Life won't get any easier for James Vandenberg (16) this season. (Mike Pettigano/BSD)
Last season's 13-3 pounding of Iowa was a whole lot of fun. But for the "Hock-eyes" things aren't looking up this spring. Turmoil has run rampant through the program, from the staff to the players. This could be Kirk Ferentz's toughest test of his 13-year tenure as head honcho in Iowa City. I present to you, the rather dysfunctional-looking Iowa Hawkeyes.
Where they call home: Iowa City, IA
Endless running begins/ends:Today(3/21) / Spring Game April 14
If they suck, this guy gets fired: Kirk Ferentz
Ferentz is now the longest-tenured head coach in the Big Ten with 13 years. But his staff has been rocked by loss of Ken O'Keefe and Norm Parker, both coordinators for Ferentz since he took over in 1999. They were able to engineer one of the most successful decades in Iowa football history, with a few Big Ten championships, BCS bowl bids, and a handful of 11-win seasons. Iowa returns 13 starters this spring, but lose one huge cog in running back Marcus Coker, who ran afoul of the law. Going 8-5 in 2010, the Hawkeyes followed up with a very disappointing 7-6 campaign last year, including an embarrassing loss to lowly Minnesota. Normally, you'd say a program as strong as Iowa has no where to go but up. But I'm not sure we can say anything about Iowa this early in 2012. Still, I'll try...
More specifics below the fold...
|More 2012 Spring Snapshots|
|Ohio Bobcats - 3.12.12|
|Virginia Cavaliers - 3.13.12|
|Navy Midshipmen - 3.14.12|
|Temple Owls - 3.15.12|
|Illinois Fighting Illini - 3.19.12|
|Northwestern Wildcats - 3.20.12|
What they return...
Quarterback James Vandenberg could be a very good leader for this offense, but he'll need help. The rising senior passed for 3,022 yards in 2011, 25 touchdowns, only seven interceptions, while completing 58 percent of his throws. The problem was the 29 times he was sacked. His worst game last year actually came at Penn State, when he completely only 50 percent for 169 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. The previous four games he averaged more than 270 yards per game.
Corner Micah Hyde doubles as a decent punt returner, and had a good game against Penn State last year. But when Hyde is one of the top returning starters on your defense, things aren't looking all too positive. He doesn't excel at any one thing, which is troubling for the Hawkeyes. But he does do a little bit of everything and can get by most games.
What they lost...
Last year's team wasn't good at all, but they do lose a bunch of players who could have been better if they had more help, or gave a crap about playing better.
Coker was the Big Ten's second-leading rusher with 1,348 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011. He's gone after getting into trouble off the field. This would have been a huge boost to an offense that's looking more one-dimensional by the day.
Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns were terrors along the defensive line (well, when Binns actually put effort into his play), and will be sorely missed up front. Both had their way with Penn State in 2009 and 2010, though were neutralized last season. They combined for 14 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss in 2011. Binns also added an interception and eight passes broken up.
Styling into the Unknown...
For the first time ever under the Ferentz regime, we'll see two new coordinators, Phil Parker on defense and Greg Davis on offense. The previous staff made Penn State fans crazy, as they always had an easy time game-planning against the Nittany Lions. Now, we have no idea how the new staff will adapt their own styles to the current Iowa roster. It usually takes a few years to get the players you need for your particular system to work exactly the way you want it to. So this year it could be a mash of different things. Ferentz admitted that the offense would see some changes under Davis's tutelage. But the defense probably won't look all that different, using its base 4-3. Davis' offenses at Texas were probably some of the best units you've seen over the last decade. As OC and QB coach, he groomed Vince Young and Chris Simms, and earned the Broyles Award in 2005 as the top assistant coach in college football. Davis' UT offense has produced five Big 12 Offensive Players of the Year -- RB Ricky Williams, 1998; QB Major Applewhite, 1999; QB Vince Young, 2005; QB Colt McCoy, 2008, 09.
Davis likely won't get that kind of production out of the current Iowa offensive roster. But with time, this unit could be scary good. It all starts this spring.
See you tomorrow for Spring Snapshot 2012: Ohio St. Buckeyes.