Iowa Football Season Preview

The Iowa football team wants to bring back the buzz. The buzz of Kinnick Stadium exploding in ovation, and opposing teams hanging their heads inIowa Football defeat by the third quarter. The buzz of ESPN analysts grouping the Hawkeyes among the nation’s best. The excitement and the passion of every Saturday.

In the past few years, this “buzz” has been barely audible. Since going 11-2 and winning the Orange Bowl in 2009, the Hawks have turned in a few underwhelming campaigns. In 2010, they went 8-5 and in 2011 finished 7-6. Their loss to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl last year capped a monotonous and mediocre two-year span.

The 2012 team is ready and able to turn mediocre into great. There are many returning players on each side of the ball for this upcoming season, along with a slew of fresh talented recruits.

Offense:

Perhaps the Hawkeyes greatest offseason acquisition came in the coaching booth. Former University of Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis settled into Iowa City this spring and is at the helm of the Hawkeye offensive unit. Davis brings in a new scheme that contrasts with former O-coordinator Ken O’Keefe’s controversial “run first” style of offense.

“Coach Davis is more upbeat and in-your-face,” said starting quarterback James Vandenberg.” “He is running around with the receivers and catching balls with the backs, he is the kind of a guys who brings a little more excitement.”

Strengths:

Vandenberg will be the main beneficiary of this change, and is one of the most important Hawkeyes to watch this year. Going into his third year as starting quarterback, expectations are high. But he has the weapons and ability to silence the rowdiest of naysayers. Iowa has several talented wide receivers that Vandenberg has to choose from, including returning starters Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley.

The offensive line is anchored by center James Ferentz, and the big boys up front won't let many people through. Watch out for Iowa’s revamped aerial attack.

Weaknesses:

The only question mark on the offensive side of the ball is at the running back position. Since 2009, 10 Iowa running backs have either left or been dismissed from the team for a variety of reasons. That leaves this year’s team with a diminished selection. Sophomore Damon Bullock should get a majority of the carries.

Defense:

The defensive side also has a new leader. Long time D-coordinator Norm Parker retired after last season, so the Hawkeyes moved 13-year defensive back coach Phil Parker to the top spot.

Strengths:

The linebacker position will be solid this year. Three year starter James Morris anchors a crew including Christian Kirksey and Chris Hitchens that should swallow most ball carriers at the line. 

“It is our job to set the tone and the pace for the defense,” said Morris. “We have been doing a good job of that so far.”

Weaknesses:

The defensive line is young and inexperienced. If teams can successfully run the ball and wear down the line, then Iowa’s defense may encounter some problems. However, look for defensive tackle Carl Davis to make some waves. If his behemoth frame riles up some passion in his d-line counterparts, opposing quarterbacks should be wary.