Most everyone felt some level of disappointment with last year's 6-6 record, even if we arrive at the various levels of disappointment via different routes.
I am going to take a position by position look at Iowa's offensive and defensive rosters, projecting starters, and compare them to where the team was last year and see just what level of improvements we might look for in 2008 compared to 2007.
Andy Brodell 2007 vs. Andy Brodell 2008: In this instance, as well as several others, we will have to compare last year's player with this year's version of the same individual. Brodell played three games and one quarter for Iowa last year before missing the rest of the year with a hamstring injury. The 2008 version of Brodell should vastly outperform last year's version of Brodell, and exceed the production that was seen from the position in his absence. PLUS for 2008
James Cleveland 2007 vs. Trey Stross/DJK 2008: Cleveland caught 36 passes for 464 yards and zero touchdowns for Iowa as a starter. Stross hauled in 16 catches for 272 with four touchdowns. Stross has shown the penchant for making some big plays when he sees the field. Trey is hovering around 205 pounds right now, and his leg problems appear to be behind him. DJK hauled in 38 passes last year for 482 yards and two scores, and we know that he has an exciting skill set. PLUS for 2008
Tony Moeki 2007 vs. Tony Moeaki 2008: Moeaki hauled in 14 passes in the three games and one quarter he played last year for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns. He finally showed his big game ability against Syracuse, two games before going down with season ending injuries. He is in excellent condition right now, and he was forced to miss the spring sessions as well. He will be champing at the bit to get back on the field this year. Brandon Myers did haul in 21 passes, five for scores last year. So Iowa didn't get zero out of the position after Moeaki went down, but number 81 will be playing on Sundays some day. I see a PLUS for 2008. I also see Myers and Moeaki playing a lot at the same time.
Albert Young 2007 vs. Shonn Greene 2008: I am tempted to throw Young and Damien Sims in here as a tandem, as they combined for 306 carries and 1,467 yards and nine touchdowns. Those would be great numbers for one player, but less than stellar for two, considering the next nearest back had 40 yards on the year I know that with Greene, there is some betting on the come line. And after him, there are several more unknowns. But is it too much to projection Iowa's eventual leader rushing tandem to gain more than 1,500 yards and push the ball across the goal line nine times? I don't think so, and with what I expect to be a better offensive line, I will go with the PLUS for 2008.
Jake Christensen 2007 vs. Jake Christensen 2008: Jake had some ups and downs last year, and we have gone over that territory numerous times. Some folks will say that he has to be better this year, or there needs to be a change. We can disagree on that front, and we have done that. I fully expect Jake to improve in his second year as a starter for the work that he has put in, in addition to the work others have put in, and better luck in the injury department. So I expect a PLUS for this season.
2007 Offensive Line vs. 2008 Offensive Line: It will be very interesting to see who emerges along the eventual starting offensive line. There are several players that will be throwing their hat into the ring this year, and many of those players have something they did not have at the start of last season; experience. Bryan Bulaga, Dan Doering, Julian Vandevelde and Kyle Calloway each made the first starts of their career last year. Other players saw the first meaningful action during their time in Iowa City. Two players that would have been likely starters (Kyle Bruggeman and Dace Richardson) were injured.
Rob Bruggeman is likely one of the three best linemen on the team and could start at guard or center. Seth Olsen will be entering his senior season, and should reap the benefits of experience. Rafael Eubanks will be in a battle for playing time, and he has a lot of experience. Bulaga appears to be a likely starter, as does Calloway. Andy Kuempel came on strong in the spring and will have his nose in the mix, and Travis Meade returns with experience.
Richardson is a bit of a wild card, though I remain skeptical as to whether or not we will see him suit up for Iowa ever again.
Still, I am confident that this year's offensive line will outperform last year's offensive line.
I feel confident in saying that this year's offense will outperform last year's offense. The big question that remains to be answered is a simple one, but also an important one: Just how much better will they be?
The truth of the matter is that they can't be much worse, as Iowa finished last or next to last in nearly every major offensive statistical category, and was near the bottom of the nation in several key aspects
But if you are looking for signs of hope or optimism before the season begins, I think you can take heart in going into this year believing that the offense will be better than what we saw a year ago.
Hopefully, a lot better.