These are a couple of the questions that I am asking myself as I peruse some of the available college football preview magazines.
Steele picks Iowa to finish in a three-way tie for 4th place in the Big Ten, with Michigan and Illinois. He ranks Iowa at #34, but does not have Illinois or Michigan ranked in his Top 50 teams. Athlon picks Iowa to win seven games, with three losses and two toss ups. So they are calling for 7-5, 8-4 or 9-3. I think that range is highly likely, and picked Iowa to go 8-4 this year. If you are a subscriber to Hawkeye Nation magazine, you have either received our preview in the mail, or it's going to arrive very soon. It's packed to the gills with preseason predictions for Iowa, game by game, as well as bowl and record predictions for all 11 teams in the Big Ten conference.
Last year, Steele pegged Illinois to be his #2 most improved team in the nation, and they certainly lived up to that hype. Steele makes so many predictions in his information packed magazine that he is bound to be right, but that also means he is going to swing and miss. I at least like the fact that he steps up to the plate.
A quick look at his All Big Ten teams sees Mitch King as Iowa's lone first teamer, with Matt Kroul on the second team. I haven't heard any announcement yet on whom Kirk Ferentz will bring with him to Chicago late next month (July 24th) for the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon, but a safe bet is those two.
Steele also has Nate Guillory as his 4th team running back. Being that Steele selects two RB's per his all conference teams, that's not saying a whole lot, but it remains to be seen just how much playing time Guillory will pull down this year. My guess, and that's all that it is right now, is that Guillory will see spot duty.
It's going to be a very interesting year in Iowa City, and we are just 81 days or thereabouts until the Hawks host Maine in Kinnick Stadium for the season opener. Right about now, it would seem that a few folks on the outside are perhaps more optimistic about this coming season than a decent sized segment of the Iowa fanbase…
One name that I haven't brought up enough this spring, a name that I think could factor into Iowa' success this year, is that of Amari Spievey. Spievey was a one time Hawkeye commit, but ran into academic trouble during his first year on campus. He played at Iowa Central Community College last year and turned a lot of heads. His Juco coach said he was one of the best players to ever come through his program, with Clinton Solomon being atop that list as well.
I had forgotten that he was Connecticut's Player of the Year as a senior, and was twice voted to the All State team by the coaches.
Here is a link to a late October article on Spievey that might whet your whistle a little bit: LINK. Another good note on the Spievey front; I have received word that he was recently in Iowa City, taking care of some physical exams and the like, as were several other Iowa incoming freshman. He may be in Iowa City for good, as I doubt he would be there doing what he was doing if he had not regained his eligibility. Someone also told me that this was as early as they could remember so many new players arriving on campus. And before you ask, I didn't get the names of the other players.
Spievey proved to be a lock down corner at the Juco level, and an excellent special teams contributor. With the losses of Charles Godfrey and Adam Shada, the Hawkeyes certainly have a void of experience on the back end of their defense. Juco ball isn't Big Ten ball, but I don't see a plethora of outstanding quarterbacks on Iowa's schedule this year. Combine that with a front four that looks like it could put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and you have a few more reasons for optimism.
Bradley Fletcher flashed last year, as did Jordan Bernstine. This year's defense could, and I repeat, could be more explosive on the takeaway front. Time will tell, and that time is quickly approaching….
Dennis Dodd of CBSSportsline.com, a college football writer for that website, chose Iowa WR/TE coach Erik Campbell as his #1 assistant at that position in all of college football.
I was excited about the Campbell hire when it was announced, and it's good to see that someone like Dennis Dodd took full note of that change on the staff and has such a lofty opinion of Campbell. No, having my opinions affirmed by national media members is not how I sleep at night, but not only do I think Campbell is a very good assistant, I feel he comes in to a position that needed a bit of a boost.
For whatever the reason, Iowa's receivers just haven't hit on all cylinders during the Kirk Ferentz era. Honestly, I can't recall a time, save for a one year instance, when Iowa had a very good receiving corps.
That's not to say that there were not good players there, or capable players there through the years. But there were far too many Ramon Ochoa and Warren Holloway stories and too few Mo Brown and CJ Jones stories, and even then, such players perhaps didn't perform to their talent level. That's not all on coaching; some of that was due to injury (Brown's senior year, for instance) and dedication (Brown's first three years on campus). And Iowa may always be a program where a Ramon Ochoa-like story will emerge, but it can't always be at the receiver position.
Iowa hasn't exactly been a football factory when it comes to producing NFL capable receivers. Some of that can be attributed to its ‘run first' philosophy, but it has thrown enough balls to make a receiver or two really stand out.
Phil Steele wrote the following in his magazine as it pertains to the Iowa receivers; ‘This should be one of the most improved receiving corps in the NCAA.'
After last year's anemic offensive performance, the Hawkeyes have no where to go but up in several offensive categories.