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Iowa Football: Two Deep Analysis

Listed below is Iowa’s first two-deep of the 2012 season.  This is the two deep that went into the media guide, of which several thousand copies are published.  What that means is some thought actually went into it, but it is by no means some Rosetta Stone as to how things will shake out on September 1st.  I will also have some other height and weight observations below it:

OFFENSIVE THOUGHTS

The first thing that came to my mind when I scanned the offensive two deep was that Iowa has a lot of talent along the offensive line. Yes, much of that talent is untested or has some questions around it, but there is a lot of it there.

Much of it is young, as in 5 of the 11 players listed being sophomores or freshmen. Much of it will return for 2013, aside from Matt Tobin and James Ferentz, so 9 of 11. There are some intruiging names on there, too.

Nolan MacMillan started the first six games of Iowa’s 2010 season before going down with an injury. He never made it back that season and didn’t play last season. If he can round back into shape, it will be very difficult to keep him out of the starting lineup. While he’s listed at right tackle, he started at right guard in 2010 so he knows how to play that position.

Keep that stowed away, as Iowa routinely chooses to play its best five offensive linemen. If Brett Van Sloten tears it up at right tackle and MacMillan does the same in practice, there is flexibility to move MacMillan into right guard. It then gives a chance for one of the players who may be shining at that position the chance to slide over to left guard in the event Matt Tobin or Drew Clark can’t get it done.

I know this may sound crazy, but I don’t think Iowa has had so many starting caliber offensive lineman on the same Hawkeye line since 2001 or 2002. September will provide a manageable learning curve for this group and I really expect them to hit their stride in October when you add in the bye week. This is the best position group on the football team, which is great news. It’s especially good news considering the inexperience at running back. It won’t be the biggest offensive line in the league, but by year’s end I think it could be one of the best three in the Big Ten.

Jake Rudock is listed at 6-3/200. I’d like to see that for myself, as he was a looong way from 200 the last we saw him. Then again, James Vandenberg is only listed at 212 pounds.

Will Iowa play four running backs this year? When I ask that question, I am not inviting a discussion of AIRBHG. I think it’s possible. They will have to settle on some kind of two back rotation before the Big Ten season hits, but I believe Damon Bullock, De’Andre Johnson, Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill will all see reps in September as the coaching staff decides on who will carry the mail come Big Ten season. The Hawks could have some pretty fresh legs in the stable come November, something they did not have last year.

Toss in Brad Rogers into that mix as well, as he will see a few more carries this year than Iowa’s fullbacks have traditionally seen. I don’t know that he’ll get Jeremy Allen style carries, but it might happen. He’s also a great fit in a one-back set out of the gun, as he can stay in and provide great pass protection as well as be a legitimate threat the defense has to account for to run with the ball.

CJ Fiedorowicz might be the most impressive physical specimen Iowa has had at tight end, maybe ever. 6-7/265 and he’s chiseled.

DEFENSIVE THOUGHTS

We’ve known this since January, but staring at this two-deep sort of rams it home; Iowa is going to have to have a lot of players step up who will be getting called upon for the first time. Kirk Ferentz said this related to the defensive line on Thursday in Chicago:

“None of us have seen them play in games yet. The group really improved in the 15 days we had in March and April. The first guys that come to mind is Louis Trinca-Pasat who was missing in action in December, He took a couple day hiatus as he was not sure he was going to stay in program. He went from that to a guy who was out there just in body during bowl prep to a guy who was one of most improved on the team in March and April. I have reason to think that he is going to play well in the years forward. I think a guy like Carl Davis who I have not seen on the field because he was rehabbing, I see him in our building and how his demeanor is different than last year and two years ago. I would compare him to Brandon Scherrf. Came in at the same time and are big and talented. They are approaching that point when they are ready to play at a successful level in our conference. That is the intriguing part of what happens here in August. I am anxious to see both of those guys on the field and see what they do in August and the real test is what happens in September moving forward. It’s like years past; we have a chance for some good stories and if we are going to have a good team, we will need those good stories.”

Trinca-Pasat is listed at 6-3/270 as a defensive tackle. That’s on the real small side. However, it was great to hear what Ferentz had to say about him, not only for this year but for the next three years as he is a sophomore. Davis is 6-5/310 and Iowa hasn’t had many ‘of those’ during the Ferentz era at tackle. Colin Cole comes to mind as far as space eaters go, but the list is small. Darian Cooper is listed on the ‘OR’ line with Davis and he’s 6-2/280. Steve Bigach saw some time last year and was ‘OK’; he’ll need to step it up at defensive end as I have my doubts as to whether or not Dom Alvis will be ready to go right away. Iowa is scary thin (literally and figuratively) at defensive end.

When looking at the defensive line, I am reminded of a line from the movie ‘Major League’; “Who are these guys?”

Here are the LB starters:

James Morris (6-2/230)
Anthony Hitchens (6-1/224)
Christian Kirksey (6-2/220)

Kirksey will be playing a very physical position in Iowa’s defense, the LEO backer position, at 220-pounds. That’s 220-pounds to start fall camp. He won’t likely weigh that much come September 1st. That unit will be pretty quick laterally, but there is not a lot of extra lead in the pencil, collectively.

Iowa is already down one two-deep member in Jordan Lomax, who will likely miss the season after suffering a shoulder injury last week. BJ Lowery may prove to be Iowa’s best pure cornerback of the Ferentz era. Micah Hyde on the other side ain’t chopped liver, either. Tanner Miller provides some solid experience at free safety and I think we’ll see a lot of Nico Law walking down into the box to help out with run support.

When that happens, it’s going to leave the corners on an island more this year in one on one situations. However, this CB tandem might be the best equipped duo to handle it of the Ferentz era.

John Wienke and Jonny Mullings are listed as co number one punters. My best is neither of them is the punter come September 1st and freshman Connor Kornbrath gets that nod. Hope that is the case.

Here are some other notable numbers I saw in the media guide:

Freshman Jaleel Johnson is listed at 6-4/300. That’s a big cat, and he’s dropped a few pounds from when he arrived. I hear that he carries it real, real well. With that size, if he takes to Iowa’s schemes at all, he’s going to play as a true freshman. I don’t know how much, but he will play.

-Maurice Fleming is listed as a defensive back (CHANGE: Ferentz said on Friday he will start at wide receiver)
-Greg Garmon is listed at 6-1/200
-Barkley Hill is listed at 6-0/210. He rushed for over 6,000 yards in three seasons with 89 TD’s

-My guess is at least one incoming frosh WR will play this year.

-Iowa’s depth chart includes 8 position players who walked on to the program.

-Iowa lists 121 players on its roster. Here is the state by state breakdown:
Iowa: 46
Illinois: 14
Ohio: 11
Florida: 6
Michigan: 6
Texas: 5
Maryland: 4
Wisconsin: 3
Nebraska: 3
2 from Georgia, Missouri, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
1 from Arizona, Connecticut, California, Indiana, Montana, New York, Oklahoma and West Virginia
1 from Canada
1 from Australia

Walk on freshman Dan Hartlieb is the smallest Hawkeye at 155 pounds while Carl Davis and Brandon Scherff are the biggest at 310.

Here is the depth chart breakdown by class (position players only):

Seniors: 13
Juniors: 15
Sophomores: 15
Redshirt Freshmen: 10

75.4% of Iowa’s pre-season depth chart will have eligibility remaining for the 2013 season.

Iowa has just four returning starters who started every game in 2012: Vandenberg, Ferentz, Hyde and Kirksey. Iowa returns six starters on offense and five on defense.

Of the ‘projected starters’ on this two deep, there are four seniors on offense and two on defense. The 2013 roster is going to return a lot of overall experience and starting experience.

  • Bob

    Just a couple minor things: in Marc Morehouse’s top-45 list he wrote that Trinca-Pasat weighed 283 in the spring and Kirksey was 227 as of this summer. They may not be ideal size, but they’re not quite as small as the current roster suggests. It’s not real important, I just don’t think Iowa is as undersized as people think.

  • Dhksc

         Why are the LB’s so light coming out of HS? They seemed to come in with more weight just a few years ago.

    • CKuhle4224

      I think they’ve recruited different types of LB’s. They’re looking for more speed to cover on passing downs.

      • Dhksc

        When I watch LSU and Bama, they are big and fast. That is how they are able to steamroll everybody else.

  • Grady

    The offensive line is “the best position group” on the team?  Huh?  Only 1 out of 5 (Ferentz) has started and played well consistently in BTen games.  You must be going on what you are seeing in practice, ‘cuz we sure haven’t seen it on the field.  Compared to the defensive backfield, which has two proven CBs, an experienced safety and a big-time hitter in safety Nico Law, plus an experienced backup CB and former starter Castillo?   The size of the LBs IS an issue — review the tapes and watch how many times an Iowa LB hits a RB in the hole straight up — one on one — and the RB is stopped immediately or goes backwards…….you can go multiple games and not see it happen.

    • Larry Flint

      Remind us all how much Pat Angerer weighed …. and then get back to us!  If you do your homework, size doesn’t matter to the degree that you might think.  Besides, the bigger proverbial fish that the D is attempting to fry is to make it so that the D faces fewer gross mismatches.  Typically LBs that are on the bigger side have more trouble in coverage, and given how ubiquitous lateral passing games are … it’s too much of a liability to have them in coverage.  Consequently, Iowa has been moving towards having smaller LBs.

      • HNStaff

        When your DL is going to be challenged LBs will take more beating. Angerer played behind an elite DL
        Jon Miller
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        • Larry Flint

          I don’t disagree.  However, that again isn’t the point.  The point is that Iowa has shown a willingness to play “smaller” LBs for a while now … and it hasn’t been to the detriment of the defense.

          Kirksey is the most undersized, but he’s more on the edge and has been lined up on TEs and WRs more frequently than on OTs.  Thus, even though he’s our LEO … he’s not going to be asked to play it exactly like Edds had.

          Lastly, to get back to YOUR point about LBs taking more of a beating behind a newbie DL … that’s also why you give guys like Alston, Fisher, and Collins reps … that way Hitchens and Morris can get some spells from the carnage.

          • HNStaff

            It may not be your point. However, since I wrote it and you are disagreeing with what I wrote, my point is what we are debating ;) And that is my opinion that the size of Iowa’s outside LB’s is a concern to me given the amount of action they are going to see due to what I feel will be a challenged defensive line.

          • Larry Flint

             The disagreement was with what Grady had written.  The original “article” only remarked upon Kirksey’s lack of size.

            Again, Kirksey’s lack of size will only get highlighted more against the more power-oriented run attacks.  Otherwise, against the many spread attacks that we’re facing these days, Kirksey’s quickness/speed is far more of an asset.

            One of Iowa’s biggest problem’s on D over the past 2 years was getting off the field on 3rd down.  A big part of that was due to how opposing passing attacks exploited our LBs.

        • Larry Flint

           Another thing is that Angerer played behind a ’08 DL that was pretty undersized in the middle.  King and Kroul were obviously wily veterans … however, the starters at DE were newbies (Ballard was a TR SO and Clayborn was a RS SO).  Furthermore, due to all the attrition we had on the DL back then, our depth was almost completely unproven.  Klug was just a SO and had scarcely played a prior game due to injury and both Binns and Daniels were RS FR.  Our few backups with some experience were Narinskiy, a guy who had seen fewer prior career reps than Carl Davis … and Chad Geary who as a walk-on (or former walk-on).

          Before the ’08 season, NOBODY would have claimed that the Iowa DL was going to be “elite” … that is, except maybe for homerHAWKeye777.

          All the same, Angerer really emerged in ’08 and played really well … not at all bad for a somewhat undersized LB!

    • HNStaff

      We’ll see in October ;). DB’s not as deep

      Jon Miller
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  • QCHawks

    The superlatives being tossed around for Lowery are a bit of a head-scratcher. On what is this based? He has barely been on the field.

    • Rsimplot

      Well…he did save the Michigan game…on the last play…with his arm in a cast.

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