While this isn’t as good as Brandon Scherff releasing a statement, it’s got Hawkeye Nation buzzing:
— Chase (@Chase_Maher) December 9, 2013
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:
Spoke to Brandon Scherff and he is indeed headed back to Iowa for senior season. Will likely be in preseason top 10 players.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 9, 2013
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:
FERENTZ 3.0 IS BORN!!!!!!!
— Jon Miller (@HawkeyeNation) November 29, 2013
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:
— Reiver Football (@reiverfootball) December 9, 2013
Gotta think K. Ferentz is at Iowa Western today to make push for DE Trevon Young, who has OV to Ole Miss Wednesday & Louisville Friday
— Rob Howe (@HawkeyeInsider) December 9, 2013
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.
Iowa's 14 schedule = NIU, OSU, MSU and UM replaced with Ball State, Maryland, Indiana and Illinois. pic.twitter.com/jkFADHgQCU
— Dan Welter (@Dan_Welter) December 9, 2013
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.