Unfortunate End to a Fun Season
The season didn't start like we all expected. It was filled with highs and lows, when most expected all highs. Iowa started 2-0 after defeating Miami (OH) and Iowa State, but they botched a home game to FCS power, North Dakota State. The Hawkeyes then were fairly underwhelming in their victory over Rutgers to push their record to 3-1. They lost three of the next five games before ending the season by beating Michigan at home, Illinois, and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes were playing their best football headed into the bowl game. Unfortunately, they were unable to come away with a victory in Tampa Bay, FL as the Florida Gators rolled over them. I kept saying that whoever made the first big play was going to win the game and Florida broke through with under two minutes left in the half. I think that took the wind out of Iowa's sail a little bit and after falling short on two really nice drives, it didn't help.
The Hawkeyes missed 5 or 6 tackles on Florida's 85 yard bubble screen that ended in a touchdown. It looked like the Hawkeyes we saw in the first half of the season. They were missing tackles, assignments, you name it. Over the last three games, they were sharp. They looked like a top 10 defense in the country, but they did not on that touchdown pass to Mark Thompson. It could be the fact that they aren't quite used to the speed or it could be the long layoff between pounding Nebraska and the Outback Bowl. Anyway you want to look at it, the tackling wasn't the greatest on Monday afternoon.
He told Scout after the game that he was 50/50 on whether or not he's going to return or head to the NFL next season. He's going to meet with family and coaches soon to discuss the decision. If I'm Wadley, I'm staying. He still needs to tack on probably 10 pounds, but his stock right now has to be fairly high after what he did to Michigan and Florida, two very good defenses. On top of that, both games were on a national stage, so people got to see what Wadley brings to the table. I understand that he, and head coach Kirk Ferentz, do not see eye to eye, but I'd like to see Akrum come back and try to put on a little more weight. It's obviously his decision and if he chooses to go to the NFL, I hope he finds a lot of success.
If he does go, Iowa is probably looking at Toks Akinribade and Toren Young splitting carries. Maybe throw Derrick Mitchell in there, but he is more of a receiving back. Wadley's absence is going to force a young back to step up in a big way. Wadley has until January 16th to decide.
C.J. Beathard is gone. That now makes way for soon-to-be sophomore, Nathan Stanley. Stanley served as Beathard's backup all season long and looks like he'll be the starter headed into next season. Although, Ferentz has said that it'll be an open battle between Stanley, Tyler Wiegers, and Drew Cook. Running back could be solidified with Wadley, but if he leaves a young back is going to have to step up. Receiver should be solidified with Matt Vandeberg's return. Throw Jerminic Smith getting another year under his belt in there and you have two nice receivers. It'll be interesting to see how Devonte Young, Adrian Falconer, and Jay Scheel develop going into next season.
Noah Fant will probably be the teams starting tight end next season. He may give way to others because he isn't a strong blocker at this point in his career, but he's undoubtedly the best pass catcher at the tight end position the Hawkeyes will have. Finally, the guys up front. They'll lose Cole Croston, but that is it off this team. They are going to have a very stout offensive line next season.
The biggest question marks on defense will be the defensive tackles and the corners. Iowa loses Jaleel Johnson and Desmond King, who will both play football in the NFL. The Hawkeyes will need to fill those voids. Cedrick Lattimore and Manny Rugamaba look like the options there.
And early prediction for win total during next season for me would be right around 7 or 8. I think the Hawkeyes will have a good team, but may go through some growing pains. This also could change if they lose their best playmaker in Wadley.