The comparisons have begun, at least internally. 2013 is reminding some of Iowa’s 2008 scenario.
Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register has an article where the 2008 v 2013 comparisons come out, which you can read here. Included is this quote:
“In 2007 we did have a young team, a little bit like last year,” Ferentz said. “Young in a lot of areas, and we knew we were going to have some challenges that way. We had a lot of off-the-field issues going on, guys making dumb decisions. And then not going to a bowl and basically losing that opportunity on our home field in the last ballgame. That left a bad taste.”
There’s a line early on in that article, from Brown, that says:
The 2008 team rebounded with a 9-4 record, including a late-season upset of No. 3 Penn State, and won the Outback Bowl. That team holds a special place in the heart of coach Kirk Ferentz because of its off-season attitude and work ethic coming off a bowl-free season. This team reminds Ferentz of that 2008 group. And he didn’t need to make a rah-rah speech for that happen.
I never got the feeling from any of the quotes Brown used that Ferentz was drawing any strong comparisons to 2008, other than the fact that both the 2007 and 2012 teams were ‘young’ and that this year’s team is unsettled at quarterback.
I would love to look back on the 2013 season and say ‘Wow, that really was like 2008’ because that would greatly exceed my expectations for this year. Could it happen? I guess it’s possible. However I would bet strongly against it.
The 2008 Hawkeyes: At the start of the season, we didn’t realize how dominant this team would become. In my opinion, it became the third best Ferentz-era team and if you put together a bracket of the Top Eight Ferentz era teams, if they could play each other at the end of their respective seasons, I’d put the 2008 Hawkeyes #2 behind the 2002 Hawkeyes, who might have been playing the best ball of any Iowa team at the end of any season since the 1950’s.
That’s an incredibly high bar, but for the sake of this exercise or comparison, one has to try to block out what the 2008 team became; at the end of that year, I wrote that the 2008 roster may go own as the best in Iowa history as it related to draft picks over the next five classes, and it did become that. One also has to remember what the 2008 outlook was coming off of the incredibly long 2007 offseason (something else the summer of 2013 has in common with the summer of 2008).
2007 Hawkeye Offense: Here is where Iowa ranked nationally out of 119 schools in some key areas:
Total Offense: 109th
Scoring Offense: 110th
Rushing Offense: 92nd
Passing Offense: 94th
Sacks Allowed: 114th
Until last year, this might have been the worst offense of the Ferentz era, considering the program wasn’t in start up mode the way it was in 1999 and 2000. It was atrocious in 2007, just painful to watch on third downs…and it was better than the 2012 group was in nearly every facet:
2012 Hawkeye Offense
Total Offense: 114th
Scoring Offense: 111th
Rushing Offense: 101st
Passing Offense: 99th
Sacks Allowed: 55th
Jake Christensen was tough to watch in 2007, yet he threw for 17 TD’s to 6 INT’s and 2269 yards passing and he had a passer rating of 116.94, 84th ‘best’ in the nation. The 2012 season for James Vandenberg was much worse, as he threw for a nearly identical 2249 yards but seven touchdown passes and eight interceptions. His passer rating was 107.72 and he didn’t crack the top 100. Still, the 2012 team was over 36% on third downs where the 2007 team was under 32%.
Either way, the spring and summer of 2008 did not find Iowa fans brimming with confidence…
-Iowa’s two top rushers, Albert Young and Damien Sims, had exhausted their eligibility.
-The top returning rusher was Jevon Pugh at 40 yards (similar to last year’s with Damon Bullock’s career total before the start of the year)
-DJK had a solid freshman year in 2007 as did James Cleveland, but Cleveland was no longer with the team and Marvin McNutt was still a quarterback. Iowa did have a promising tight end corps, with a young Tony Moeaki and senior to be Brandon Meyers in the fold for 2008.
-The offensive line was not expected to be as good as they would become. Rob Bruggeman supplanted Rafael Eubanks at center, Bryan Bulaga was a sophomore starter as was Julian Vandervelde, Seth Olsen was a senior at right guard but hadn’t played up to some expectations in his career and Kyle Calloway was the starting right tackle as a junior. While this group would play at a very high level, especially Bruggeman and Bulaga, nobody saw it coming in the out of season.
Now, onto the defense…
2007 Defense: Here is where that team ended the season, statistically
Total Defense: 36th
Rushing Defense: 24th
Scoring Defense: 12th
And…..we can pretty much call a TKO right now and stop writing. I’m not wired that way; we’ll finish it out.
Total Defense: 49th
Rushing Defense: 63rd
Scoring Defense: 33rd
The 2012 defense wasn’t horrible. Through six games, they were pretty salty but that was a function of the schedule as much as anything. They were challenged against the run, as challenged as any Iowa defense had been against the run since the 2000 Iowa team. However, they were on the field a lot with and offense that could not convert third downs. Then again, the defense had little to no pass rush, certainly not a consistent pass rush nor did it have a player you have to scheme around.
Going into next season, I don’t think you can give me a player that Iowa’s opponents are staying up late at night worrying about right now. Heading into the 2008 offseason, that to be 2008 Iowa defense had several of them; seniors to be Mitch King and Matt Kroul to name two. Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard were just ready to make their presence felt in 2008 as they were soph’s in that season and not really on anyones radar outside of Iowa City at that point. AJ Edds had made a name for himself by that time and Pat Angerer hadn’t done that as of yet.
Any attempt at connection between 2008 and 2013 has to stop dead cold when you get to the defense…the defensive outlook heading into 2008 was significantly brighter than what it is right now. The 2008 group delivered, turning in one of the best statistical performances of any Iowa defense in school history: 12th in total defense, 9th in rushing defense, 5th in passing efficiency defense and 5th in scoring defense allowing just 13 points per game.
Here were some of the names on the two-deep roster heading into the 2008 Iowa at Minnesota game: King, Kroul, Clayborn, Ballard, Angerer, Edds, Tyler Sash, Bradley Fletcher, Amari Spievey, Jeff Tarpinian, Jordan Bernstine, and Karl Klug; all of these names have taken snaps in the NFL. Also on that two deep was Brett Greenwood, Broderick Binns, Tyler Nielsen, Jeremiha Hunter and Shaun Prater.
Find me an Iowa defense that had more talent on it than that one.
2013 is not likely to have a 2008-style season because it does not have the horses on defense to stem the tide until the offense gets its legs under it; Iowa scored just 67 points over a four-game stretch in 2008 where it went 1-3 and the defense allowed just 64 points in that stretch. The 2013 offense may be just as challenged early on and the Hawkeyes would be very fortunate to start the season 4-0; I don’t think it will happen.
Are there stars in waiting on the defensive line? Is Carl Davis going to play to his size and be consistent? Will Darrian Cooper become a force to be reckoned with on the inside? Will Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie play beyond their years? Will LTP take off to another level? Will the defensive line keep blockers off the linebackers?
Too many questions there…far too many questions.
Then again, the Iowa rushing game outlook heading into 2008 was frightening (but similar to what Iowa faced last year) and Shonn Greene burst on the scene with the best season in school history. I doubt this coming year’s offensive line will play at the level of the 2008 line, but the offensive line should be solid.
So no, I don’t think the 2013 Hawkeyes can be like the 2008 Hawkeyes. I don’t think they will ever get to the point of dominating their opposition the way the 2008 team did, but 6-6 is possible.