This is always a time of year where Hawkeye fans begin to get a little antsy, full of anticipation over the coming football season.
One of the most common questions is: Which of the true freshmen has a chance to play this year?
During the Kirk Ferentz era, you have not seen a large number of true frosh stepping in and playing on Saturdays for the Hawkeyes, save last season.
Prior to last year, Nate Kaeding, Benny Sapp, Kevin Worthy, Bob Sanders, Matt Roth, Jovon Johnson, Clinton Solomon, Fred Barr and Colin Cole were the notable scholarship players who played as true freshmen.
Then came the 2003 season.
Drew Tate, Mike Jones, Eric McCollom, Champ Davis, James Townsend, AJ Johnson and Scott Chandler all played as true freshmen. That is a total of seven players from one class, and one-third of the entire recruiting class of 2003.
Then factor in that Iowa finished the 2003 season with a record of 10-3, and you certainly have a lot to be optimistic about regarding the future of Iowa football.
Which brings us back to the original question: What of this year's true freshmen? Who will play? Who is most likely to redshirt?
We are going to break this down into three categories:
1. BEST CHANCE: Meaning, players who stand the best chance of playing as true freshmen, if anyone will.
2. UNCERTAIN: Players who have at least a shot at playing as true freshmen
3. REDSHIRT: Players we feel will redshirt in 2004.
These will be listed in order, from most likely on down.
1. Bradley Fletcher, 6-2, 180-pounds, Liberty, OH: I have heard Norm Parker and other football coach's say over the years that players who are farther away from the football have a better chance of playing early in their careers. Fletcher could wind up being the steal of the Class of 2004, and there are some on the staff who believe he could play multiple positions. If he shows strong CB skills in fall camp, you could see him make his way onto the two deep.
2. Charles Godfrey, 6-1, 200, Baytown, TX: The same applies with Godfrey, brother of former Kansas State QB Ell Roberson. He is a fleet of foot and bigger DB prospect, and if he shows the aptitude to play cornerback at the Big Ten level, then he too could work his way into the depth chart this fall or at the least make an impact on special teams. It would be great if the players who are presently at Iowa could keep these two at bay this fall, because each of them could have a chance of being a three-year starter, at the least.
Actually, each player listed in this report is ‘uncertain' as to whether or not they will play this year. So with that in mind, you might say that players listed under the ‘uncertain' heading have longer odds against playing than the first two listed.
1. Kyle Williams, 6-2, 220, Bolingbrook, IL: ‘The Bonecrusher', as he was dubbed in high school, will have to earn that nickname all over again. Norm Parker said at FanFest 2004 that he had heard all of the talk about Williams playing as a true freshman, and reminded those in attendance that come the fall of 2004, Williams would be one year removed from riding a little yellow bus to school. Unless Iowa is short on capable special teams performers, I don't expect to see Williams in the mix this year, and that is not a bad thing.
2. Damian Sims, 5-9, 185, Boca Raton, FL: Sims could play RB or DB at Iowa. The performance of Godfrey and Fletcher could dictate which way Sims goes to start his career. Sims could break into the game as a return specialist, but like Williams, his odds seem long.
3. Harold Dalton, 6-1, 185, Camden, NJ: Dalton is another potential steal in this recruiting class, but he was more widely recruited than Fletcher because his recruitment went farther into the winter. Wisconsin, Tennessee, UNC, Virginia Tech, Minnesota and others offered him a scholarship. Iowa appears set at safety this year, but again, if there are holes on special teams, he might be able to help, but it seems doubtful.
I believe that the rest of the class of 2004 falls into this category. None of us expected so many WR's to play as true freshmen last year, but injuries to Mo Brown and Ed Hinkel early in the year dictated what took place. Iowa was also thin at running back, so AJ Johnson was called into early action in case he had to carry any part of the load later in the year.
I view last year as an aberration with regards to so many true freshmen playing. I also don't see a Mike Jones among the class of 2004, either.
As far as I am concerned, it's never a great thing to see several true freshmen playing once your program is established and on its legs, and the Iowa football program is at that place in this point and time.
Though this year might be a bit of a rebuilding year on offense, there are just a few holes on defense, and those will be filled by players with some time under their belts.