Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 Iowa Hawkeyes: What Do We Really Know?

After four weeks, Iowa is undefeated at 4-0. This is the most excited the fan base has been since Ricky Stanzi was professing his love for America. It feels like a really great time to be a Hawkeye. Still, even though 4-0 is ideal, I'm not totally sure what we really know about this Iowa team. Let's break it down and find out.

How good is CJ Beathard?
Everybody knows that without a quarterback, your team can only go so far. Beathard is definitely off to a better start than the former starter who's slinging the ball up in Ann Arbor (although Rudock has made this the first year that I can actually cheer for Michigan). But despite Beathard having big arm strength, he hasn't really been throwing too many deep balls. Where his arm strength has proven most valuable is on the quick passes out to the sideline as the ball gets there quicker and he gives his receivers time to make plays. Beathard has also been impressive with his legs, most notably against Iowa State, as he will take advantage of open space to make a play with his feet. I'm still left with the feeling that this offense hasn't changed as much as Hawkeye fans would like. I miss the deep post that was a simple concept brought on by a successful run game and play action that led to big plays half a dozen times a year. I think Beathard is good, but I would like to see him attack the middle of the field and air it out a little more before I can throw my full support behind Iowa being a legit contender to win the B1G West.

Answer: Better than Jake Rudock, not as good as Andrew Luck.

Does Iowa know how to utilize its skill players?
For running backs, the answer seems to be yes. Jordan Canzeri has become Iowa's version of Danny Woodhead. It's always ideal to use him as a change of pace guy, but if you need him to pound it between the tackles, he'll probably shock you with his success there too. He had four touchdowns this weekend, so that's pretty neat. LeShun Daniels has struggled with injuries early on, but having a back that you can pound between the tackles is going to be a necessity when playing against the B1G schedule.

As for the receiving options, Matt VandeBerg has seemed to find himself a nice niche in the system, but I don't think he is the biggest threat out of Iowa's receving corps. Tevaun Smith is averaging only three receptions a game, yet is still nearly the leader in yards for the team. Getting him more involved would be ideal, as he is the type of receiver where if you get the ball close, he has the ability to go up and make a play. Iowa is still waiting for Jake Duzey to come back from injury, but the tight ends still seem slightly underutilized since Iowa is still rarely using the middle of the field.

Answer: They are doing a great job of utilizing the running backs, but get the ball to Tevaun Smith more.

How good are Iowa's offensive tackles?
These guys may not be great, but they are the biggest surprise of the year for me. They have greatly exceeded my modest expectations. I really thought it would be a bloodbath, but so far, they have shown they will not hold the team back. This is the first time they've really gotten a chance to play, so by the end of the season, their could be massive improvement. I don't think either one is going to be Bob Gallery within a season, but with how well the interior line has played, they don't have to.

Answer: Serviceable, and that's a really great surprise.

How dope is the defensive line?
They're stopping the run, collapsing the pocket, and making plays.

Answer: Pretty dope.

Does Desmond King get crunk on the field?
I miss the early days of social media, as Iowa players could do and say whatever they wanted, because Kirk had no idea what social media was. I don't really remember anything awful, but I do remember something awfully hilarious, and that came from the criminally underrated, Jovon Johnson. He started a fan group on Facebook called, "Jovon Johnson 'lockdown 26' Fan Club." The description gave you a glimpse into how awesome Jovon was off the field, as he stated, "If you love to see me gettin crunk on the field..returning punts...returning and picking off interceptions...making big hits..doing what I do best then join the club cause I love it too!!"

A buddy of mine and I bring this up every year, hoping that we have a new player that will get crunk on the field. Finally, after a decade of waiting, we have that man in Desmond King. He makes big hits, he picks off and returns interceptions, he returns punts, and when you combine all of those aspects together, you can only come to one conclusion: Desmond King gets crunk ON THE FIELD.

Answer: An emphatic YES!

How do you feel about the linebackers, the other three defensive backs, and special teams?
Marshall Koehn hit a 57-yard field goal to win a game, and they have punted well too, so good to go there. The other defensive backs aren't as good as Desmond King, but even though guys can find open spaces, they aren't getting beat by big plays like they have the last few years. The linebackers have made some alterations to help them in coverage, and the quicker, smaller linebackers are a better fit to go up against spread offenses. They're not Greenway and Hodge, but they ain't too shabby either.

Answer: Pretty good.

Has Kirk Ferentz actually changed?
The answer to this one is shocking, because the answer is yes. I'll admit that it sounded terrible when Kirk said that they probably needed to watch more tape in the offseason, but football coaches aren't always the smoothest talkers, and he meant it more in the way of altering the way of doing things than not properly preparing for opponents. The shield punt is the most noticeable change, but there have been some subtle changes to the run game, which is something that I never thought Kirk would change. Kirk is a very logical thinker, and when you're logical, you understand that staying the course is almost always the best option. It took a lot of bad outings before Kirk realized that staying the course would not deliver the results it has in the past. They went to the drawing board and have given new things a try. Good for them.

Answer: It may be shocking, but yes, Kirk Ferentz has changed.

Is this Iowa team actually good?
Aw, shoot; I was hoping you weren't going to ask this one. They're not great; I can tell you that much, but the B1G West is not great, so they don't really have to be. The only team that is probably better than them throughout the rest of their schedule is next week at Wisconsin, but even Wisconsin isn't great. The Hawkeyes have a small margin for error, so they likely won't go undefeated, but there is no team that should blow them out. I'll pick them to lose to Wisconsin, but just one other time outside of that to end up 10-2.

Answer: Good enough for the B1G West, which, luckily, is the division they are in.


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