2nd Annual M.I.P.'s

Some folks like to run lists that talk about players that teams can ill afford to lose. We don't like to think in negative terms, so let's talk about the same thing, but in a positive light...to that end, here is our 2nd Annual M.I.P. Rundown: Iowa's Most Indispensable Players for 2008

If you are a fan of the NFL, a popular question each preseason is to list the players on each team that said team can ill afford to lose.

We'll apply that to the college game and this year's Iowa Hawkeyes. Now, you don't want to lose any player, because of what that means to the individuals and then the team. So to put this into a more positive parlance, we can look at this as an exercise in preseason MIP's; our 2nd Annual Most Indispensable Players.

I will make this order related to whom I think is the most indispensable player, then the next, and so on.

To view last year's list from July of 2007, CLICK HERE.

#1 Mitch King: I copped out last year and listed Iowa's starting defensive line as ‘1-A' on my list. I told myself I would not do that this year, and while it's challenging, I will stick with my plan.

Mitch King is a disrupter along the lines of Matt Roth and Jonathon Babineaux from recent Hawkeye past, and he usually has his way with teams if they choose to play him one on one. He might see more of that this year if Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard can be disruptive on the outside…in other words, King could be set up for a monster year, if the Hawks don't roll snake eyes at end.

If the ends live up to the on the field hype we saw late last year, double teaming King may be too risky for an opposing offense. It could set up as a pick your poison, but I think one thing is certain; if King goes down, teams won't have to double team his backup, and more attention can then be directed at Clayborn and Ballard on the edges.

Plus, King is the heart and soul of the Iowa defensive unit, along the lines of what Bob Sanders was to the Hawks in years past. His play, aggressiveness and relentlessness can be infectious, and he is a great example for the younger players to see out there on the field. Iowa needs him on the gridiron in every game if they are to make big steps this year.

#2 Jake Christensen: Jake occupied the top spot last year, and after having seen Tony Moeaki and Andy Brodell go down with season ending injuries early in the fourth game, and Dominique Douglas never make it onto the field, I might have restructured my list a little bit had I done a ‘post mortem' MIP rundown.

It was clear from the outset that Iowa needed those three players on the field to keep opposing defensive coordinators honest, to go along with a green offensive line. Jake was green, too, as he had just one career start under his belt prior to the Northern Illinois game.

But Jake was #1 last year primarily because the gap between he and Rick Stanzi and Arvell Nelson might have been the largest chasm from starter to back up on the entire team. Stanzi has narrowed that gap to some degree this year, based on our limited exposures at the open practice back in April.

That being said, and you may have a different opinion on this, I still think the gap is significant, and I am still of the opinion that a healthy receiving/tight end corps along with a more experienced offensive line is going to make a big difference for Jake on the field this year, as long as he has made the requisite improvements that he needed to make.

#3 Tony Moeaki: In Iowa's offense, a productive tight end, one that can force linebackers and/or safeties to vacate space in the passing routes, is a necessity. Losing Moeaki for roughly the entire Big Ten season was a big time blow to the Hawkeyes last year, on top of everything else.

The good news there, if you are into silver linings and all, was that Brandon Myers got to play quite a bit, and proved to be a budding weapon in waiting. Iowa should have at least a pair of dangerous tight ends this year, but Moeaki is a Ferrari to Myers' Corvette. But at the end of the day, you have two pretty darn nice cars.

I am still convinced that we will see Moeaki playing on Sunday's in a few years, and that he will emerge as a dangerous and capable weapon for this offense. It's nice to know that Myers and Alan Reisner are there this year in the event that Moeaki is not available every snap, but the Hawks need #81 on the field for the full season to reach their potential.

#4 Shonn Greene: If Greene gets out of training camp in game shape and ready to hit the ground running against Maine, he might even be higher than #4. But, if one of the freshmen comes in and turns heads, you could substitute whichever name that emerges in this spot as well.

Iowa hasn't gone into a season with such an unknown situation at running back in more than a decade. In 2002, Aaron Greving and Fred Russell were battling it out for the top honors, and Greving suffered a high ankle sprain early in the season and Russell never looked back. Greving would leave school, but Jermelle Lewis was right there to handle the #2 carries. Do we go back to Ladell Betts' freshman year to find a more unsettled situation at running back, going into a season?

In a hypothetical world where Greene is at 100% and totally in football shape, he could carry much of the mail this year and be quite productive. There is always a chance of that, but he has not been tackled in an organized practice setting since December of 2006. That doesn't give you the warm fuzzies when analyzing things.

That being said, he is going to be counted on this year. To what degree remains to be seen and other team members will have something to say about that.

#5 Seth Olsen: He has the most experience along Iowa's line and he can play guard or tackle for you. Those things matter, and he has been the closest thing Iowa has had to a constant over the past year or so.

I gave thought to throwing Rob Bruggeman into this mix, but he has not taken enough snaps in meaningful situations to have a body of work to analyze. But Bruggeman was going to be a starter last year prior to getting injured in the spring, and he too is a versatile player.

Offensive line is definitely a position where you could reshuffle the MIP mix at some point in time in October and it would look totally different.

#6 A.J. Edds: Edds has done the job since being called into action as a true freshman. He also plays one of the most demanding positions on the field from his linebacker spot.

His role is closer to the line of scrimmage, where he takes on pulling guards and tackles, or fullbacks looking for a kickout block. He also has pass coverage responsibilities as well.

He has been arguably the most consistent performer the past two years, along with Mitch King. He will be the most experienced linebacker that Iowa has in the program this year, a very valuable player for this team.

#7 Andy Brodell: Andy flashed at the end of the 2006 season, with back to back 157 yard receiving games. He also showed some of his all state track and field speed against the Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl.

Brodell has not yet proven to be a consistent performer from down to down as it relates to making the routine plays that this offense requires, but he has a gear that can inch him closer to all league status than most do in the Iowa program.

Plus, entering his fifth year on campus, he knows the drill and having this offeseason to work with new receivers coach Erik Cambell, more will be expected out of Brodell in 2008. Iowa needs him on the field the way they needed Douglas on the field last year. It will help take some pressure off of the quarterback.

#8 Ryan Donanue: Donahue had an up and down year last year, starting down and finishing strong. Some folks forgot that he was a freshmen punter.

If you go back into your Hawkeye history, even recent history, and chronicle the struggles suffered by David Bradley and current NFL punter Jason Baker, you will remember that it happens to the best of them.

Donahue has loads of potential and upside, and who knows what is on the shelf behind him on the depth chart. One of the best weapons a defense can have is a consistent punter. Consistency will be what Donahue is looking to master this year. If he does, a defense that already appears to be solid on paper could be that much better.

#9 Matt Kroul: Kroul often gets overlooked because he is not nearly as flashy and explosive as his counterpart, Mitch King.

Former Hawkeye Jared Clauss was like that; he just got the job done while Roth and others grabbed the headlines. Kroul is comfortable in that position.

Even though he might be low on the flash, he is just consistently solid, holds good pad level and fills the gaps.

#10 Derrell Johnson-Koulianos: I don't think any player on the football team has as much upside and untapped potential as DJK.

He just has to learn to make the consistent plays as a receiver, and hold onto the football in the return game.

I honestly believe we have not seen a Hawkeye player with as much natural/instinctual ability in the return game since Tim Dwight, as I see in DJK.

If he can realize that ability and take care of ball control issues, he will be an excellent weapon for this offense, and that's before talking about what he can do as a receiver.


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