Early Returns: 2010 Hawks Will Be Highly Ranked

January 8, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

With Iowa ending the year #7 in both the AP and the Coaches Polls, and with so many starters returning on defense and all of the skill position firepower they return on offense, they will be highly ranked heading into next season.

I expect most preseason magazines will have them inside their Top 10.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has released his ‘way too early Top 25’ for next year, and the Hawks are at #9

It would have been interesting to see how Iowa would have finished if quarterback Ricky Stanzi hadn’t sprained his ankle in a 17-10 loss to Northwestern on Nov. 7. The Hawkeyes were undefeated before Stanzi was hurt, and they were really good when he returned in a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Iowa will have back six starters on offense, but the line must be rebuilt with center Rafael Eubanks, right guard Dace Richardson, left tackle Bryan Bulaga and right tackle Kyle Calloway leaving. Nine starters should return to a very stingy defense. The Hawkeyes’ nonconference schedule isn’t overly challenging besides a Sept. 18 road game at Arizona, and they play Big Ten heavyweights Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State at home.

You’ll see more of that as the month of January rolls along, and even more of it following Spring football.

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There is no doubt about Iowa’s biggest question marks this offseason, and that is the offensive line.  We’ll address this in greater detail in the coming weeks.  But if Iowa can put an average offensive line together next year, with the talent they will have at quarterback, running back and receiver, with arguably the best defensive front four in the nation and if Spievey comes back, one of the best secondaries in the nation, plus its punter and field goal specialist (only three kickers in Iowa history have kicked more than Daniel Murray’s 19 field goals in a season), the Hawks are going to have a target on their backs.

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PS:  ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit picked the Hawks #4 on his early list for next year.

Click on the link above to see the rest of Schlabach’s picks…Ohio State is #2, and I have no problem with that.  Wisconsin is #10 and you can make a strong case.  Penn State at #19?  Overrated 😉

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The last time Iowa went into a season with such expectations was 2005.  That team went 7-5 but was a whisker away from 9-3, that still might have been a letdown for some fans.  However, that team started two freshmen defensive tackles and two sophomore defensive ends to go along with a veteran linebacking corps.  Give me a veteran defensive line and unproven linebackers if I had to pick one of those two combinations…we’ll have to deal with the flipside of that in 2011.

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