Here are his position by position breakdowns, as published in Iowa's 2005 Media Guide.
"Like every year, we face the task of trying to replace some outstanding seniors. The most noticeable positions certainly would be the defensive line, and, the punting position. Not to minimize anyone else's position, but anytime you lose a punter or kicker, that certainly requires attention. And then, the defensive line, mainly because all four starters were seniors last year, is a very dramatic change.
With that being said, I think the great news is that right now we have a great supporting cast around our defensive line. This is the most experienced group of linebackers and secondary players that we've had coming back, so that will help defuse the inexperience factor up front a little bit. The second part is that the defensive made significant strides during the second half of spring practice, even with a couple of guys being out due to injuries. When we get everyone back on the field in August, if we can continue to make improvement, we'll have a chance to pull things together.
We should be more cohesive on the offensive line than we have been the last two years. We really graduated five seniors in 2002, with Robert Gallery being the only returning guy up front. So it took awhile for that to come together. Last year, we felt we had an opportunity to have a pretty solid line. Then we had the injuries, during the off-season, so it was a little bit of a scramble, at least until mid-season.
Right now, it looks like we have the most experience we've had in quite some time up front, and, it's the first time we've come back with a guy playing quarterback who played a full season and led us the year before. So, we're in maiden territory here, but its good territory to be in. We're excited about that. With those two factors involved, we have a chance to be more cohesive offensively. We have three senior receivers, so those things will give us an opportunity to be a little more productive than last year."
"The good news is that Drew has experience now. I think the big thing right now, we all remember the great plays Drew made, and he made a bunch of them for us, but there were a few plays in there that were ugly too. The challenge, and the way you get better as a player, is to focus on the things that you didn't do as well as you would have liked. The thing we were all most pleased about this spring was the attitude Drew took towards spring practice. He wasn't walking around here like a celebrity, he really focused on the things he knows he needs to improve upon and on things he needs to continue to learn. We've had some great players, but we haven't had anybody who has had the attitude that they had it all figured out. Whether it be a Nate Kaeding, Robert Gallery, Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders or Brad Banks. That's what we saw with Drew this spring. His attitude was great towards practice. As long as his attitude stays the way we expect it to, he's going to continue to get better and better.
Certainly Jason is a much better football player than he was a year ago and he is a strong leader. A lot of times, that gets overlooked, but he really has done a lot of great things for us. He's been very helpful to Drew, he's very knowledgeable with what we are doing, and, he's also competed well on the field, which forces Drew to be sharper. I think we are at the point with Jason that we feel very comfortable, that if he has to step in there and do the job, we're confident that he will do it. From that stand point, with one and two at that position we are far more experienced and advanced than we were a year ago, and that's a real good starting point."
"We are optimistic about our running back situation, but after last year we certainly aren't taking anything for granted. I think the good news, first of all, is that we expect all the guys who started the beginning of last year to be ready to go when we start out in August, so basically we have five guys there who have some experience.
Both Marcus and Albert should be fine and we have confidence in both guys. The real issue is getting them back and up to speed as far as game condition, those types of things. Obviously, they've missed some time and have some work to do, but we expect both of those guys to be ready to go. The positive that comes out of this, is that Marcus, Sam and Damian all got their feet wet last year and I think all three made strides in the spring. We have a chance now to have a group of guys that have significant experience and all have an opportunity to keep improving their game.
We recruited some good players at this position and we're anxious to see them in August, but the guys that we've had on campus this last year, give us reason to be optimistic. The key thing will be getting them caught up a little bit, but I really don't anticipate that being a problem as long as we can keep them healthy."
"Tom (Busch) really played well for us last year as a young guy. He was a first year player at fullback after spending his first season at linebacker. He did a commendable job, had a great attitude and improved this spring. He's on target to have a nice year and a nice career here. Paul Wilson is back with us and Gavin McGrath moved from linebacker to fullback. We also anticipate getting Kevin Sherlock back from injury. Champ Davis is still up in the air, so we'll play that as it comes. Champ's injury was a little later in the year. The good news is that he's upgraded his status and it's realistic to think he'll be ready to go, if not to start the season, by the start of the Big Ten season. When it's all said and done, I think we'll be real solid at this position."
"This spot is a little bit like the offensive line. We have the guys listed as one and two, but Ryan had a real good spring and really made some major strides. Things started to click for him a little more, and that's because he works so hard. Scott did some good things as well. They both seem to complement each other, we really look at both of them as starters. Brandon is a guy we are high on, he has good potential, and C.J. certainly is a guy we can find a spot for. In all likelihood all four of those guys will see playing time. Like a year ago, we will play multiple guys."
"The receivers stepped up more than any other group on the team last year. It's great to have a player like Ed Hinkel, who has so much good experience and has been involved in so many key plays for us, and Clinton, who rebounded and came back last year and really played like we hoped he would. I think Ed and Clinton complement each other well, they play together well. They give us a little versatility, especially with Ed, he's a guy that's been around. The thing I'm most pleased about is their attitude. They really want to continue to mature and grow.
To have those two guys as proven players gives us great leadership in that group, and Matt Melloy is another senior who has really made big plays on offense and special teams. Matt missed some time in the spring, but we know what we have with him, on offense and special teams. I really thought Calvin Davis was coming on strong, hitting his stride, prior to his injury last year. Herb Grigsby's not the biggest guy in the world, but he really showed some signs this spring. Eric McCollom moved from the quarterback position in the spring and also did some really good things. I can see him having a role on our football team this year. I thought they both showed real growth in the spring, not only as players, but really started to mature overall, so I think we are on the right track there."
OFFENSIVE LINE "
It's still up in the air as to how things will play out. We spent half the spring without Lee Gray out there, and Ben Gates did a nice job at left tackle. I think right now the three strongest tackle candidates are Ben, Mike and Marshal. Nyere played with the second group in the spring, but he's still a little younger. Those guys will keep working, and obviously Ben and Mike can play inside, and Marshal did that as well earlier. We have flip flopped the center and guard spots. I think right now we will probably go with Brian at center and Mike at right guard. That seemed to work out pretty well. Right now the fifth spot is pretty much wide open. At left guard we have Ben Cronin, who also can play center, Todd Plagman, David Walker and Seth Olsen.
I think the competition will continue going into practice. We're just not real sure who our top five guys are at this point. The good news is that we have a lot of guys that have experience, I think we have a little more depth than we have had. The big thing is trying to figure out who is going to play where, and we can get that answered in the pre-season. We definitely have more experience and flexibility than we have had in the past. We'll let the new guys compete and let that process take care if itself.
Basically, we have a little bit of a luxury because of the experienced guys we have, so we may have a chance to protect the young guys for a year. But, that being said, if anyone is doing that well, showing they can help us in September, we can go that route."
"Matt (Kroul) and Kenny (Iwebema) are the two guys who are most solidified in their roles at this point. Then the three guys who missed significant time in the spring, Alex (Willcox), Brian (Mattison) and Ettore (Ewen), would be the first category of guys. Matt was able to practice with the second group last year, even though he redshirted. He knows how to play football, he's a tough young guy with a good work ethic. In time, he's going to be a good player for us.
Then you have two guys who moved positions in Mike (Follett) and Mitch (King). It looks like Mike is going to make a successful transition to that position, he'll help us. He's played tight end, he's played linebacker and he's a senior. Mitch really showed some good signs in the spring, I think he'll be able to help us. Nate (Roos) is a guy who had a real steady spring after playing just a little last year. Ted (Bentler) is a redshirt freshman, so there are a lot of variables right now. It's going to be really important to see how things go the first couple of weeks in August. We'll know a lot more the week before the first game, than we do right now. The good news is that the second half of spring practice, it seemed like we were making some progress. As opposed to the four seniors we had last year, I would think six to eight guys will likely see action from week to week."
"Ed (Miles) was another of the guys who really came on in the spring. He showed the kind of consistency we were looking for last spring. He gives us a chance to have three pretty good guys with Abdul and Chad. Chris did a nice job in the spring, he's a transfer student who has a promising future.
There's not much I can say about Abdul and Chad that hasn't been said. Those guys have been extremely productive, but more importantly, they are just great team leaders playing a leadership position. Chad and Abdul are different kind of players. Abdul does a great job with communication and plays his position well. He's just a very strong team leader. Chad plays a little different role, which fits his attributes and personality. He's an energizing type of player. Like Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Matt Roth, he energizes our team and our fans with his style of play. Like Abdul, he's a great team guy and a great leader who sets a great example for our younger players.
Like Ed Miles, Mike Klinkenborg really grew up a lot in the spring. We had him playing both positions. We might have to wait and see if Mike Humpal will be physically ready, but we're hopeful he can be. Zach has done a lot of good things on special teams and he had a good spring as well."
"If we get everyone healthy and keep them healthy, we have a chance to be as experienced as we've ever been. Jovon and Antwan have played a lot at the corner positions. Adam Shada had a good spring and has a chance to be a good player for us. Bradley Fletcher had a good spring as well after redshirting a year ago. Ma'Quan would be another experienced guy in the picture. He has performed well in his role on special teams. If Marcus Paschal is healthy, which I don't think he will be until the end of September, he and Miguel give us two safeties with playing experience, and Charles Godfrey had a good spring at free safety. We feel like we have three safeties who have some experience and we have three corners with experience, two who are three-year starters.
A lot of little things take place during the course of a season, and one of the big things that took place last year was Marcus making the move from strong to free safety when Sean Considine was hurt. Miguel came in and did a good job, but the subtle thing that may have been overlooked, was Marcus, who hadn't played a lot at that point, sliding over to free safety, which is easier said than done, and he made the adjustment on the fly. When you see a guy do something like that it's very encouraging. Marcus is a guy who gives us some flexibility in his position."
"Special teams are critical for us to have team success. A year ago we were changing the guard with the kicker. This year it's the punter. Kyle Schlicher really grew during the season, really performed and delivered in a great way for us. We were trying to set it up for him to win the bowl game for us. It never got to him, but we were envisioning that and we all had the confidence that he would get the job done.
David Bradley had a great bowl game and great senior year. We basically made the decision during the course of last year that we had two guys on campus who could be our punter. Right now it's very close. With Andy and John, it's a toss up at this point. We'll take that one through August, and maybe into the season. The big thing will be consistency. It's conceivable that both guys could have a role.
Our return game depends on how the running backs turn out and our health. We have a fairly healthy pool of guys who have that ability, it's just a matter of what our depth will allow us to do. We also lose our long snapper, Cody Asmus, who did a good job as a fifth year senior. Now we have Danny Olysta who has done a good job, worked hard, and is ready to step in there and play."
"The Big Ten Conference, in 2002, had four teams end up in the top 13 in the rankings. People were concerned about the strength of the league going into that year, and we had four very good, very strong teams. This year it's a little different in that the expectations for the conference are a little stronger, but those are legitimate expectations, at least on paper, at this given point. It looks like there could be a real strong, very balanced conference. Five or six teams could legitimately end up being the champions, without a lot of luck or good fortune. Each week is going to be an adventure from that standpoint.
There are more quarterbacks returning this year than in recent years, more experienced players. If you look at our schedule, I think the thing that really jumps out at you is the away portion of our schedule. A little like 2002, in that there are a lot of challenges on the road, not only in our conference, but also the trip to Iowa State. We've done a good job playing at home, and it's imperative that we don't lose that edge. The schedule has its challenges, but that's part of playing in the Big Ten."