THIS TEAM IS SO YOUNG AND SO TALENTED THAT I THINK NEXT YEAR COULD BE OUR BEST YEAR. AGREE?
DYLAN: I think they'll be better this year than they will next year. You lose two interior defensive linemen and then your two starting corners, I realize it's not a lot but when you think about who it is, it's a lot of talent and leadership. On offense you'll lose your starting QB, and RB, plus your number one wideout in Matt Vandeberg. I like this year's Iowa team better than next year's potential one.
DEREK: No. I disagree quite a bit. You'll lose your top quarterback, top running back, top receiver, top tight end, left tackle, top defensive tackle, and both corners with one being one of the best in the country. There's an infusion of young talent that will be around but none will have proven they are among the best at their positions like C.J. Beathard, Jaleel Johnson, and Desmond King already have. They'll lose six starters on offense and three more on defense. This has to be the year, not the year they're breaking in a new quarterback and are without their stars for the first time.
WHAT WAS MORE DEMORALIZING LAST SEASON, THE LOSS TO MICHIGAN STATE ON BASICALLY THE FINAL SERIES OR THE BLOWOUT LOSS TO STANFORD?
DYLAN: For me that's easy. It was the MSU game. It was such an emotional roller coaster that the end was so crushing. The Stanford game, well that was over from the get go so there wasn't a lot of emotional investment over the course of there three and a half hours like MSU.
DEREK: Michigan State game, easily. They had a chance to win the game and left it all out there and they know how close they were to making the playoff. The Rose Bowl is big and fans love it, but the Big Ten Championship Game had more implications because there was something at stake, a Big Ten Title and playoff berth.
HAS THIS TEAM FORGOTTEN THE MASSIVE BUTT KICKING THEY RECEIVED AGAINST STANFORD? WHAT OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE TO CORRECT THAT SO IT NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN? WHAT OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE CHANGES ARE BEING PUT INTO PLACE TO REVERSE THAT OUTCOME SHOULD IT PRESENT ITSELF AGAIN?
DYLAN: I don't think they've forgotten about it, but as far as I know there weren't a lot of changes made. It's hard to prepare for a guy like Christian McCaffrey, who in my opinion should have won the heisman trophy last season. He is a rare breed and Iowa wasn't prepared for it.
DEREK: There's not much change to be made defensively. It wasn't a scheme issue, it was an athleticism issue and they didn't magically add 85 new players that are more athletic. They couldn't keep up with the athleticism the Stanford offense had and they may just not have been as prepared mentally as they needed to be. Offensively, they just have to protect the passer better and they should be able to do so this season. I think they'll be improved in that area. How much? That remains to be seen.
ARE THESE RECEIVERS ABLE TO GET OPEN AND CATCH THE BALL, THEN MAKE A PLAY AFTERWARD?
DYLAN: As far as the receivers go, Vandeberg will be able to get open because he is an efficient route runner, Jerminic Smith and Jay Scheel are going to be the other two guys and with how athletic they are, getting open shouldn't be extremely difficult. Smith showcased his big play potential against Illinois last season when he caught four passes for 118 yards.
DEREK: VandeBerg demonstrated an ability to do this in stretches. Jerminic can but he's inconsistent and that's what's been driving the coaches crazy. I think Jay Scheel has had four snaps ever so the jury is still out on him but he's pretty skilled. But these aren't four-star and five-star beast type receivers that you see at Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, and Alabama. Jerminic has flashed but he turns it on and off, VandeBerg isn't exceptionally fast, and Jay Scheel is injury prone. Riley McCarron isn't overly fast. They're as skilled and talented as a whole as they've been in a while but they're likely a year or two away from being a position of strength. But having Beathard should help.
HAS THE PASS BLOCKING GOTTEN EXTREMELY BETTER?
DYLAN: I didn't see pass protection as an issue last season, so I'll say it stayed the same. They lost Walsh and Blythe, but have solid replacements for those guys.
DEREK: Pass blocking has to be better. It was one of the reasons why Beathard got injured. It was awful against Wisconsin and Stanford specifically. It wasn't all that great against Michigan State. I realize those are tougher opponents but it has to be better than that. Then again, all three tackles that played were first-year starters. They now know the pace of the game, the speed of the game, and what to expect. It'll be better. I'm not ready to say extremely better.
IS THE PASS RUSH IN EXISTENCE?
DYLAN: The pass rush is going to be a question mark. Parker Hesse isn't a proven pass rusher and neither is Matt Nelson. It has potential, but right now it is one of the weak points on defense.
DEREK: It's a weak point and the fact that they may experiment with Anthony Nelson on third downs shows they feel that there may be a need to manufacture a pass rush from elsewhere. Maybe Anthony Nelson is the secret weapon, though. If they do manufacture it, where else can it come from? Jewell isn't really a blitzer and neither is Bower. Niemann can so that is an option. King can but he's better in coverage and they'll need Mabin to stay at home with the focus of offenses to be to stay away from King. I think the likely options are Ben Niemann and Miles Taylor. But in sub-packages and raider packages, Aaron Mends and Josh Jackson should be options as well.
IS IT TRUE THAT KAITLIN O'TOOLE HAD TO LEAVE HER POST WITH SCOUT AS A RESULT OF DATING DEREK?
DEREK: Ha! False.
WITH THE PASS RUSH AN ISSUE, DO YOU ANTICIPATE IOWA BLITZING MORE?
DYLAN: I could see Iowa mixing it up more with blitz packages. Snyder and Taylor are both more than capable of coming down to the line and bringing some heat, especially with how experienced the two CB's are. In fact I believe Iowa will have to bring blitzes more often if getting pressure on the QB is the goal.
DEREK: Kind of already answered that, but it's definitely probable. Look for Ben Niemann and Miles Taylor to be involved in that and then Aaron Mends and Josh Jackson as well in their sub-packages and third down schemes.
IN YOUR OPINION WHO STARTS, LESHUN DANIELS OR AKRUM WADLEY?
DYLAN: Daniels will start and he should start. He's the most experienced of the two. He's a proven runner and doesn't turn the ball over. With Wadley, the home run ability is there but there are ball security concerns and durability concerns. Wadley will see his fair share of carries, but Daniels is the starter.
DEREK: It's going to be LeShun Daniels. That's not a position battle. He's productive and takes care of the ball better. Wadley has earned his share of carries but not the starter tag.
IT IS CLEAR THERE IS A BATTLE BETWEEN JERMINIC SMITH AND JAY SCHEEL FOR THE STARTING SPOT AS THE SECOND RECEIVER. WILL THE GUY WHO FINISHES SECOND BECOME THE THRID RECEIVER?
DYLAN: Last I knew there was a battle between Smith and Scheel. Whoever loses the battle could slide to the WR3 spot especially because I think having McCarron and Vandeberg on the field at the same time could hurt Iowa more than help them. They are extremely similar players. However, McCarron does bring something Smith and Scheel do not and that is experience.
DEREK: Well the depth chart came out today and it was Scheel and McCarron to go with VandeBerg. That could change. I think they'll stick with McCarron to see how it goes. But if they want to get Jerminic into the game, they'll have to slide Scheel to McCarron's spot to get Jerminic in the lineup. He just doesn't know all the positions well enough to serve as much value right now and he's inconsistent with effort and execution.