5 Players the Hawks Couldn't Afford to Lose

Considering how many injuries there are in college football, there is a pretty strong likelihood that a starter or two is going to get hurt this season for the Hawkeyes. There isn't much you can do about it. It happens to every team almost every year. So, my question is: Who could Iowa <i>least</i> afford to lose?

As a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs and Bulls, I have spent several days wondering how these teams can overcome the serious injuries to guys like Corey Patterson and Jay Williams.

It can happen so fast. And turn things upside-down so quickly.

For example, Patterson was having a breakout year in Chicago, hitting around .300, stealing bases, driving in runs and covering enough ground in centerfield to make up for the lack of range of Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa.

Then ... BAM! It's over. Patterson's season is over. A torn ACL takes away a very valuable player.

For Williams, it was a motorcycle accident. One minute, he's the future floor general of the Bulls…the next minute, doctors are considering amputating his leg.

This got me thinking. Considering how many injuries there are in college football, there is a pretty strong likelihood that a starter or two is going to get hurt this season for the Hawkeyes. There isn't much you can do about it. It happens to every team almost every year.

So, my question is: Who could Iowa least afford to lose?

I've come up with five players who I believe the Hawkeyes need to remain healthy. In no particular order, here they are…

1) Robert Gallery. The 6-7, 317-pound behemoth from Masonville is the only returning starter on Iowa's offensive line. At left tackle, he will protect the blindside for an inexperienced quarterback and he will lead the way for Fred Russell & Co. out of the backfield. The Hawks will need Gallery to play like an All-American during his senior season in order to have a chance at gaining consistency on offense.

2) Fred Russell. Obviously, the knee injury suffered by Jermelle Lewis puts a little extra pressure on Russell to stay healthy. The problem is that Russell has had difficulty doing just that…even when he's had Lewis helping out with the workload. However, when he's 100%, Russell is an outstanding running back, as he proved in 2002 when he rushed for 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns. Behind Russell are a pair of freshmen: A.J. Johnson and Albert Young.

3) Maurice Brown. A big, strong receiver with 4.38 speed, Brown had a tremendous junior year with 48 catches for 966 yards and 11 touchdowns. With the losses of Dallas Clark and C.J. Jones, Brown will have additional pressure to perform. Iowa will look for him to make big plays, as well as to attract a lot of attention in the secondary, freeing up other receivers. With the loss of Clinton Solomon, Iowa has sophomore Ed Hinkel (22 catches, 218 yards in 2002), senior Ramon Ochoa and a few freshmen to round out the receiving corps.

4) Bob Sanders. The All-Big Ten safety who hits like a Mack truck enters his senior season as one of Iowa's all-time greatest tacklers. Although he's only 5-8, Sanders packs a mean punch, which is no secret to receivers throughout the league. He's also been a terrific special teams player. It seems that he has that "extra heartbeat" that Hayden Fry used to talk about. The four-year starter will provide outstanding leadership for a strong Hawkeye defense.

5) Jared Clauss. The 6-5, 280-pounder from West Des Moines had six sacks last season and was a strong run-stuffer. Clauss and Jonathan Babineaux will form the interior of Iowa's defensive line in 2003. The good news is that Clauss and Babineaux are outstanding players. The bad news is that there isn't much depth at defensive tackle, after the recent losses of Fabian Dodd and Steve Burch.

Who is Iowa's all-time greatest kicker?

While visiting with a fellow Hawk fan the other day, the subject came up regarding who is Iowa's all-time greatest kicker. The two names that we felt could be debated were Rob Houghtlin and Nate Kaeding.

After a little research, my buddy pointed out that through their first three seasons, here is how these two kickers performed from 40-plus yards out…

  • Houghtlin: 13 of 27 (48%)
  • Kaeding: 20 of 25 (80%)

    During Houghtlin's senior season, he made 5 of 11 from long-range, leaving his career mark at 18 of 38 (47%) from 40-plus.

    Looking at these numbers, it's tough to argue against Kaeding. Hopefully, he's able to add to his impressive statistics again this season.

    It should also be noted that Houghtlin seemed to be automatic in the clutch, including his last-second, game-winning field goal to help No. 1 Iowa defeat No. 2 Michigan, 12 to 10, in 1985.

    (Marty Gallagher founded the popular Web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


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