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The big 2014 Iowa football preview: Welcome back, Ferentzball

Decent run game, great defense. Iowa once again played like Iowa in 2013, doubling the previous season's wins and setting the Hawkeyes on a brand new trajectory. Can they take advantage of a shaky 2014 schedule despite losses on D?

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. We know nothing

Iowa is in a bit of a tailspin at the moment. After playing decent football for the first half of the 2012 season, the Hawkeyes crumbled down the stretch and finished with their worst record since they went 3-9 in Ferentz's second season (2000). The football has grown stale in Iowa City, and it's safe to say the fans have noticed.

A coach less accomplished than Ferentz probably wouldn't have survived to coach another year after this downward trend. An athletic director less patient than Iowa's Gary Barta would probably be tightening the screws quite a bit. But as it stands, Barta seems pretty happy with Ferentz, and even if he wasn't, an incredible buyout would render him incapable of doing anything about it anyway.

So yeah, Ferentz will remain at Iowa for the foreseeable future. That's probably not a good thing, but it's not impossible for Ferentz to right the wrong kind of trend. For starters, he's done it once already. Iowa's 2010-12 span is strangely similar to that of 2005-07, and at the program's most uncertain point, the Hawkeyes made a lovely leap. And Oregon State made a similar recovery just last season, bouncing from 3-9, 88th, and hopeless in 2011 to 9-4 and 18th.

I wasn't exactly brimming with excitement about the prospects of Iowa football last summer, and with good reason. Ferentz was overseeing a program that had regressed in rather linear fashion for three straight seasons. The Hawkeyes' offense had gone from mediocre to terrible in 2012, and Ferentz tasked second-year coordinator Greg Davis, engineer of Texas' offensive collapse not too long ago, to rebuild it with a new quarterback, no standout receivers, and an offensive line that was missing a couple of key pieces.

Meanwhile, the defense had sunk from top-10 in Def. F/+ in 2008-09 and top-25 in 2010 to outside of the top 60 in 2012. The pass defense had been horrible for a couple of years, and new defensive coordinator Phil Parker hadn't figured out the right buttons to press just yet.

I asserted that Iowa needed a fast start to 2013 to have any hope of a bowl game, and the Hawkeyes began the season with a gut-wrenching last-second loss to Northern Illinois. Everything was pointed in the wrong direction.

And then Iowa won eight of its next 11 games, nearly fought LSU to a draw in the Outback Bowl on January 1, and finished ranked back in the F/+ top 30 for the first time in three years.

College football doesn't have to make sense. It's more fun, in fact, when it doesn't.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 29
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug Northern Illinois 60 27-30 L 29.7 - 16.2 W
7-Sep Missouri State N/A 28-14 W 25.3 - 16.2 W
14-Sep at Iowa State 78 27-21 W 22.2 - 27.6 L
21-Sep Western Michigan 117 59-3 W 30.3 - 16.6 W
28-Sep at Minnesota 55 23-7 W 32.3 - 13.2 W 10.0
5-Oct Michigan State 6 14-26 L 28.9 - 24.3 W 8.2
19-Oct at Ohio State 9 24-34 L 38.5 - 28.2 W 8.5
26-Oct Northwestern 59 17-10 W 26.0 - 26.0 L 9.6
2-Nov Wisconsin 19 9-28 L 20.5 - 18.3 W 7.3
9-Nov at Purdue 114 38-14 W 38.6 - 27.2 W 5.7
23-Nov Michigan 37 24-21 W 28.8 - 13.0 W 7.9
29-Nov at Nebraska 39 38-17 W 29.5 - 19.6 W 7.9
1-Jan vs. LSU 17 14-21 L 11.1 - 10.9 W 7.9
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +0.5% 60 +13.9% 14 +0.7% 52
Points Per Game 26.3 80 18.9 9
Adj. Points Per Game 27.8 71 19.8 7

2. Good from the start

In the end, even the NIU game was rather excusable -- NIU averaged only 5.3 yards per play and needed every bit of a plus-2 turnover margin to take the game. And after that loss, Iowa went 8-0 against teams ranked worse than 19th in the F/+ rankings. In the end, they played well enough to beat an average team (with an average number of breaks) in 11 of 13 games; they were lucky enough to play Iowa State and a snake-bitten Northwestern squad the two weeks they didn't.

The defense sagged in the middle of the year, but the offense picked up the pace a bit, and down the stretch, the defense looked almost as good as it ever has.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Iowa 28.0, Opponent 18.0 (plus-10.0)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): Iowa 30.5, Opponent 24.8 (plus-5.7)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (last 3 games): Iowa 23.1, Opponent 14.5 (plus-8.6)

Perhaps the most Ferentzian part of the season: Iowa was better on the road than at home.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (home): Iowa 32.2, Opponent 23.2 (plus-9.0)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (road): Iowa 27.1, Opponent 18.7 (plus-8.4)

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.98 123 IsoPPP+ 90.8 108
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.0% 65 Succ. Rt. + 100.9 56
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.0 54 Def. FP+ 102.4 30
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.7 104 Redzone S&P+ 103.4 46
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.3 ACTUAL 22 +3.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 85 66 57 73
RUSHING 51 70 56 39
PASSING 95 57 66 91
Standard Downs 65 62 105
Passing Downs 62 62 100
Q1 Rk 98 1st Down Rk 78
Q2 Rk 47 2nd Down Rk 59
Q3 Rk 57 3rd Down Rk 27
Q4 Rk 54

3. Mediocre is better than bad

Greg Davis didn't exactly fix the Iowa offense. We should start there. Iowa was still only marginally efficient and completely lacked in big-play ability. Interception rates were a little too high, and while a lot of this had to do with the quality of defense they faced, they still struggled to finish drives despite a run-heavy approach.

Still, the Hawkeyes were competent. They were pretty much average at everything -- 57th in Passing S&P+, 70th rushing, 65th on standard downs, 62nd on passing downs -- and despite average punting, they were quite strong in the field position game. They did their defense infinitely more favors than in the previous couple of seasons, and the defense took advantage.

Hell, the running backs even stayed reasonably healthy, which ... never mind, I've already said too much.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Jake Rudock 6'3, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 204 346 2383 18 13 59.0% 14 3.9% 6.5
C.J. Beathard 6'2, 195 So. 3 stars (5.6) 9 27 179 1 2 33.3% 1 3.6% 5.9
Nic Shimonek 6'4, 212 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Tyler Wiegers 6'4, 215 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Mark Weisman RB 6'0, 236 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 226 974 8 4.3 3.4 35.4%
Damon Bullock RB 6'0, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 118 467 1 4.0 2.6 37.3%
Jordan Canzeri RB 5'9, 192 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 74 481 2 6.5 4.4 54.1%
Jake Rudock QB 6'3, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 53 271 1 5.1 3.9 39.6%
LeShun Daniels, Jr. RB 6'0, 215 So. 3 stars (5.5) 36 142 0 3.9 1.9 38.9%
C.J. Beathard QB 6'2, 195 So. 3 stars (5.6) 12 62 2 5.2 2.0 50.0%
Adam Cox FB 5'11, 215 Jr. NR 4 16 0 4.0 0.5 50.0%
Markel Smith RB 5'11, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
C.J. Hilliard RB 5'10, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

4. A loaded stable

From 2009-12, Iowa signed four four-star running backs. The success of Shonn Greene and the simple, run-heavy nature of the Iowa offense was a recruiting draw, and the Hawkeyes took advantage.

But four-star 2009 signee Brandon Wegher quit football, then showed up on Morningside College's roster last year. Marcus Coker, from the 2010 class, is to be a fifth-year senior for Stony Brook. Big Rodney Coe, a four-star "athlete" who played running back in high school and signed in 2011, ended up on the Iowa State defensive line and got kicked off the team this spring. And 2012 signee Greg Garmon got 38 carries as a true freshman, then fled.

In 2013, Iowa handed the ball to a trio of two-star backs, with reasonable success.

Attrition has been rough, but Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock, and Jordan Canzeri have now combined for 783 career carries and did at least a little bit with their opportunities in 2013. They combined to miss just one game, which was a miracle in and of itself, and all three return for 2014. Canzeri has shown the most explosiveness, and really, the Hawkeyes have one running back for every potential size requirement -- guys who want to be in Iowa City, no less!

Iowa has a couple of more highly touted backs coming in this fall and have shown that true freshmen will play if they're ready, but there's quite a pecking order in place.

While two starters are gone from the line, the Hawkeyes do still return all-conference tackle Brandon Scherff and three other former four-star recruits with starting experience. The line returns 62 career starts, and while it didn't necessarily open up holes upfield that well, it kept defenders out of the backfield, run or pass.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Kevonte Martin-Manley WR 6'0, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 67 40 388 59.7% 19.1% 45.5% 5.8 -116 6.0 50.1
Tevaun Smith WR 6'2, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 47 24 310 51.1% 13.4% 40.5% 6.6 -19 7.5 40.0
C.J. Fiedorowicz TE 44 30 299 68.2% 12.5% 45.5% 6.8 -54 6.5 38.6
Damon Bullock RB 6'0, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 31 20 173 64.5% 8.8% 51.6% 5.6 -69 5.5 22.3
Jake Duzey TE 6'4, 245 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 28 19 270 67.9% 8.0% 42.3% 9.6 46 10.6 34.8
Don Shumpert WR 26 15 195 57.7% 7.4% 40.0% 7.5 3 6.8 25.2
Damond Powell WR 5'11, 180 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 24 12 291 50.0% 6.8% 45.0% 12.1 125 9.8 37.6
Jacob Hillyer WR 6'4, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 21 11 135 52.4% 6.0% 33.3% 6.4 -14 5.8 17.4
Matt VandeBerg WR 6'1, 170 So. 2 stars (5.4) 13 8 59 61.5% 3.7% 100.0% 4.5 -40 3.0 7.6
Ray Hamilton TE 6'5, 252 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 11 8 95 72.7% 3.1% 62.5% 8.6 4 7.9 12.3
George Kittle TE 6'4, 225 So. 3 stars (5.5) 7 5 108 71.4% 2.0% 85.7% 15.4 50 11.4 13.9
Mark Weisman RB 6'0, 236 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 7 5 41 71.4% 2.0% 100.0% 5.9 -17 3.8 5.3
Riley McCarron WR 5'9, 182 So. NR 4 3 11 75.0% 1.1% 75.0% 2.8 -23 2.0 1.4
Derrick Willies WR 6'4, 210 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jon Wisnieski TE 6'5, 235 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Derrick Mitchell, Jr. WR 6'1, 205 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Andre Harris WR 6'0, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jay Scheel WR 6'1, 180 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

5. A big-play guy wouldn't hurt

After a sketchy start, quarterback Jake Rudock settled into his role as Iowa's starting quarterback. Granted, he struggled in the season finale against LSU (who doesn't?), but in the final 10 games of the regular season, he managed a passer rating of at least 127.8 eight times and never dipped below 138.5 on the road. That he did so without any major big-play threat was impressive.

Despite some strong play-action potential, Iowa's passing game didn't hit many homeruns. The top four targets combined to average a paltry 10.3 yards per catch and 6.2 yards per target. Of the 10 players with at least eight catches for the season, only two averaged more than 13 yards per catch, and that was mostly because of three specific catches: Jake Duzey caught an 85-yarder, and Damond Powell gained 128 yards in two September receptions (and had eight catches for 85 yards after September).

Duzey, Ray Hamilton, and George Kittle should assure that Iowa doesn't miss C.J. Fiedorowicz too much at tight end, but the receiver position is still rather subpar. Kevonte Martin-Manley is decent for a possession receiver, but really good possession receivers don't have 60 percent catch rates. If some explosive youngster emerges -- hello, four-star true freshman Jay Scheel -- that would be fantastic news. But it's unlikely.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 101.9 3.11 3.25 39.5% 69.6% 16.6% 141.2 3.8% 4.4%
Rank 56 42 66 64 60 23 29 41 28
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Brandon Scherff LT 6'5, 320 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 23 1st All-Big Ten
Brett Van Sloten RT 25 2nd All-Big Ten
Austin Blythe C 6'3, 300 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 22
Conor Boffeli LG 16
Jordan Walsh RG 6'4, 290 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 14
Nolan MacMillan LT 7
Andrew Donnal RT 6'7, 305 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 3
Tommy Gaul C 6'3, 277 Sr. NR 0
Eric Simmons RG 6'2, 295 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Ryan Ward LG 6'5, 290 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0
Mitch Keppy RG 6'5, 295 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Cole Croston RT 6'5, 250 So. NR 0
Sean Welsh LG 6'3, 285 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Boone Myers LT 6'5, 285 RSFr. NR
Colin Goebel OL 6'5, 280 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Ike Boettger OL 6'6, 267 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.97 5 IsoPPP+ 115.1 8
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 37.7% 18 Succ. Rt. + 117.2 12
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 32.2 21 Off. FP+ 105.5 9
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.1 57 Redzone S&P+ 104.4 43
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.3 ACTUAL 21.0 +0.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 6 10 12 10
RUSHING 19 7 13 6
PASSING 9 13 19 27
Standard Downs 8 17 5
Passing Downs 11 9 46
Q1 Rk 2 1st Down Rk 8
Q2 Rk 14 2nd Down Rk 7
Q3 Rk 24 3rd Down Rk 23
Q4 Rk 36

6. Beware injuries

It feels strange pointing out that Iowa kind of had good injury luck in a given season, but it appears that was the case last year. Iowa basically played six offensive linemen, three linebackers, and four defensive backs. The Hawkeyes almost got away with playing the same 11 defenders all year, and it worked well.

They surged back to a top-15 overall level, and aside from not quite making enough stops in the red zone, they were weakness-free. They were good on all downs (great on first and second), good in all quarters (great in the first and second), great at making offenses inefficient (12th in Success Rate+), great at creating good field position for the offense (which tends to go hand-in-hand with efficiency), and great at preventing big plays (eighth in IsoPPP+). One could potentially point to depth issues as the cause of their sink to 36th in Fourth Quarter S&P+, but that's still pretty good.

Playing the smallest possible number of players likely helps you in that given season. You've got your A-team out there intact (mostly), after all. But it can backfire the next season if there's attrition. Iowa must replace all three starting linebackers and half of its starting secondary, and if there are any sort of injury issues, you're pretty quickly dipping into what was the third-string pool in 2013.

Perhaps the players on last year's second string were just fine and will prove it this year. But the turnover, especially at linebacker, might make it difficult to match last year's ratings.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 117.6 2.73 2.89 35.2% 65.9% 22.2% 104.3 4.2% 7.7%
Rank 14 38 25 27 60 25 54 70 46
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Drew Ott DE 6'4, 265 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 36.0 5.2% 6.5 2.5 0 0 1 0
Louis Trinca-Pasat DT 6'3, 290 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 29.0 4.2% 9.0 2.0 0 2 0 0
Carl Davis DT 6'5, 315 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 26.5 3.9% 4.0 1.5 0 1 0 0
Mike Hardy DE 6'5, 280 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 25.0 3.6% 5.0 1.5 0 0 0 0
Dominic Alvis DE 10 21.0 3.1% 5.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Darian Cooper DT 6'2, 280 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 13.0 1.9% 1.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Nate Meier DE 6'2, 244 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 13 5.0 0.7% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Jaleel Johnson DT 6'4, 310 So. 4 stars (5.8)
Riley McMinn DE 6'7, 265 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Faith Ekakitie DT 6'3, 287 So. 4 stars (5.8)
Brant Gressel DT 6'2, 280 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Matt Nelson DE 6'8, 255 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

7. An Iowa D-line

There was no Adrian Clayborn on the 2013 Iowa defensive line, no Karl Klug, no Mitch King, no Christian Ballard. There were no outright stars or former four-star recruits in the primary rotation. No matter. Iowa still ranked seventh in Rushing S&P+ and 14th in Adj. Line Yards.

Five players from Iowa's six-man 2013 rotation return in 2014. Louis Trinca-Pasat might not be an outright star, but he's pretty damn good, and while the ends aren't much from a pass-rushing perspective, they stand up well to run-blocking. The line as a whole benefited from an active, experienced linebacking corps, and that will certainly not be the case this time around, but on the list of Major Iowa Concerns for 2014, defensive line is near the bottom, especially if four-star sophomore tackles Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekaktie begin to play to potential.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Anthony Hitchens WLB 13 83.0 12.1% 13.5 2.0 1 2 2 0
James Morris MLB 13 79.0 11.5% 17.0 7.0 4 3 2 0
Christian Kirksey OLB 13 75.5 11.0% 5.0 2.5 1 1 2 1
Quinton Alston MLB 6'1, 232 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 8.5 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Travis Perry OLB 6'3, 232 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 13 7.5 1.1% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Reggie Spearman WLB 6'3, 230 So. 3 stars (5.7) 10 6.0 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Marcus Collins LB 7 4.5 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Chad Gilson (N. Iowa) MLB 6'1, 235 Sr. NR
Cole Fisher OLB 6'2, 233 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
John Kenny OLB 6'2, 225 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Josey Jewell WLB 6'2, 225 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Jameer Outsey LB 6'3, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
John Lowdermilk SS 6'2, 210 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 13 57.0 8.3% 4.5 0 1 2 0 0
Desmond King CB 5'11, 190 So. 3 stars (5.6) 13 56.5 8.2% 3 0 0 8 0 0
Tanner Miller FS 13 53.0 7.7% 1 0 3 1 1 0
B.J. Lowery CB 13 51.0 7.4% 1 0 3 16 3 0
Anthony Gair FS 6'2, 200 So. NR 13 6.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Gavin Smith DB 13 4.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Lomax FS 5'10, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 9 4.5 0.7% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Nico Law SS 6'1, 205 Sr. NR 13 4.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Draper CB 6'0, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 9 4.5 0.7% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Greg Mabin CB 6'2, 195 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Maurice Fleming CB 6'0, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Malik Rucker CB 6'0, 175 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Solomon Warfield DB 6'0, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Miles Taylor DB 6'0, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Marcel Joly DB 5'11, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Jalen Embry DB 6'0, 184 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

8. Work to do in the back seven

Iowa's 2013 linebacking corps was simply awesome; from a stat perspective, it was one of the best of the Ferentz era. It's not surprising to see an Iowa front seven performing so well, but the level of success here was a bit of a surprise.

Unfortunately, all three starting linebackers are gone. Two of the three (Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey) were picked in May's NFL Draft. The three combined for 35.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, six interceptions, six breakups, and six forced fumbles last season -- good luck finding a unit much more productive than that; the top three returnees, meanwhile, combined for 22.0 tackles and zero of everything else.

Toss in the loss of cornerback B.J. Lowery, with his 19 passes defensed and three forced fumbles, and you've got grounds for concern.

There is quite a bit of youth and potential in the back seven, from sophomore corner Desmond King (one of the best freshman DBs in the country last year), to sophomore WLB Reggie Spearman, redshirt freshman OLB John Kenney, to redshirt freshman corner Malik Rucker. But in terms of experience, it's safety John Lowdermilk ... and that's about it. It's hard to worry too much about an Iowa defense that does still return Lowdermilk, King, and a good line, but it would be a pretty big surprise if the defense avoided regression altogether.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Connor Kornbrath 6'6, 240 Jr. 65 40.0 3 15 27 64.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Mike Meyer 68 61.7 30 0 44.1%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Mike Meyer 41-41 13-17 76.5% 3-5 60.0%
Marshall Koehn 6'0, 195 Jr. 1-1 0-0 N/A 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jordan Cotton KR 29 25.2 0
Jordan Canzeri KR 5'9, 192 Jr. 3 15.0 0
Kevonte Martin-Manley PR 6'0, 205 Sr. 20 15.7 2
Riley McCarron PR 5'9, 182 So. 3 2.7 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 52
Field Goal Efficiency 69
Punt Return Efficiency 28
Kick Return Efficiency 37
Punt Efficiency 72
Kickoff Efficiency 88
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 115

9. Some good return men in the Big Ten

This is my eighth Big Ten team preview so far, and we've already discussed return men like Northwestern's Venric Mark (two touchdowns and a nearly 20-yard punt return average in 2012), Rutgers' Janarion Grant (two touchdowns in 2013 -- one via kickoff, one via punt), Illinois' V'Angelo Bentley (same as Grant), Minnesota's Marcus Jones (same as Grant and Bentley), Maryland's William Likely and Stefon Diggs, Purdue's Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert (one on kick return each), and Indiana's Shane Wynn (a 14-yard punt return average and one score).

Considering how few Big Ten offenses have shown serious, sustained big-play potential, there sure are a lot of athletes in B1G return units. (That, or there is a serious lack of potential among B1G cover units. Hmmm...)

Iowa is not the exception to the rule. Kevonte Martin-Manley may have averaged under 10 yards per catch in 2013, but he averaged 15.7 yards per punt return and took two back for scores. He and punter Connor Kornbrath should assure that Iowa's special teams numbers are at least decent again.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug Northern Iowa NR
6-Sep Ball State 77
13-Sep Iowa State 80
20-Sep at Pittsburgh 39
27-Sep at Purdue 108
11-Oct Indiana 47
18-Oct at Maryland 51
1-Nov Northwestern 50
8-Nov at Minnesota 73
15-Nov at Illinois 63
22-Nov Wisconsin 15
28-Nov Nebraska 40
Five-Year F/+ Rk 11.5% (27)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 54
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -1 / 2.0
TO Luck/Game -1.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (8, 6)

10. A good team and a blah schedule

It's an odd time to be an Iowa fan. Disillusionment reigned after three years of diminishing returns and a thud of a 2012 season, but the bounceback was both surprising and forceful in 2013. And if Iowa's winning, then all other concerns are secondary.

Still, the Hawkeyes are pretty much the poster boys of another kind of disillusionment: the kind related to conference realignment and television.

The BTN has somehow made it more difficult for Iowa fans to see their teams, worsened the experience of watching the teams both on television and in the stadium, and eliminated somewhat-frequent games with centure-long rivals. And while the increased volume of television time has worked to the benefit of bluebloods like Ohio State and Michigan, it has only bastardized the fan experience for Iowa fans. [...]

Despite the fact that it has enough dead space to air weeks-old replays of the Jesse Owens Invitational (on BTN Tuesday night) and the Big Ten Women's Golf Championship (airing three times over the next 24 hours), the BTN apparently has not found time to broadcast the Iowa spring game, played last weekend. There are three different Ohio State football games on the network today, all of which are less relevant than the spring games of the teams relegated to the streaming service. [...]

The expansion to 14 teams means that Iowa will go two consecutive seasons without playing Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, or Penn State, as the Hawkeyes instead enter a home-and-home with the mighty Terrapins. It might be terrible for strength of schedule, but look at all of those shiny Washington televisions!

The recent "Big Ten and ACC teams scheduling non-conference games within the conference" discussion was silly for about 38 different reasons, but ... it really is kind of dumb that Iowa and Michigan aren't going to play very often.

Again, wins matter the most, and even with some regression expected on defense, Iowa's got one of the weaker slates in the Big Ten: only one opponent is projected in the top 20 (Wisconsin comes to Iowa City), two others are in the top 40 (barely), and only three others are in the top 60. With another top-30 or top-35 team, the Hawkeyes could win nine or 10 games, and even if it comes against a schedule with quite a few foreign names, I can't imagine fans will complain too much, no matter how strange it feels.

(But seriously, BTN, show every spring game as promptly as possible. That's ridiculous.)

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