With Scherff Returning, Iowa Stock May Soar

While this isn’t as good as Brandon Scherff releasing a statement, it’s got Hawkeye Nation buzzing:

That’s a facebook screen capture and others have said they heard Scherff say as much on hometown radio. Then there was this on Monday afternoon as well:

So, for all of you recruitniks; what’s better, Kirk Ferentz landing a highly rated high school offensive lineman who may or may not become a great player, or a future first round NFL draft pick returning for his senior season after another year with Chris Doyle?

Yeah, that’s the one I chose, too. Scherff is by far Iowa’s best ‘commitment’ in this year’s recruiting class. Iowa fans are going to be one year removed from going through one of the longest and most tedious off seasons in the last decade to an offseason that can’t end soon enough and a team that might be ranked in several preseason Top 20 polls next year.

Oh, you think that is too lofty? Well, a great deal might depend on what Iowa does against LSU in the Outback Bowl, as it relates to how high they might fly in some preseason publications.

‘That doesn’t matter!’ says some of you. True, it doesn’t impact their ability to win games next year, but it does matter. Things like that matter in recruiting and without buzz around your program, it doesn’t matter how shiny and new those toys you have are; they can rust in a hurry.

Kirk Ferentz 3.0 seems like it’s going to happen, or at the very least it’s heading that way. 1.0 was the 2002-2004 run where Iowa finished 8th in the nation after each one of those seasons and was a combined 31-7. 2.0 was 2008 through the Indiana game in 2010, where Iowa was 27-8 and none of those eight losses was by more than a touchdown. In hindsight, 2.0 probably began to end when Wisconsin ran the fake field goal on Iowa, deep in Hawkeye territory in the 4th quarter with Iowa leading.

3.0 seems to be starting a lot like 2.0; the 2008 team was 5-4 before it beat #3 Penn State on a last second field goal. While Iowa didn’t beat a ranked team this year, it did beat Michigan and Nebraska back to back and won three straight conference games to end the season, just like the 2008 team did. Iowa blew out a conference foe on the road in it’s regular season finale, just like the 2008 team did (55-0 at Minnesota). Iowa doesn’t have a running back as dynamic or all in one as Shonn Greene was in 2008, but this year’s team may have found some lightning in a bottle that was right in front of it all along (Jordan Canzeri).

We won’t know exactly where 3.0 began until years later, but perhaps it was Canzeri’s big day at Purdue? Or maybe it was at 1:17pm on Good Friday:

Just before I tweeted that during the game, tt was 4th and 3 at the Nebraska 32 yard line with just under five minutes in the third. Iowa had called timeout on 4th and 3, hoping the officials would replay the previous play and rule that Nebraska quarterback Ron Kellog’s arm had not gone forward, making the play a fumble and not an incompletion. Inexplicably, Bo Pelini still called for the fake and the Iowa defense sniffed it out. The next play, the Hawkeyes went play action and Jake Rudock found Martin-Manley in the endzone on a tough ball to catch, looking back into the sun and that made it 24-10 Iowa. While the game wasn’t over at that point, I think we may look back on that exchange as where some demons were exorcized (fake punt) and the swagger returned.

Let me pause here for a few seconds to catch my breath and to say I see you with your hand up, there in the back. “Jon, don’t go 12-0 on us. This team loses three amazing linebackers, a great cornerback, one of the best tight ends of the Ferentz era and it’s right offensive tackle, plus it’s placekicker.”

Yes, you would be right about those things.

Losing the law firm of Morris, Hitchens and Kirksey will be tough to deal with. However, if Iowa can go out on the recruiting trails and land a pass rushing specialist at defensive end, they will return one of the best defensive tackles in the league (Carl Davis) and one of the toughest (Louis Trinca-Pasat) with a bevy of talented players behind those two. It only takes one pass rushing defensive end to tilt the scales in your favor.

Oh, lookie here:

Travis Perry has looked solid in his limited reps at linebacker as has Quinton Alston. Reggie Spearman looks like a great athlete back there and could fill the Hitchens space one day. These three will not play at the same level that this year’s crew played at, but if Iowa can get pressure on the quarterback with their front four, they won’t have to.

Desmond King was a revelation at cornerback this year and Jordan Lomax saw some time. Johnny Lowdermilk will be one starter at safety and perhaps Nico Law can rise up and have a breakthrough senior year, or Anthony Gair takes the position. The chance exists for Iowa to get better play out of the safety position.

On offense, Iowa will now return five offensive linemen with significant playing experience, anchored by Brandon Scherff, who will be in the running for the Outland Trophy next year. Scherff had risen to 15th on Mel Kiper’s Big Board for this year’s draft. Austin Blythe turned in a very good year at center and Ryan Ward and Andrew Donnal have seen reps. Jordan Walsh is another name to watch and Tommy Gaul and Eric Simmons can fill out depth for this crew. Iowa will miss Van Sloten at right tackle, but having Scherff back softens that blow in a big way.

The Hawkeyes return every key skill position player of note save CJ Fiedorowicz. While inconsistent, CJ was always a mismatch and a player you could throw open. He had just 26 catches this year but six of them went for touchdowns; he was a redzone target to be sure. That said, Iowa has talent in spades at that position; Ray Hamilton, Jake Duzey and George Kittle all return.

At receiver, Iowa returns Kevonte Martin-Manley, rising star in Tavaun Smith and will have a Demond Powell who has a full grasp of Iowa’s scheme and playbook and should therefore be a more utilized weapon. Jacob Hillyer returns and Matt Vandeberg will benefit from a year in the weight room. Iowa also redshirted a number of wide receivers in this past class.

The Iowa offense will not have any excuses next year; it should be a very dangerous group, one of the more multi-faceted squads the Hawkeyes have had under Kirk Ferentz. Mark Weisman nor Jordan Canzeri can do it all, but in tandem they can be a potent combination. Jake Rudock is going to be better next year for having 13 games under his belt. He should be challenged in the spring and fall by CJ Beatherd, who is not ready to give up on being the starter.

There will be competition at every position save left tackle and center. Aside from those two positions, there will be real competition for playing time. That’s very important and helps to keep a team from resting on some laurels or younger players from thinking they have arrived.

The 2014 team doesn’t have as much raw, NFL-level talent as the 2010 team had heading into that season, but it also doesn’t play Arizona or Ohio State.

This schedule is incredibly manageable. The crazy, are-you-serious optimist in me wants to pencil (PENCIL) in a 10-0 start and then grab an Arnold Palmer and soak it in for a while…not gonna do it…not gonna do it. No.

OK..that seems like a good place to stop projecting. Here is a crack at Iowa’s starting lineup next year:

QB: Jake Rudock/CJ Beatherd
RB: Mark Weisman/Jordan Canzeri
FB: Adam Cox/Macon Plewa
WR: Kevonte Martin-Manley/Jacob Hillery
WR: Tavaun Smith/Damond Powell
OL: Brandon Scherff
OL: Andrew Donnal/Tommy Gaul
C: Austin Blythe/Eric Simmons
OL: Jordan Walsh
OL: Ryan Ward
TE: Ray Hamilton OR Jake Duzey/George Kittle

DE: Drew Ott/Nate Meier
DT: Carl Davis/Jaleel Johnson
DT: Louis Trinca-Pasat/Darian Cooper
DE: Mike Hardy
LB: Travis Perry
LB: Quinton Alston
LB: Reggie Spearman
CB: Desmond King
S: Johnny Lowdermilk/Nico Law
S: Anthony Gair/Nico Law
CB: Jordan Lomax/Sean Draper

K: Marshall Koehn
P: Connor Kornbrath

That’s a pretty good foundation, no? Eight returning starters on offense, nine if you count Ray Hamilton who has started at tight end in the past. Six returning starters on defense, including all four defensive tackles, plus a seventh starter if you consider the fact that Lomax started Iowa’s season opener before getting hurt late in that game. Factor in one of those returning starters is your quarterback and yes, we will see Iowa in most every preseason ranking next year.

If they beat LSU in the Outback Bowl and get to 9-4, you can guarantee it.

  • Cody

    I see 10-2 (7-1)

    UNI – W
    Ball St – L
    ISU – W
    Pitt – W
    Purdue – W
    Indiana – W
    Maryland – W
    Northwestern – W
    Minnesota – W
    Illinois – W
    Wisconsin – L
    Nebraska – W
    Possible conference championship game ?

    • HNStaff

      Ball State loses Keith Wenning, their QB who threw for 3,900+ this year

      • jeffbuck

        And Wisconsin will not escape. Do you hear me? WE WILL BEAT THE FREAKING BADGERS.

      • Cody

        My apologies, I thought Wenning was a junior. However Ball St does return Willie Snead and Jahwan Edwards, their stud WR and RB from a pretty high powered offense. While they will be breaking in a new QB we will be breaking in 3 new linebackers. I just think it sets up as a loseable game. Hope I am wrong though!!

        • Larry Flint

          With a new QB, even surrounded by plenty of talent, playing in a hostile environment is going to be tough. Even with new starters at LB, 2 of the 3 are hardly “new” … Perry and Alston both know the system well and both coaches and fellow teammates have gushed about those two. While there will certainly be a a drop in the quality of play at LB, that drop still could get countered by strides made on the DL and in the secondary. Also, I anticipate that the LB play will still be far about “serviceable.”

          Also, Iowa’s O returns nearly all of it’s critical parts … and with Rudock being the clear top QB, that will lead to him getting far more reps with the top WRs during the off-season. Thus, we should expect nice gains to be made during the off-season in terms of being on the same page and in terms of timing. The point here being that it will likely be VERY tough for Ball State to stop Iowa’s O.

          Frankly, I’m a bit more nervous about the Northern Iowa game because they still return a talented and veteran QB and an excellent, veteran RB. Talent-wise, they’re typically loaded because they benefit a lot from FBS transfers.

    • Larry Flint

      Wisconsin loses A TON on D … most of their starting front 7 plus some depth there AND a starting safety.

      Furthermore, on O, they lose their top WR, their top receiving TE, their most experienced RB, a starting O-lineman, and 2 other TEs who saw a lot of game-action. Also, they lost Duckworth, who ended up being one of their top secondary option receivers. At least from what I can discern, it would seem that Wisconsin COULD end up being far less consistent in the passing game in ’14 than they were in ’13. Furthermore, given the loss of some of those big blocking TEs (3 of their top 4 TEs), it might be a little harder for them to hold the edge … and that could limit some of Gordon’s effectiveness when rushing to the edge.

      Wisconsin will NOT be any pushover though. They still return A LOT on the offensive line, they return 2 high quality running backs, and a starting QB.


  • Hawknut

    Not sure if Jon if you’ve heard of Chad Gilson or not but as a little hear it now first kinda thing don’t be surprised if he takes over middle LB next yr. He’s very similar in size and attributes to Morris and is just a stud of a football player. I think he will be in the middle with the other Urbandale alum Perry outside and Alston. Spearman is pretty green yet and I think he’ll still be in on passing situations a lot. I don’t think there will be the crazy drop off at LB people are afraid of not just because these guys can play but because the Dline should be just that much better too. Davis is an animal. I would like to think Flemming would be ready to have a role in the secondary. That kid is athletic and a ball hawk. I for one would like to see more secondary players on the field when in passing situations and against the more pass happy opponents but I’m nit picking by suggesting that. Hard to argue very much with a top 20 over all defense. My biggest reasoning for that would be for that to happen in 3rd and 4th q when the LBs are maybe a step slower and the 2nd string corners should be fresh and good to fly around the field to either cover or blitz and rush the passer. Go Hawks.

    • Larry Flint

      I’ve heard a lot of Urbandale folks rave about Gilson. It sounds like he really could be a good one. However, that said, it’s also true that the coaches REALLY like Alston. Alston knows the D really, really well and he’s been mentored by Morris for years. It’s going to be VERY important the that MIKE LB gets the DL lined up correctly … and, at least at this juncture, my money would be on Alston.


      • Hawknut

        Yea Alston will be on the field for sure. He’s pretty quick and fast too. I think he’ll play outside along Gilson. I think Alston GIlson and Perry are who their top 3 Lbs are and even if the middle is Alstons best spot he’s plenty capable of playing outside too. Gilson is a middle LB all the way. I think the coaches will want the top 3 of em out there the most often and that’s my way too early to call prediction haha.

        • Larry Flint

          Does Gilson know the D well enough to make all the calls? The MIKE spot is effectively the “QB” for the front 7. Since Alston has been immersed in the same system since being a freshman, I’d be inclined to think that he’d know the system.
          As for speed/quickness, I’ve been under the impression that Alston is potentially the slowest MIKE we’ve had since Klinkenborg. However, on the flip side, he’s a really smart young man … and quite instinctive too. At the MIKE spot, good positioning and quick instincts can often compensate for lack of speed.
          Lastly, once reason why I’m skeptical as to whether Gilson will make such a jump is because we’ve yet to even see him on special teams. After Collins got the boot, that would have at least been a perfect time for him to start playing. However, if he’s not even within the “circle of trust” to play special teams, that suggests to me that he’s less likely to jump straight into getting positional action. Thus, while Spearman might indeed be quite raw, the fact that he’s seeing quality reps on D and a regular on special teams suggests to me that he’s far more likely to be candidate for a starting spot.

          • Hawknut

            Gilson will have been a Hawkeye for 2 yrs by the time he plays next yr. He couldn’t play this yr at all due to transfering or he would have been on special teams for sure. He had to sit out. He played in last yrs spring game pretty well. From what I’ve heard he is the strongest of all the LBs currently there in the weight room. He’s a quicker then fast, tank of a LB. He played special teams at UNI and was solid at covering kicks and tackling. UNI has a more complex defense to have to learn as far as the Xs and Os go. Iowa’s is pretty simplistic compared to alot of schools. I think he’s a diamond in the rough that can be not only a solid player next year but a heck of a story. I think your right though in that if Gilson isn’t ready to play it’ll be because of the mental side of the game or that he’s a step slow out there due to thinking too much. It won’t be because he’s not physically good enough. Can’t wait to find out.

  • dingbat_1

    Does the Fisher kid from Millard North have a chance to see time next year at Will or Sam linebacker?

    • Larry Flint

      Yes. Through much of the year he was on the depth chart at the WILL LB spot. Spearman must have a pretty high ceiling because he displaced Fisher from that spot. However, through bowl prep, spring camp, and next fall camp … a lot can happen. I wouldn’t write off Fisher at all. The only potential knock on the kid is that he’s a bit on the slight side.


  • Louie

    We will be favored in every game next year.we will give away the usual 2-3 games so probably 9-10 wins.

  • Larry Flint

    From what digging I’ve done, the last 2 times Iowa returned this many top skill-players on O were in 2010 and 2005. In 2010 Iowa only averaged around 382 yards per game, but they also scored 42 TDs on O and 14 FGs. In 2005, Iowa averaged 432 yards per game and they scored 42 scores on O and 17 FGs. In all frankness, Iowa was an Ed Hinkel broken arm away from finishing the regular season with a 9-2 record.

    In ’10, the top returning proven skill players of note were:
    Stanzi, DJK, Reisner, Robinson, Hampton, and McNutt

    In ’10, high potential guys who were poised to potentially contribute were:
    Coker, Fiedorowicz, K. Davis

    In ’10, the top returning contributors on the OL were:
    Reiff (newly switched over to LT as a regular starter) and Vandervelde

    In ’05, the top returning proven skill players of note were:
    Tate, Solomon, Hinkel, Chandler

    In ’05, high potential guys who were poised to potentially contribute were:
    Young, Moeaki, Sims, Greene

    In ’05, the top returning contributors on the OL were:
    B. Ferentz, Elgin, Jones, Gates (saw a good many back-up reps) – also Yanda entered the fray although he a recent JUCO transfer

    In ’14 the top returning proven skill players of note are:
    Rudock, Weisman, Canzeri, Martin-Manley, T. Smith, Powell, Duzey (and potentially Bullock, if you want to include him)

    In ’14, high potential guys who are poised to potentially contribute (or contribute more) are:
    Daniels, Wadley/Smith, Willies/Mitchell, Kittle, Wisnieski

    In ’14, the top returning contributors on the OL are:
    Scherff, Blythe, Walsh, and Donnal

    Of course, injuries can always undermine perceived depth. For example:

    – In ’10, Iowa’s RB situation was laughable due to injuries. Hampton had an early season ACL tear that took him out for the season. Brinson had an early season ankle injury that effectively shelved him for the season. And Coker and a broken collarbone (IIRC) that delayed his ability to contribute.

    – In ’05, Hinkel had the broken arm. That was a big hit to the O because we had limited depth at WR (top back-ups were Grigsby and a young/raw Brodell).

    – In ’10, injuries at OG, specifically to Gettis and MacMillan, undermined Iowa’s O. Iowa could essentially only consistently run to one side of the field and that made Iowa easier to defend.


  • Steven Dailey

    I’d like to see Jake Duzey get a lot of targets. He has near Dallas Clark like ability. Defensively, really hoping we an impact player at DE, Need someone who can contain and catch those spread QB’s.

  • jeffbuck

    Go Brandon! Go Hawks!!!

  • Rdovation

    Jon…Didn’t see all this coming 3 or 4 weeks ago. The difference this season was seeing poise at the QB position perhaps more than anything else. Rudock proved it in the overtime win against Northwestern. I’m already looking forward to next year. Can’t wait! Oh, but I can’t take my eyes off this year’s basketball squad. Nothing like winning when you’re a Hawkeye fan…

    • jeffbuck

      Rudock made a lot of clutch throws on third and 10 (and similar) and third and fourth and goal. And he never took a snap before this year. He is a leader. There’s every reason to believe he can lead this team to double-digit win season.

  • 12-0

    Michigan State looked at its schedule this year, according to the Lansing Journal, and decided this was the season to win the Big Ten title and maybe the national title. MSU seized that opportunity and was within a poorly officiated close loss to Notre Dame from playing for that national title. The Big Ten title and Rose Bowl are theirs forever.

    Iowa should see a similar opportunity next season. A 10-0 start is entirely realistic. Then it’s Wisconsin and Nebraska to finish it off–BOTH in Kinnick. What more could the Hawkeyes ask for?

    So go 12-0, win the Big Ten title, and not only play in the Rose Bowl, but play in it as one of the semi-finalists in the first playoff ever.

    Scherff returning is just one more reason why this scenario is entirely plausible. Just ask Michigan State.

  • John

    What a difference a year makes. Go Hawks.

  • Thomas Wenndt

    The Outback Bowl victories at the end of the 2003 and 2008 seasons showed us that a win in that bowl REALLY matters. How strong of a connection you could ordinarily make from a bowl one season to a regular season the next may be unclear, but the results from the 2004 and 2009 seasons speak for themselves. I’d LOVE to see that happen again in 2014.

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