WHAT EXCITES US
1.) THE RUNNING GAME
Iowa's running game has the potential to be among the best in the nation again. They'll hopefully have a healthy LeShun Daniels to pair with the electrifying Akrum Wadley in the backfield. They'll also have one of the best offensive lines in America that specializes in the rushing attack. They're down Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh but they insert James Daniels to go along with Boone Myers, Ike Boettger, Cole Croston, and Sean Welsh and that's a lot of returning starts to tally.
2.) A HEALTHY C.J. BEATHARD
There's no denying that he was much more effective last year when completely healthy. Some of the stuff he was able to do against Illinois State and Iowa State earlier in the year with his legs was game-changing. They didn't have that same element throughout the season because of his deteriorating health. It'll be especially more crucial this year for him to be able to navigate the field with his legs with an inexperienced and unproven wide receiver corps. He's also much more gifted throwing the ball than given credit for. He's got a rocket arm and can hit just about every throw and mark on the field. His only downfall is his inability to be accurate with the deep ball down the field. He hit a few times a year ago but the consistency wasn't there. That is probably one reason they don't go to it as often.
3.) GEORGE KITTLE
I know most folks around here already think he's pretty good but I think he's the breakout player on the team this year. Sure he provided fireworks a season ago because of his touchdown receptions but he finished with less than 30 catches. I think you see that number skyrocket this season and find out just how athletic and gifted he really is. I think Kittle explodes this season and finds himself in a comfy spot for the NFL Draft as a result.
WHAT CONCERNS US
1.) SECOND AND THIRD OPTIONS AT WIDE RECEIVER
Matt VandeBerg and George Kittle are the most reliable weapons in the passing game for Iowa headed into this season but the rest is still to be determined. Jerminic Smith flashed in a game or two, McCarron had a big catch against Iowa State, Scheel has barely played, Jonathan Parker is injured to start the year, and Falconer has had no snaps with the first team. That's a lot of question marks. McCarron is reliable but is he effective enough to be an every-down starter? Parker is out so can Ryan Boyle or Adrian Falconer take advantage? Does Jay Scheel rise to the occasion? All that is unknown.
2.) PASS BLOCKING
I might be grasping at straws here a bit because I think they'll be much better in this area as an offensive line than they were a year ago. It was the first year for any kind of significant playing time for James Daniels, Ike Boettger, Boone Myers, and Cole Croston. They struggled with edge rushers so I think it was a quickness dilemma and not having caught up to the speed of the game. With a year under their belts, I think you see a dramatic improvement in this area but it is something that still needs addressed. Protecting Beathard is priority number one.
3.) BEATHARD'S HEALTH
I know protecting him in the passing game has already been addressed but his health as a whole is too important not to re-iterate it some more. Yes, the pass blocking has to be better. Yes he needs to have his legs to be effective in optimal fashion but some of the responsibility is also on him. He can't hold on to the ball as he tended to do a little too much last season, he needs to feel the rush more, and he needs to know when to take a risk and when to live another day. Beathard is a gutsy player that likes to play risky sometimes and it's important he knows when to throw it away and when to slide. It's not just the offensive line's responsibility, but also his own. His team needs him out there too much.