2004 Iowa Hawkeyes Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> Kirk Ferentz (32-39, 44-50 overall) <br><br> <b>Last Season's Record:</b> 10-3 (5-3, T-4th in Big Ten) <br><br> <b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2004 Outback Bowl (37-17 win over <A HREF=http://florida.TheInsiders.com>Florida</A>) <br><br> <b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 25th @<A HREF=http://michigan.TheInsiders.com>Michigan</A>, Oct. 16 <A HREF=http://ohiostate.TheInsiders.com>Ohio State</A>

Star Power: Abdul Hodge, LB, Jr. 6-2, 232; Chad Greenway, LB, Jr. 6-4, 239; Matt Roth, DE, Sr. 6-4, 275; Peter McMahon, OL, Sr. 6-7 320

Notable Additions: Walner Belleus, Dodge City CC, DB, 5-10, 180

Notable Subtractions: Robert Gallery OL (graduation), Fred Russell, RB (graduation), Nathan Chandler QB (graduation), Jared Clauss DT (graduation), Bob Sanders, SS (graduation), Mo Brown, WR (graduation), Nate Kaeding, PK (graduation), Erik Jensen, TE (graduation), DE Howard Hodges (graduation)

09/04/04Kent State
09/11/04Iowa State
09/18/04@Arizona State
10/02/04Michigan State
10/16/04Ohio State
10/23/04@Penn State
Offensive Overview: Before the start of the 2003 season, most informed Hawkeye fans knew that they were going to witness a 'Back to the Future' type of season that would resemble their 1981 Big Ten title team: don't fumble the ball, get close enough to kick a field goal, and get out of the way of the defense. They did enough of that to win 10-games for the second season in a row, the first time that trick has been pulled off in Iowa history. Iowa loses several key players on offense: QB, RB, FB, LT, RT, WR. Though the losses are significant, all hope is not lost. This was an offense that was among the lower third in the nation last year, yet did enough to allow their defense and special teams to keep them in the game. Iowa also has a version of the West Coast Offense that is predicated on running the football and using its play action and waggle game to pick teams apart underneath. Though they did not stretch the field all that often in 2003, as their primary deep threat was injured for much of the year, they might do more of that this year. Iowa will start a sophomore at quarterback this year; either Drew Tate or Jason Manson. Tate is the all-time passing leader in the history of the state of Texas, while Manson provides more of a dual threat. They will have several young talents to throw to, but none of them is refined, save Jr. Ed Hinkel. RB Jermelle Lewis finally gets his chance as Iowa starter and he just might be the best player in the Big Ten you have never heard of. Iowa has started three different quarterbacks in each of the past three seasons and has compiled a 28-10 record, including two back to back #8 finishes in the national polls. It should be mentioned that all three of those QB's were seniors.

Defensive Overview: Iowa has ranked among the nation's best defensive units over the past three seasons, and that should not change in 2004. Defense will be the strength of the team, as Iowa returns seven starters. The losses of SS Bob Sanders, LB Grant Steen, DE Howard Hodges and DT Jared Clauss are significant, but the Hawkeyes mantra of 'Next Man In' has served them well over the past several years, and there is no reason to expect anything less in 2004. Iowa plays primarily a base 4-3 set with a cover two in the secondary. The secret to their success has been their ability to stop the run with just four men on the defensive line. Last year, that led to then soph's Hodge and Greenway finishing first and third in the league in tackles, respectively. Iowa's LB corps are among the best in the nation, and their secondary should be at its strongest since Kirk Ferentz's first season at Iowa in 1999. The only position where they will be breaking in a 'green' starter is at SS, where Marcus Paschal replaces Sanders, who was an all American. Expect another stellar year from the Hawkeyes if everyone stays healthy. If Iowa loses any of its four defensive line starters to injury, a redshirt freshman will have to step up, as four of them are listed as the backups to start fall drills.

Special Teams Overview: Losing PK Nate Kaeding, one of the best place kickers in the history of the Big Ten and the most accurate kicker in NCAA history from 40-yards out or further, is huge. He was such a huge weapon for Iowa, as they needed only to get to the 35-yard line and they were in his range. Those duties now fall to Soph. Kyle Schlicher. Schlicher has a strong leg and was able to learn from Kaeding for two full years. No matter who was to replace Kaeding, you would be expecting a drop off. Sr. David Bradley will handle the punting duties for the Hawkeyes for the fourth straight season. Iowa's coverage and punt blocking units are traditionally among the best in the country, and we see no reason for that to change in 2004.

The Hawkeyes will get back to their third straight New Year's Day Bowl if... the offense can avoid turning the ball over, and they can average better than 4.3 yards per carry, something that has become the norm in Iowa City. The defense will be good enough to keep them in every single game. The rest will come down to turnovers and special teams.

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