Howe: Taking A Sneak Peak at Hawkeye Football 2018

November 30, 2017

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s probably too early for a deep dive into what Iowa football will look like next fall, but we can take a sneak peak, right? There’s a long time between now and yet-to-be-determined bowl game.

Let’s dip our toes in the water at each position and see what we come up with. I’ll take a more in-depth approach in January:

QUARTERBACK – True sophomore Nate Stanley experienced some turbulence in his first season as a starter, but that’s to be expected, especially on the road in the Big Ten. Still, he threw for 2,338 yards and 25 touchdown passes against just six interceptions with a patchwork offensive line and the future looks bright with expected progression from a hard-working kid.

In a perfect world, Tyler Wiegers would return for his senior season and Ryan Boyle his junior year to back up Stanley. One has to figure that one if not both will look elsewhere for playing time.

Peyton Mansell, a true freshman this fall, is the only other scholarship signal caller on the roster right now. The Hawkeyes are looking for one in the 2018 recruiting class, offering Matthew Baldwin from Texas on Tuesday. He’s committed to Colorado State and picked up an Ohio State offer earlier this month.

RUNNING BACK – Iowa must replace Akrum Wadley, one of only four players in program history with back to back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and James Butler, a productive backup. They’ll return Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin, who performed well in spot duty this season, along with Toks Akinribade, who played as a true freshman last season and then sat out this year. Redshirt freshman Kyshaun Bryan and incoming freshman Henry Geil from Wisconsin also factor into the equation.

RECEIVER – The team leader in receptions, Nick Easley (50-498) will be back but Matt VandeBerg will need to be replaced. True freshman Ihmir Smith-Marsette will be looking for more consistency after flashing promise this fall. Iowa’s going to need his classmates, Brandon Smith and Max Cooper, to step forward next season.

Devonte Young was relegated to special teams this season, and Adrian Falconer played less than him. Both guys have their redshirt years and could look for a new place.

Iowa brings in true freshman Tyrone Tracy and Samson Evans. It’s also in the hunt for Florida’s Calvin Lockett, who is coached by former Hawkeye Marcus Paschal.

TIGHT END – The cupboard is loaded. Noah Fant (28-486-10) and T.J. Hockenson (23-311-3) will be returning as will blocking specialist Nate Wieting. Shaun Beyer looks ready to contribute. Drew Cook is intriguing. Jacob Coons red shirted will be coming off a redshirt season.

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OFFENSIVE LINE – Needing to patch holes due to injuries this season should pay off next year. Freshmen tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs will be better from learning on the job. Center James Daniels is poised for a big senior year. Guards Keegan Render and Ross Reynolds round out an experienced unit.

The Hawkeyes need to build depth at this position during the offseason. Look for Levi and Landan Paulsen, Cole Banwart, Spencer Williams, Lucas LeGrand, Mark Kallenberger, Coy Kirkpatrick and Dalton Ferguson among the returnees looking to move up the depth chart.

DEFENSIVE LINE – Like tight end, this position should be a team strength. It will miss the steadiness and leadership of Nathan Bazata, but everybody else with experience returns.

Parker Hesse, Anthony Nelson, A.J. Espenesa and Sam Brincks are back in the defensive end rotation along with interior guys Matt Nelson, Cedrick Lattimore, Brady Reiff and Garret Jansen. There’s some good young depth in Chauncey Golston, Brandon Simon, Romeo McKnight and others.

LINEBACKER – The Hawkeyes say goodbye to the starting trio from the last two seasons – Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann and Bo Bower. Who replaces them will be the biggest question of the offseason.

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Jack Hockaday, Aaron Mends, Amani Jones, Kristian Welch and Nick Niemann (Ben’s brother) all have solid special teams experience. Kyle Taylor and Barrington Wade have been in the program for two seasons, while Nate Weiland and Djimon Colbert red shirted this fall.

Iowa is bringing in two walk-ons from Iowa Western in Nick Anderson and Colton Dinsdale. It’s also pursuing Butler (KS) Community College’s Will Honas. True freshman Dillon Doyle and Ben VanSumeren will join the team in June.

It looks pretty wide open right now. I think they start the competition with Nick Niemann at LEO, Hockaday and Welch battling at MLB, and Jones and Mends competing at WLB.

CORNERBACK – Coaches and fans will be holding their breath waiting to see what Josh Jackson decides. The first-team all-Big Ten selection likely will choose after the season whether he comes back for his senior year or heads to the NFL.

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Iowa does return three more guys with starting experience in Manny Rugamba, Michael Ojemudia and Matt Hankins. They’ll battle for one spot if Jackson comes back or two openings if he does not.

Cedric Boswell would be a third-year sophomore. Cam Harrell, Trey Creamer and Josh Turner will be coming off red freshmen campaigns. D.J. Johnson and Terry Roberts will be arriving in June.

SAFETY – How things shake out back here will be interesting. Starting free safety Brandon Snyder is recovering from two ACL repairs in the last eight months. He’s one of the team’s better leaders.

Amani Hooker started at both safety positions this season. If Snyder makes it back by the start of the season, Hooker would then be the leading candidate at strong safety. He could also be there if Jake Gervase, who started most of ’17, won the free safety spot in Snyder’s absence.

Freshman Geno Stone also could factor into the mix. We might see a starting lineup with he at strong safety and Hooker at free. Noah Clayberg and John Milani also will be trying to move up the depth chart. Julius Brents comes to town in June.

PUNTER – Colten Rastetter and Ryan Gersonde return after a rocky ’17. Iowa needs improvement from this position, for sure.

KICKER – Steady Miguel Recinos comes back for his senior year. Keith Duncan, who kicked the game-winner against Michigan in ’16, returns after sitting out this fall.

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