What We Know, Don't Know About '10 Hawks

With the bye week upon us and almost half the season behind us, HI.com Publisher Rob Howe takes a look at what we know and don't know about the 2010 Hawkeyes.

IOWA CITY, Ia. - When asked if the bye week came at a good time for his team, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz left little doubt about how he felt.

"Not pretty good, really good," he said.

The Hawkeyes played the second half of Saturday night's 24-3 win against Penn State with a third stringer at middle linebacker, true freshman James Morris. Injuries to the running back position have forced the pulling of redshirts and the changing of positions.

Despite the 4-1 record, the Hawkeyes could use an extra week to regroup, get healthy and train some of the younger players moving into bigger roles. It's also extra time for the defense to prepare for Michigan Quarterback Denard Robinson, though the Iowa players and coaches probably wouldn't admit it.

It's really hard to say where Iowa stands right now on the college football landscape. It's probably not yet the Top 10, national championship contending team some people expected coming into the season as evidenced by an ugly loss at Arizona in Week 3. It definitely has shown signs it can finish among the country's best though.

The Hawkeyes do hit the break with some serious upside. Having embarrassed and demoralized a decent Penn State team, running the table is not out of the question, although it will take progress in some areas.

Let's take a look at some things we know and other things we don't about the 2010 Hawkeyes after five games:

We Know… that the defense is living up to the hype led by a vicious front four. Iowa ranks No. 4 nationally in total defense and it's hard to find a weak spot. Mike Daniels is emerging as a possible all-Big Ten selection as a back-up tackle and Adrian Clayborn appears disgusted with early-season schemes designed to stop him. He says he will stop over-thinking things, play mean and get in the backfield. Penn State can attest to this approach being effective for the senior end.

CB Micah Hyde can expect teams to continue picking on him as they want little to do with Shaun Prater on the other side. Hyde is looking better the last few weeks but still finds himself out of position too many times. The increased pass rush will help him while he matures.

We Don't Know… where this Iowa offensive line stands after replacing three starters from a year ago. It was overmatched against its toughest opponent - Arizona. It's difficult to evaluate it's play against Penn State because the Nittany Lions stacked the box and Iowa ran into a boat load of defenders. The other three opponents offered very little resistance on defense, and that includes Iowa State.

The blocking looked really good at times against Penn State. I thought the right side with Markus Zusevics and Nolan MacMillan really showed progress.

The Hawkeyes rank 49th nationally in rushing offense at 172.2 yards per game. They are 60th in sacks allowed at 10 or 2 per contest.

It's nice that this group was able to gain confidence going forward into the rough and tumble Big Ten. It boats really nice potential. Still, we don't know.

We Know… that this is a very good receiving corps. We sensed it coming into the season and it's proving to be the best on the Ferentz Era.

After a slow start, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is filling highlight reels with big plays and touchdowns. He's caught a team-high 21 passes for 334 yards and four scores. He's also returned seven kicks for 182 yards.

Marvin McNutt has been hampered with leg injuries, but caught five balls for 93 yards against Penn State and factored heavily into the scoring drives. He has 15 receptions for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Colin Sandeman, Paul Chaney and Keenan Davis all have contributed nicely to the offensive attack and provide quality depth not seen in Iowa City for quite some time. I think this group will put more pressure on defenses as the season progresses.

We Don't Know… what the heck is going on with the place kicking game. Actually, we might know but don't really want to know.

True freshman walk-on Michael Meyer holds the job right now having passed Trent Mossbrucker and the injured Daniel Murray on the depth chart. Murray is back to 100 percent but didn't beat out Meyer for the Penn State chances.

I loved what I saw from Meyer at Kids Day in August. His stroke appears effortless. I don't think Ferentz benched Mossbrucker because of one blocked PAT against Arizona. I got the sense that Meyer has looked the best of the three at practice.

Maybe the situation is settled. Maybe Meyer is the guy. I think that might be best if he can handle the pressure. But rotating kickers doesn't seem like a good idea. Murray is on record saying that the not knowing is very unsettling.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think at least one, if not more games this season will come down to the foot of one of these guys. Right now, that leaves me a little uneasy.

We Know… Ricky Stanzi can learn from his mistakes. After a junior season marred by the Pick-6, the Ohio native is putting together a fine final campaign.

Stanzi is charged with two interceptions this season, but one came after a pass was dropped by McNutt and returned for a touchdown against Arizona. He then threw an ill-advised deep ball into coverage against Penn State.

What I liked was that Stanzi reeled it back in after the pick against the Lions. Yes, the Iowa coaches went into protect mode with a lead against PSU's feeble offense, but Stanzi also didn't force anything. And unlike last year, he's really hasn't done that this season, saying it's OK to punt.

Stanzi ranks sixth nationally in pass efficiency at 176.85, He's sitting on 10 touchdowns and 1,226 yards with seven games remaining and a likely bowl. He's exceeding my expectations, which were probably too low.

We Don't Know… what Iowa has behind starting running back Adam Robinson. We might think we know, based on some carries in the fourth quarter against a severely overmatched Ball State team, but we really don't know.

Don't get me wrong, I like the potential of Brad Rogers and Marcus Coker. And I think Anthony Hitchens is going to be a solid contributor for Iowa, whether it be at RB or elsewhere. I just don't know that these guys are ready for prime time. And I don't thing Ferentz does, either.

The coach will use the bye week and next week's Michigan preparation to see what he's got. I wouldn't expect Robinson to see much, if any, real hard work heading into Ann Arbor. His body needs the rest.

Rogers, Coker and Hitchens need to show a consistent ability to pick up a blitz and comfort with the protection schemes. Running the ball well will not be enough to get them on the field.

I still expect Robinson to see the large bulk of the carries from here on out. But one or more of these guys could emerge to get a handful of carries each week.

For what it's worth, Robinson headed to the sideline due to an equipment malfunction against Penn State and Brad Rogers checked in to replace him. A timeout ended up being called, so Robinson came back into the contest before missing a snap.

We Know… that Northwestern will be a tough game, as if we had any doubt after the last two seasons. The Wildcats are off to a 5-0 start. Yes, they're untested to a degree, but they won road games at Vanderbilt, Rice and Minnesota.

We Don't Know… If Iowa will improve enough to knock off Ohio State in November. The Buckeyes are awake after the scare at Illinois last week. Like Ferentz's teams, Ohio State improves as the seasons grows older.


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