I’ll admit it, my expectations are high for Iowa’s upcoming season. I think it’s risky to feel that way, but after last year’s successful one and a lot of preseason hype, it’s hard not to get caught up in the upcoming season.
I think a lot will ride on senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi. I have a love-hate relationship with him. When he’s good, he’s good but when he’s bad, it’s brutal to watch. Just taking a quick read at my Facebook status update will tell you which quarterback is playing for Iowa on any given Saturday.
You don’t want to see the reference Rex Stanzi.
Stanzi enters the season with another year of experience and more confidence after kicking off the new year with an Orange Bowl win. In that game, he went 17 for 29, with 231 yards and two touchdowns. And yes, he had one interception but had a QB rating of 141.
Not too shabby.
More importantly, I think Stanzi has the backing of his coaches and his teammates. He is a leader. His teammates like him; he is clutch and you don’t see him wearing a pouty face when he’s frustrated like too many NFL quarterbacks that we know. Jay Cutler. Eli Manning.
Oops, wrong post.
And the fans love him. I was in a Cedar Rapids sports store last night and it was all about No. 12 jerseys.
Now, let’s take a look at Stanzi’s tools.
Last season, freshmen Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher were the Hawkeye’s running backs and proved to be a great team. Robinson returns this season after rushing for 800-plus yards but Wegher has mysteriously left the team. Jewel Hampton, out last season with a knee injury, will join Robinson in the second game. He’ll sit out this week due to an alcohol-related incident from the summer. Better sooner than later.
Again, the running backs should be key for the Hawkeyes.
On the wide receivers front, Derrell-Johnson Koulianos and ex-quarterback junior Marvin McNutt will represent the Hawkeyes, bringing some great talent. Koulianos, a senior, is just 30 catches away from breaking Kevin Kasper’s career reception record for the team and 210 yards from breaking Tim Wright’s record for career receiving records. McNutt will play in his second year at this position but has great potential for improvement and success.
With a little uncertainty at running back and high hopes for good pass performances from Stanzi, Koulianos should get a lot of playing time.
Probably the greatest concern for the Hawkeyes is the rebuiling of its O-line. Down four of its starters, Iowa will look to its two returning players, OT Riley Reiff and OG Julian Vandervelde. I have concerns about Stanzi’s protection and potential lost opportunities for Iowa’s fast running backs to make plays but after a few potentially bumpy first few weeks, the O-line will come together under Ferentz’s patience and belief in his players.
Iowa’s defense should be great this year under the helm of defensive coordinator Norm Parker. There’s not a lot to say negatively about the defensive line but there’s been rumors Parker may retire after this season (he’s had health problems) but he quickly shot down the rumors earlier this month.
While there’s always room for improvement, the Hawkeyes enter the season with some serious defensive veterans, including crown jewel defensive end Adrian Clayborn.I’d have to say Iowa’s defense is the least of my worries. However, sometimes the team’s kicking game concerns me.
Field goal kicker Daniel Murray is no Nate Kaeding (back in his college days). Murray proved to be inconsistent last year and needs to show some improvement. He will compete against Trent Mossbruker. May the most consistent, clutch player win!
I’ll have more to say on the team’s outlook after Saturday’s game, but for now here’s some final comments.
I’m concerned one of Iowa’s greatest disappointments will come early in the season with a loss against a team they should have beaten. The Arizona game is going to be a tough one. If it does happen, again, better sooner than later and let’s keep the number of injuries low.
Conferencewise, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Penn State are going to be tough games. I’d love to see Iowa first and foremost beat Ohio State. Last year’s loss was a tough one. And really unless you’re a Buckeye, c’mon, you don’t want Ohio State to win the Big 10 conference year after year.
I am sick of hearing Wisconsin’s Bret Bialema trash talk about the Hawkeyes and speak with regret about his Hawkeye tattoo (yes, Bialema is an Iowa grad). May the Hawkeyes again beat Wisconsin, at home, this year.
And finally, isn’t it time for the Hawkeyes to return to Pasadena for New Year’s? I know I am ready.
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Written by Debbie Baratz