These rankings are not meant as a slight to anyone who might not appear on them or where they might be ranked.
Players were selected based on several criteria; athletic ability, leadership, skill and on field results. Plus, a bit of potential may have been considered along the way.
1. Chad Greenway This is not necessarily a surprise pick, because Greenway might be the most athletically gifted player on the team. You don't find many linebackers who are 6-4, 250-pounds and can run sub 4.5 in the forty yard dash. As Kirk Ferentz has said in the past, Greenway probably could have been a first team all Big Ten tight end. His athleticism and versatility has NFL scouts drooling and his physical play has opponents sweating bullets. He is a fierce competitor, he makes plays for you on special teams and he is always the first guy on the field voicing encouragement to the offense when they go three and out. After watching film of every game from last year, it was as if Greenway was telling the offense, ‘don't worry men, we have your back.' And they did. As was the case when Bob Sanders had played his last game at Iowa, it will be bittersweet to see Greenway move on to greener pastures in the NFL…and I do mean green.
2. Abdul Hodge This was somewhat of a tough choice for me, as my #3 pick might be worth a #2 rating, but Hodge has been so important to this football team over the past two years and will be again in 2005. He is a technically sound MLB and he loves to hit. He is also a very cerebral player who is a sort of Jekyll & Hyde; he is fierce on the field and will rip your head clean off, but off the field in the interview room, he is cool and calm. Those are traits that you look for in a leader, and Hodge is certainly the leader of Iowa's defense. Though not as highly rated by NFL scouts as Greenway, Hodge's value to Iowa is hard to measure.
3. Clinton Solomon Last October, I took some flack for saying that I felt Solomon had the most raw talent of any Iowa receiver that I could remember, but that he just needed some consistency. He still needs to prove he can make the easy catches, but Iowa has seldom fielded a game breaker with Solomon's overall abilities. He showed you his graceful speed against Minnesota with a TD on a WR screen play and then again against LSU on Iowa's first possession. He also dropped a few passes in 2004; the easy play against Purdue in the end zone and at Minnesota across the middle that would have gone for another long touchdown. Once he makes the easy catches in addition to the challenging grabs, the sky is the limit for Solomon, and I could see him playing his way into the second round of the 2005 NFL draft.
4. Drew Tate Tate might not be as athletic as the first three players, but he is everything else. He has enough quickness to get out of trouble, he has a seldom seen ability to avoid being tackled and he looks down field while on the run as good as any Iowa quarterback in memory. Simply put, Tate just gets the job done, period. He is in a position to be one of the most successful quarterbacks in school history, and that can be accomplished even if his numbers in 2005 & 2006 do not match what he put up in 2004. There is little doubt that Iowa would like to not have to have him throw for nearly 2,800 yards, but I think they can count on his touchdown passing totals to be near 20 or higher every season. As for guts, this kid has ‘em. The Duke might say he has true grit.
The first four picks of our Hawk Draft were easy…now things get a bit more challenging. Many of the following rankings would be in the personal preference category.
5. Brian Ferentz Is it a coincidence that Iowa finished the 2004 season a perfect 8-0 with Ferentz in the starting lineup? Ferentz did not start in the first four games of the season, but once he did, it was perfection. When asked about that, Ferentz said that Iowa has lost some games in which he has started. A quick check of the media guide shows that the only game Iowa has lost in which Brian Ferentz has started for Iowa was the 2003 contest as Michigan State. The Hawkeyes are 12-1 with Ferentz in the starting lineup. Is he the best center in the Big Ten? Probably not. Is he the best center Iowa has had in the last three years? Bruce Nelson gets that nod. Is he the smartest player on the football team when it comes to the game? I'd take that bet. It's hard to argue with his results when he is healthy, or healthy enough to play.
6. Ed Hinkel Much like Ferentz at #5, Hinkel is not the flashiest player you are going to find in the league, but he sort of sneaks up on you. His 744 receiving yards from last year do not rank among the top 15 single season efforts in Iowa history and those were the most yards in one campaign that Hinkel has tallied. Yet Hinkel is poised to finish among the top 15 in receiving yards for a career at Iowa with a healthy season. He could sneak inside the top ten all time with another season like last year. Hinkel grabbed 63 catches a year ago, tied for third most in a single season in school history. Iowa's school record for receptions in a career is 157, and Hinkel currently has 95 grabs. Another 63-catch season would put Hinkel atop that chart. I doubt that happens, as Iowa should run the ball more this year and there should be more weapons for Tate to throw to, but no matter how you slice it, Hinkel is a winner. Kirk Ferentz once said that if he had 11 Ed Hinkel's on his team, he would find a place for all of them to play.
7. Jovon Johnson Proving that big results can come from small packages, Johnson has been a bit play performer during his three years at Iowa. He needs just four interceptions to tie Iowa's school record of 18 for a career, and he is a stellar athlete with an amazing vertical leap that allows him to play taller than he is. His one-handed INT at Minnesota in 2002 is still one for the all-time highlight reel. If Iowa would have had much depth at corner during his career, he probably would have been a special player on punt returns. He is lobbying for an audition this year, but due to his value to the defense, that is not likely. Not bad for a player that Iowa had to battle Kent State for, and he was also Iowa's second choice at cornerback from Erie Mercyhurst; Levonne Rowan of Wisconsin was their target, but Johnson sold his way into the hearts of the Iowa coaches. Rowan, also a senior, has zero career interceptions.
8. Mike Jones This is sort of a ‘betting on the come' selection, as Jones has yet to hit his stride at Iowa. He was pressed into action as a true freshman due to injuries along the line. His first ever action came at the horseshoe in 2003, quite the baptism by fire. Kirk Ferentz has said since the spring that Jones is finally starting to carry himself like someone who is ready to play at a very high level. That is not unusual of third year offensive linemen, as that is typically when they hit their stride. Jones should be a redshirt sophomore right now, but if he stays healthy for two more years, there was a chance that he would only have been at Iowa for four years anyway. It's time to see if such predictions were accurate, as this season is year one of the two campaigns that could turn the soft-spoken lineman from Chicago into a member of the former Hawkeye Offensive Lineman's Millionaire Club.
9. Antwan Allen This might be a surprise pick to some of you that have read my work for a while. I have been somewhat critical of ‘Tweezy' during his career at Iowa, but he turned in a solid effort last year. Assuming that he may miss just one game this year due to his assault conviction, the first time he has been in any trouble while at Iowa, Allen is poised to have a solid season. Iowa is going to need both he and Johnson to really be lock down corners this year, as the young defensive line might put some added pressure on them the likes they have not seen since the early part of the 2002 season. Matt Roth, Jonathon Babineaux, Sean Considine, Hodge and Greenway have made life for an Iowa corner somewhat easier the last few years. The first three players mentioned have moved onto NFL addresses, so Allen & Johnson are definitely back on the island.
10. Marcus Paschal After reviewing game film of the 2004 season over the weekend, there were not too many instances that I noticed where Paschal was badly beaten or out of position. Now, I do not watch film with the eye of a defensive backs coach, so Paschal could not have graded out perfectly. But I do believe that he was a better cover strong safety last year than Bob Sanders was as a senior. His INT in the endzone against Ohio State was a thing of beauty and though not the hitter than Sanders was (and who is, really?), Paschal certainly brought his own brand of wood. He is making a solid comeback from the late season knee injury he suffered in the Cap One Bowl and is on pace to be back on the field at least by the Ohio State game. As an aside, I have my doubts that Iowa would have needed the Tate to Holloway play in Orlando had Paschal not have been injured. With the way that Phil Parker was chewing on Miguel Merrick after Alley Broussard's long TD run late in the first half of that game, Paschal probably would have made a difference there.
I was tempted to list Albert Young at #10, but he has just not played enough ball for me to do that. I suspect that sometime during the upcoming season, Young would make a jump into this list.