Hawkeye Hits will run each Tuesday and Friday morning on Hawkeye Insider before 9 a.m. CT and is a story meant for only premium members. It is pertinent and noteworthy information about the Iowa Hawkeyes gathered by our insiders over the past handful of days. Other premium information can also be found on the message board, The Swarm.
Hawkeye Hits will bring you the inside information you desire on the Hawkeye football team, the Hawkeye basketball team, any other sports, as well as recruiting nuggets.
The Tuesday September 22 edition begins NOW. Grab your coffee and donuts!
- Iowa moved to 3-0 on the year with the dramatic win over Pittsburgh. It is still early but many are starting to believe this has the potential for a magic season, including myself. A lot of that is due to quarterback C.J. Beathard. It is my opinion that he appears to have the "it" factor. He not only is a playmaker but he tends to rise to the occasion in the most critical moments. One example of that was his awareness to get down in time on his scramble the play before Marshall Koehn's field goal. He does not get rattled, his teammates believe in him, and they seem to take on his persona as a team. He's the quarterback the Hawkeyes have needed.
- Many have shared the concern of how much Pittsburgh wideout Tyler Boyd was able to get open. I do not share that with them. He's a terrific receiver that is a terrific route runner. Regardless of how well he is defended, he will get open. He's one of the best at creating separation. It is too difficult to keep a receiver down like that the entire game. I thought the job Iowa did on him was spectacular. Sure, he got his numbers and was impactful for Pitt, but he was never able to break loose for an explosive play. The Hawkeyes kept him in check and that's all you can ask for.
- Two more interceptions for Desmond King. That was against Boyd. I said he was all-conference caliber before the season started and nothing has happened to change my mind. If it has changed, it's even more praise. This guy is a stud and will play on Sundays in the future.
- The run defense was excellent again. They were giving up an average of less than two yards a carry going in and then only allowed Pittsburgh to run for just a hair over two yards a carry. This has been one of the difference makers for Iowa on the year and a lot of the credit goes to the improved linebacking core as well as defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. Johnson is playing up to all-conference caliber himself.
- They haven't been asked to do it a lot but the wide receivers are beginning to grow. The vertical passing game hasn't been much of an emphasis so far this year but they have showed the ability to be efficient in that area when they go to it. There will be a team that challenges them to win that way and they have displayed that they can win that way if needed. Tevaun Smith broke loose a couple times against Pittsburgh and because he is attracting a lot of attention, it has allowed Matt VandeBerg a lot of opportunities and he's taken advantage of them.
- It's time to take a look at a few of the negatives, one being special teams. They've done well for the most part. The kick and punt coverages have been elite. No returner has really had any kind of success thus far. There seems to be one bad miscue per game with this portion of the game, though. Against Illinois State, it was punting. Dillon Kidd had a poor day and he's picked it up ever since. Against Iowa State, it was the bad return by Desmond King that forced the Hawkeyes to start deep in their own territory. Last Saturday against Pittsburgh, it was the punt block that was returned for a touchdown. It's a unit that is a step away from being very good but they have to limit the one costly mistake that is still occurring.
- The protection wasn't great on Saturday against Pittsburgh and it took awhile for the running game to find any success. That was a bit of a problem but it was more due to Pittsburgh's style of play. Not too many other programs will be able to do what the Panthers were. They sent a lot of different blitz packagese, but all in all, Iowa handled it well. When you send that many guys that many times, the quarterback will eventually be affected. The positive is that Beathard is tough and can handle it well.
- Moving on to North Texas. The injury update will be the biggest item. I expect LeShun Daniels and Drew Ott to be used the same way. I think they will be available it is imperative they still get a few snaps under their belt to keep them sharp. It is important they be healthy for the contest the following week, though, so keeping them on a pitch count and having them be limited is the expectation. Tight end Jake Duzey dressed for the Pittsburgh game but didn't play. They need him sharp for the showdown against Wisconsin afterwards. Like Ott and Daniels, I expect him to play, but not to full capacity.
- Many have mentioned this last point, and I agree with it. After a game like that, you want C.J. Beathard to get some rest. I think it would be beneficial to create a comfy halftime lead to allow him to take a seat and see what Tyler Wiegers can do under center. You want all your horses at 100 percent for the Wisconsin game which could be the difference in a Big Ten West title for Iowa.
- Iowa is coming off their biggest recruiting weekend of the year so far. They had a ton of visitors in town including a large portion of the commits, some 2017 football prospects, an official visitor in the 2016 class for both football and basketball, and additional hoops prospects in the 2017 class.
- The first item on the list is defensive back K.J. Sails of Florida. He rated his official visit to Iowa City a 10 out of 10 and is really high on the Hawkeyes. The battle is with Wisconsin and he'll be in Madison this upcoming weekend for his official visit there. Sails even posted a selfie of him and head coach Kirk Ferentz. They'll have to survive the official visit to see the Badgers but I love where Iowa is positioned. I think they land him, in large part because the Hawkeyes have the full support of his coach and family.
- The priority football target in the 2017 class is defensive end A.J. Epenesa of Edwardsville, Illinois, son of former Iowa player 'Eppy'. He's one of the best in the country, listed as the 17th best prospect in the nation for his class. He was in Iowa City for the dramatic win and really took in the full experience, hanging out with several of the other recruits, the current players, and coaches. He took a picture with basketball coach Fran McCaffery on the sideline and basketball official visitor Tyler Cook. The crowd was chanting his name as well. I've said it before but it isn't a slam dunk to land him, however, Iowa should contend for the duration of his process. They did nothing to hurt their chances over the weekend.
- The last signfiicant prospect on campus worth mentioning was top 100 hoops prospect Tyler Cook of St. Louis. A power forward from Chaminade Prep in Missouri, Cook has the Hawkeyes high on his list, along with Florida, Missouri, and Arkansas. It is believed that Iowa and Florida are the top suitors. The Gators have offered an in-state power forward recently which has to be a good sign for the Hawkeyes. He also thoroughly enjoyed his stay in Iowa City, and I predict that he will play his college ball for Iowa, and that would be a breakthrough for Fran McCaffery on the recruiting trail.