Aug. 27, 2009
By Larry Watts
Maybe the 9-4 overall record and 5-3 finish in the Big Ten (tied for fourth), didn't quite meet Iowa's expectations for 2008, but the Hawkeyes did finish with a flourish, posting a 31-10 victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Also on the bright side, Iowa's four loses were by a combined total of 12 points and they finished 20th in the final national rankings.
Running back Shonn Greene's early departure to the NFL along with huge graduation hits on the interior offensive (Rob Bruggeman and Seth Olsen) and defensive (Mitch King and Matt Kroul) lines have left some big holes for head coach Kirk Ferentz to fill. But if Ferentz is known for one thing during his 10 years at Iowa, it's preparing linemen for the next level and there's always a solid stable of big men ready to fill in.
OFFENSE: The heir apparent to Greene is sophomore Jewel Hampton, who logged 91 carries, 463 yards and 7 touchdowns in backup duty in 2008. Hampton survived a big scare early in the summer when he went down with a knee injury during workouts, but he is reporting back to fall camp at nearly 100 percent. Redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson is waiting in the wings should Hampton not be able to go. Junior (FB) Brett Morse returns as the primary blocker in the backfield. With one year under his belt, junior Ricky Stanzi is expected to be a more polished quarterback and game manager while leading the Hawkeyes. Stanzi overcame eight turnovers in three Big Ten defeats to guide Iowa to four straight wins, including a 24-23 stunner over third-ranked Penn State, to conclude the season. He ended the season with 150 completions out of 254 attempts with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Even with the departures of Bruggeman and Olsen up front, some experts have tabbed the Hawkeye offensive line as tops in the Big Ten. Junior (LT) Bryan Bulaga was a second-team All-Big Ten selection and has been named to the Outland Trophy watch list. Senior (LG) Dace Richardson has undergone knee reconstruction and missed two seasons. Anchoring the right side will be returning starters Julian Vandervelde, a junior, at guard and senior Kyle Calloway, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree, at tackle. Senior center Rafael Eubanks did not make any starts in 2008, but he does have 21 starts in his career. Senior starter Tony Moeaki provides Stanzi with at veteran option at tight end. One of the biggest surprises comes at wide receiver, where junior Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who has led the Hawks in receiving (82) and yards (1,121) over the past two seasons, found himself on the second team coming out of the spring. Sophomore Marvin McNutt, a converted quarterback, was moved ahead of Johnson-Koulianos while veteran Trey Stross, a senior, is running No. 1 at the other receiver slot.
DEFENSE: Gone are defensive tackles King and Kroul, who in their four years as starters combined for 95 starts. Junior Karl Klug has already locked up one spot while sophomore Mike Daniels has the inside track on the other. Returning starters Kyle Clayborn, a senior, and Christian Ballard, a junior, at the end spots, will provide the veteran presence on the line. Sophomore Broderick Binns collected 22 tackles and two sacks in backup duty last year and will provide valuable support if either Clayborn or Ballard are moved inside. Hard-hitting senior Pat Angerer (MLB) leads a talented group in the Hawkeyes' second line of defense. Angerer led Iowa with 107 tackles last year and shared the top spot with five interceptions. Angerer is flanked by returning starters A.J. Edds, a senior, on the outside and Jeremiha Hunter, a junior, on the weak side. Hunter was second on the team with 80 hits in 2008. A veteran secondary took a big hit in the first week of training camp when (CB) Jordan Bernstine, a junior, broke his ankle and will be lost for the season. Adding to the problem is his backup Shaun Prater, a sophomore, will be suspended for the first couple of games, so untested sophomore William Lowe moves up on the depth chart. Junior Amari Spievey, who is on the Thorpe watch list, will create plenty of headaches for opponents at the other corner. Spievey had four interceptions and 10 pass deflections in 2008 while finishing the year with 68 tackles, third best on the team. Veterans Brett Greenwood (FS), a junior, and Tyler Sash (SS), a sophomore, provide the last line of defense. Sash had two interceptions in the Outback Bowl.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Iowa has an embarrassment of riches in the kicking department. Junior Daniel Murray held the edge over sophomore Trent Mossbrucker coming out of spring drills. Murray, who will be remembered for his 31-yard field goal with one second remaining against Penn State, hit on 6-of-9 on field goal attempts and was perfect on 14 extra points in 2008. Mossbrucker set the Iowa freshman scoring record with 70 points, hitting 13-of-15 field goals and 31-of-33 PATs. Junior Ryan Donahue, who is on the Ray Guy watch list, punted for an average of 41.6 yards last year and carries a career average of 41.3. Hampton is back to return kicks, where he averaged 23.3 yards in 2008. The Hawkeyes will be breaking in a new punt return man, junior Colin Sandeman.
MISCELLANEOUS: The schedule will be a big challenge for Iowa in 2009. The Hawkeyes' four league trips will take them to Penn State (Sept. 26), Wisconsin (Oct. 17), Michigan State (Oct. 24) and Ohio State (Nov. 14). Those four schools were a combined 24-4 on their home turf in 2008 ... The Hawkeyes also have three night games on their schedule. After ruining Penn State's national title hopes last year, the fans in Happy Valley have declared a "white out" for the Big Ten opener Sept. 26. Iowa will host Michigan at night Oct. 10 and visit rising Michigan State (Oct. 24) for their final night contest ... Iowa is just one of 10 Division I teams to appear in five January bowl games since 2002 ... Although the Big Ten championship eluded the No. 20 Hawkeyes in 2008, they made a clean sweep of the remaining trophies: Cy-Hawk (Iowa State), Heartland (Wisconsin), Floyd of Rosedale (Minnesota) and Outback (South Carolina).