit ranked in the top ten nationally in passing defense, total defense and scoring defense. Those numbers should dip this year with major changes in the back seven, but the front four will do their part to make this one of the tougher defenses in the conference. Seniors Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat are hardworking, high energy defensive tackles who will anchor the line. Coach Kirk Ferentz would like to see more pass rushing skills out of ends Drew Ott and Mike Hardy. Those two combined for just four sacks in 2013, although they are very good against the run. The line on the other side of the ball is just as impressive. Brandon Scherff and Austin Blythe lead a big and talented unit, but the overall lack of experience could be an issue early in the year. Behind the line, the offense should be able to keep the chains moving on a relatively consistent basis. That is especially true on the ground where bruising back Mark Weisman returns after rushing for 975 yards and eight touchdowns. Jordan Canzeri, who rushed for 481 yards on just 74 carries, is the big play threat. Damon Bullock is in-between the thunder of Weisman and the lightning of Canzeri and possibly the most balanced back on the roster.

Compared to the 2012 Iowa team that could not move the ball in the air at all, the 2013 Hawkeyes looked like Chuck Long playing against a pee-wee football team. But they still ranked ninth in the conference in passing offense. Jake Rudock had a decent year under center, completing 59.0 percent of his passes for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns. The issue, at times, was his decision making and the 13 interceptions must decrease. Finding another receiver or two to compliment Kevonte Martin-Manley would be nice too. Martin-Manley is a superb talent, but he still caught just 40 passes for a mere 388 yards. Upperclassmen like Tavaun Smith, Damond Powell and Jacob Hillyer need to finally step up. Or speedy redshirt freshman Derrick Willies will be thrown into the mix. The bigger issue for the passing game could be at tight end where C.J. Fiedorowicz is gone after catching six touchdown passes in 2013. Senior Ray Hamilton is a big tight end, but doing what Fiedorowicz did for the offense will not be easy. Iowa’s great defense last year revolved around the linebacker trio of Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey. Those three recorded 112, 106 and 104 tackles, respectively, as seniors. They also combined for 35.5 tackles-for-loss, 11.5 sacks, six interceptions, 13 quarterback hurries and six forced fumbles. The secondary has a couple starters to replace as well and much will be asked from corner Desmond King and safety John Lowdermilk to help pick up the slack.

The Bottom Line:
The Hawkeyes should have plenty of time to sort out their roles. The schedule is amazingly easy for a Big Ten team. At the moment, the West Division is easier and the Hawkeyes crossover games are against Indiana and Maryland. The only thing that could be better than that is if Rutgers was in there. But the West games work out perfectly too. The Hawkeyes host both Wisconsin and Nebraska. And those happen to be the last two games of the year. Some overzealous Iowa fans will be looking at a 10-0 start. It is feasible, but this is not a team that deserves to be 10-0. But if they make it that far, there is no reason they cannot win a couple home games against Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Projected Bowl: Holiday Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 179.9 (50th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 197.1 (93, 9)
Total Offense: 377.0 (84, 9)
Scoring Offense: 26.3 (80, 9)
Rushing Defense: 128.4 (19, 4)
Pass Defense: 174.7 (9, 2)
Total Defense: 303.1 (6, 2)
Scoring Defense: 18.9 (9, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.1 (68, 7)
Sacks: 1.85 (77, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (12, 1)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#5 Brandon Scherff
#39 Carl Davis


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