Our lead stories focus on the Iowa defensive and offensive units.
With these two features, we take a look at our projected starting lineups prior to the start of spring practice.
A strong nucleus returns for Iowa on the defensive side of the ball, seven starters in total. Bob Sanders, Howard Hodges, Jared Clauss and Grant Steen were all multi-year contributors for Iowa and each player will be missed, but they are still going to play the games come fall.
We are all aware of what Matt Roth can do on the football field, and he is poised to have perhaps his finest season as a Hawkeye in 2004. The name of the game along the defensive line for 2004 is speed and versatility. In Roth, Derreck Robinson, Jonathon Babineaux, Matt Neubauer and Tyler Luebke, you have five players that can play either the tackle or end position. In fact, each player has lined up both inside and outside over the course of his Iowa career.
Iowa should have plenty of options to take advantage of some teams that might have some slower offensive guards.
Iowa should enter the 2004 season with as much talent and depth in the defensive backfield than at any other point in time during the Ferentz era, and then some. Juco CB transfer Walner Belleus is already on campus and should challenge Antwan Allen and Jovon Johnson for playing time.
Over on offense, the game's most ‘glamorous' position, quarterback will be up four grabs as four players will compete for the starting job.
Sophomore's Drew Tate, Jason Manson and Cy Phillips along with redshirt freshman Eric McCollom will make for some high drama this spring, as each player will be given the opportunity to show the coaching staff what they might be able to do for the team.
Continuity along the offensive line will also be very important next year, but the Hawkeyes actually return more experience in 2004 than they did in 2003. Though no player will be able to live up to Robert Gallery's abilities next year, they may not have to. Iowa has a lot of beef up front, as almost every player projected in Iowa's fall two-deep at guard and tackle weighs more than 300-pounds.
McMahon is the lone senior, something that bodes well for Iowa come the 2005 season.
Running back's Jermelle Lewis and Albert Young would like to see the big fellas gel early on, as the Hawkeyes look to balance out the offense a bit more in 2004. That is not to say that Lewis won't approach Fred Russell's production of the past two seasons, as he is more of your ‘classic' running back; he has the size, the speed, the power and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
The same can be said of redshirt freshman Albert Young. Lewis and Young hope to be as formidable a duo as Russell and Lewis were in 2002 where they combined to rush for over 2,000 yards, the best tandem in Hawkeye football history. Like Lewis, Young is adept at catching the ball out of the backfield, so teams will not be able to make wholesale personnel changes on defense the way they did when Russell left the game in 2003.
Fullback could be a big question mark next year, as Edgar Cervantes will not be around. Champ Davis played some fullback for Iowa last year before getting hurt early in the season and senior Aaron Mickens also returns.
Don't be surprised if a new name enters the race for the position…we discuss that in the Spring Preview.
We also profile several players who might be on the verge of breakout seasons, and some that need to have a big year in order for Iowa to continue it's place among college football's elite teams. Plus, we highlight some of the biggest questions and challenges the 2004 Iowa Hawkeyes will need to address this spring and through the summer.
The magazine also provides a run down of the four basketball players that Iowa signed last November: JR Angle, Seth Gorney, Alex Thompson and Carlton Reed, as well as a look at the season that Juco forward Doug Thomas put together at Southeastern this year. Thomas is expected to sign a letter of intent with Iowa in April.
Van Coleman of Future Stars provides his expert analysis on each prospect, having seen them all play on numerous occasions. We also speak with Gorney's high school coach Ray Zawadsky and Reed's coach Steve McGraw.
Plus, we have our monthly feature with Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby and columns from Marty Gallagher, Rob Howe and Jon Miller.
Also included is a special feature on the prospects for former Hawkeyes in this year's NFL draft, as we interview NFL Draft Expert Lane Adkins of The Insiders network. He provides us with his opinions on Robert Gallery, Bob Sanders, Fred Russell, Nate Kaeding and more, plus what he has been hearing from NFL teams and personnel directors regarding the former Hawks.
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