JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If Friday's TaxSlayer Bowl were decided by experience, Tennessee fans might find something better to do with their afternoon. If the outcome were determined by recruiting rankings, the Iowa faithful probably would rather clean the garage.
Fortunately, for everybody, the Hawkeyes and Volunteers are awarded the opportunity to overcome what could be seen as weaknesses. All that matters is what the scoreboard reads when time expires at Everbank Field.
Butch Jones was named Tennessee's coach two years ago. He and his staff put together Scout.com's 36th-ranked recruiting class nationally for 2013. A year later, they finished fourth in that cycle and they're currently are in that same position for '15.
"I know they recruited very well. They've hit that right off the bat the first recruiting season," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes ranked 51st in the country for '13. Last year, they were 41st and they sit at 45 for '15. They were 26th and 47th in '11 and '12, respectively.
Iowa, as it has done for much of Ferentz's 16 years at the helm, outperformed its recruiting rankings the last two seasons. It played LSU in the Outback Bowl a year ago and returned to another January bowl here against an SEC opponent.
"They are a junior and senior-laden team, so they have the experience factor," Jones said of his next opponent. "Their fifth-year seniors are on their fourth bowl experience, and the preparation that goes into a bowl game and being able to X-out all of the clutter and distractions and focus on the task at hand. They do what they do and they execute it well and execute it with a high level of physicality as well."
Players on the Hawkeyes starting offense average 4.27 years on campus. By comparison, Tennessee comes in at 2.72 on that side of the ball. Iowa's defense stands at 3.27, while the Vols are at 2.81.
Switching to recruiting, Tennessee's first-team offense averages 3.27 stars, according to Scout.com, while the Hawkeyes sit at 2.63 when they have the ball. The Vols top defensive unit holds a 3.45-2.27 edge on that side of the ball.
Here's a closer look:
DEPTH CHARTS (With recruiting rating)
*Years = years out of high school, not with the team.
**Ratings are the newest available rating, so in the case a player went to JUCO, it is their JUCO rating, not HS rating.
|IOWA OFFENSE||TENNESSEE DEFENSE|
|QB||Jake Rudock||4||DE||Corey Vereen||2|
|RB||Mark Weisman||5||DT||Jordan Williams||4|
|WR||Kevonte Manley-Martin||5||NT||Danny O'Brien||3|
|WR||Jacob Hillyer||4||DE||Derek Barnett||1|
|WR||Tevaun Smith||4||WLB||Jalen Reeves-Maybin||2|
|LT||Brandon Scherff||5||MLB||Jakob Johnson||1|
|LG||Austin Blythe||4||SLB||Curt Maggitt||4|
|C||Tommy Gaul||NR||5||CB||Cameron Sutton||2|
|RG||Sean Welsh||2||CB||Justin Coleman||4|
|RT||Andrew Donnal||5||SS||Brian Randolph||4|
|TE||Ray Hamilton||4||FS||LaDarrell McNeil||3|
|IOWA DEFENSE||TENNESSEE OFFENSE|
|DE||Nate Meier||3||QB||Joshua Dobbs||2|
|DT||Carl Davis||5||RB||Jalen Hurd||1|
|DT||Louis Trinca-Pasat||5||WR||Jason Croom||3|
|DE||Drew Ott||3||WR||Alton "Pig" Howard||3|
|OLB||Bo Bower||NR||2||WR||Von Pearson||3|
|MLB||Quinton Alston||4||LT||Kyler Kerbyson||4|
|OLB||Josey Jewell||2||LG||Marcus Jackson||4|
|CB||Greg Mabin||3||C||Mack Crowder||4|
|CB||Desmond King||2||RG||Jashon Robertson||1|
|S||John Lowdermilk||4||RT||Jacob Gilliam||NR||5|
|S||Jordan Lomax||3||TE||Ethan Wolf||1|