New Year Same Results for Ferentz’ Hawkeyes?
2012 is a year Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes would like to forget. They posted their first losing season since 2000 (4-8). The Hawkeyes closed out the 2012 campaign with a 6-game losing skid, capped off by the coaching staff’s refusal to play to win against Nebraska, a game they had every opportunity to win. And that’s where we begin our look at the 2013 Iowa Hawkeyes…
Coach Ferentz has done great things at Iowa in his 14 seasons. But the fans are becoming restless because the program has seemed to hit rock bottom. Ferentz’ “play not-to-lose” mentality has grown tiresome among the Iowa fan base. The season ending loss to Nebraska certainly didn’t help. Although many Iowa fans will scoff at this, the best strategy for the 2013 Hawkeyes is likely to play Ferentz Ball.
The Hawkeye Offense
Inexperience and a Lack of Game-Changing Speed
You won’t find players of the ilk of Chad Greenway, Bob Sanders, Dallas Clark, or Shonn Greene. The current roster arguably has the least amount of talent since Ferentz took over in 1999. Speed and athleticism are major concerns. Another major concern is the most important role on a football roster – the Quarterback.
Sophomore Jake Rudock and JUCO transfer Cody Sokol figure to battle it out for the starting role. Neither have taken a snap in college, which is something Iowa fans just shake their head at. Outgoing quarterback James Vandenberg took 100% of the snaps for Iowa last season, which makes absolutely no sense considering the Hawkeyes were a team going nowhere from the start. Instead of giving Rudock and/or Sokol some reps, Ferentz opted to leave Vandenberg – a struggling quarterback – under center the entire season. If you’re wondering why Ferentz didn’t give one of the backups some reps to gain experience, you’ll have to ask him.
One of the few bright spots on this team last year was the play of Mark Weisman. Weisman – a transfer from Air Force – entered the season as the team’s backup fullback. By midseason, he was the focal point of the Iowa offense and their starting running back. The Hawkeyes actually do have some depth and talent in the backfield. But, if you’re at all familiar with Hawkeye football the past decade, you know that can change at any moment. No unit in College Football has been hit as hard with injuries and transfers as the Iowa running backs unit.
As it stands right now, the Hawkeyes have 3 capable running backs – Weisman, Damon Bullock, and Jordan Canzeri. Weisman and Bullock figure to share the bulk of the load. Both are proven running backs with multiple 100-yard games under their belts. A unit without much proven playmaking ability is the wide receivers. Outside of Kevonte Martin-Manley and CJ Fiedorowicz (tight end), the Hawkeyes have absolutely nobody with more than 12 receptions in a season. Inexperience at wide receiver is a bad mix with inexperience at quarterback.
The Hawkeye Defense
Slow and Undisciplined
For the third straight year, Tanner Miller (he’s finally a Senior, time to celebrate Hawkeye fans!) will start at safety for Iowa. It’s not unreasonable to argue Miller is the worst starting defensive player in the Big-10. But, apparently, defensive coordinator Phil Parker is unable to replace him with superior talent. Miller starting every game despite a severe lack of skill goes to show just how far the Iowa defense has come in recent years.
The defensive line is unable to get much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They don’t have the athleticism or size to wreak much havoc like Hawkeye defenses did in the days of Adrian Clayborn, Jonathan Babineaux, Matt Roth, etc. That poses two problems. First off, it gives opposing quarterbacks too much time to throw. It also makes things even more difficult for their questionable secondary.
The one unit on the Iowa defense where Hawkeye fans should feel pretty good about is the linebackers. Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens, and James Morris are all experienced and solid. They won’t blow you away with their amazing play. You won’t tune into Hawkeye football games specifically to watch those 3 play. But they’re all quality Big-10 football players that can make plays. That’s something that cannot be said for most of the rest of the Iowa defense.
A Final Word on the 2013 Iowa Hawkeyes
If Iowa has any hopes of getting back to a bowl game, they need to take care of business in the non-conference slate. That means they had better show up to play against in-state rival Iowa State on September 14. The in-conference slate is a tough one and we don’t expect them to win more than 2-3 conference games. Our final prediction: 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the Big-10.