Hope and Concern?

May 11, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

Adam Rittenberg of ESPN blogs about Big Ten football for the world wide leader.  He is running a ‘Hope and Concern‘ series this week, citing items for each team where their fans can pin some hope along with an area of concern.  He hit Iowa on Wednesday, and you can read his blurb here.

His biggest area of concern for Iowa is this:  Depth in the defensive front seven.

I don’t disagree with him, but he goes on to say that Iowa feels good about three of its four down linemen in Daniels, Binns and Daniel, and he compliments Morris and Nielsen at linebacker.  Again, Iowa is thin with regards to unproven depth this coming year and they will have to answer a lot of questions to the affirmative along the front…but that’s 5 of 7.  Then again, as Rittenberg points out (the obvious), Iowa can ill-afford any injuries to key players in the front seven this year, something they did not do at linebacker last year.

Maybe I am getting a bit too sensitive to daily hits and criticisms for Iowa’s 2011 team…that’s probably close to the truth.  Also, as I have said before, people that are fans of a team or closely follow that team tend to minimize the warts more so than do ‘outsiders’ and we likely amplify the strengths.

That being acknowledged, I just have a hard time believing that the 2011 Iowa defense won’t be at least as productive as the 2005 Iowa defense was, the year it replaced four starters along the defensive line along with one linebacker.  Iowa actually has more starting experience returning to its front seven for 2011 than it did in 2005, when Ken Iwebema and Bryan Mattison started as sophomore defensive ends and Matt Kroul and Mitch King started as freshmen tackles.

That year, Iowa was 29th nationally in rushing defense (129 yards per game allowed) and 22nd in scoring defense (20.0/ppg allowed), both of those being more than respectable numbers and both of those categories being two of the most important in my book.  However, that team was not very opportunistic, finishing 101st in the nation in turnovers gained with just 16.

That team had Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway at linebacker.  I won’t put Morris in Hodge’s category but he’s not going to be a slouch.  Nielsen and Greenway play different positions, but Nielsen might be the second best LEO linebacker of the Ferentz era and proved to be very good in coverage.  Mike Daniels is light years ahead of where King or Kroul were and I think Binns will play much better than either Iwebema or Mattison did as sophomore’s.  Dominic Alvis may prove to be a revelation along the line, too.

While I expect a drop off on defense for Iowa, this group can be opportunistic and I think there are some unknown names waiting in the wings that will prove their mettle, and the depth along the front four this year will be better than it was in 2005.

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As was the case in 2005, the offense will have to put up some points.  The 2005 team averaged 30.0 points per game and was 22nd in total yardage in the nation, with the total yards per game being the second best mark of the O’Keefe era.

I believe this year’s team is capable of such numbers.

Just like 2005, the margin between a nine win season and a seven win season will likely be small…but Iowa fans are used to that, as their 11 losses over the past three years have been by seven points or less.

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I’m starting to get ticked at how this year’s team is being overlooked, so you can only imagine how they will play up that angle inside the football complex.

To look at Iowa’s 2005 national statistical rankings, click here.

Here is one more late addition to the snubfest that is taking place.

Rittenberg has a poll of the Big Ten’s most irreplaceable players from 2010…there are five names on it…Iowa had more players drafted than any school officially in the Big Ten, including a first rounder…no Hawkeyes are in this poll.

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I guess you could say that’s a compliment to the players Iowa has in the program, or a not to reloading? Yes, you could if you didn’t already know the writer pegged Iowa as the 7th best team in the league just last week….

Brendan Stiles of HawkeyeDrive.com put in some work on fleshing out the Iowa basketball schedule for next year in this item. It looks like Iowa will have home dates against Campbell, Chicago State, and North Carolina A&T as a part of an ‘exempt tournament’ that will include Iowa’s game against Creighton at Wells Fargo Arena.

As Scott Dochterman of The Gazette pointed out last month, Iowa will not likely play a game outside the state’s borders until January of 2012, when it plays its first Big Ten road game.  Iowa will be at ISU and UNI next year and will host an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game….

Tim Dwight loves track and field…he also loves promoting fitness…which is why he is going to participate in 25 events at the Iowa Games this summer…among the events he will be entered in are archery and table tennis, aka ping pong. Why is the scene from Billy Madison where Adam Sandler is dominating kids on the dodge ball court come to mind?

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