Pitt/Iowa: 6 Questions with the HN Staff

Each week, the HawkeyeNation staff sits down to talk about this week's match-up. See what Jon Miller, Rob Howe and Brian Finley think may happen this week inside!

1. With the tight ends and receivers almost 100% healthy, who will step up as the #1 target?

Jon: I still think Iowa's #1 target is going to be a tight end.  I go with Brandon Myers because he will play more, and the familiarity with the quarterbacks, whomever Kirk puts in the game to start, or finish.  I hope the wide receivers get more involved, but I am not yet convinced things are night and day better out there.

Rob: I've felt this way from the beginning of the season and I'll stay behind the position that it might be a No. 1 guy each week. I think Myers or Moeaki, when healty, could be the guy. Reisner has shown the ability to be the guy. Brodell showed he can be the guy at the end of the 2006 season, but he's still rounding into form after last year's injury. The DJK fan club thinks he's the guy. He could be. Stross makes big plays when he's healthy. Why can't he be the guy? It's a good situation.

Brian: I think this week, you'll see Brandon Myers or Tony Moeaki as the #1 target, but as the season moves on, I think DJK has a real shot to step up, once a quarterback is settled on.

2.  Who does Kirk start at quarterback?

Jon: Jake will be the starter.  I think with Iowa making its first road game of the season and Kirk Ferentz's aversion to turnovers or even the risk of turnovers, he will try and ease Stanzi into life on the road.  Rick has dressed for road games in the past, but he has never taken one snap away from Kinnick Stadium other than in warm ups. 

Rob: Jake gets the start. I think Kirk had that in his mind after watching the ISU game in person and on tape. Ricky committed the cardinal sin when playing for the coach, and that's turning the ball over. As inconsistent as Christensen was last year, he managed to take care of the football and that likely gave him a longer leash regardless of how those guy were behind him a year ago.

Brian: I think Rick will be the starter this week. I think Jake is better equipped to come in mid-game than Stanzi may be. Don't give Rick time to think about coming in, just send the kid in. If he struggles, bring in Jake, but I think the time on the sideline worrying and wondering might just twist Stanzi even tighter.

3.  Does it really matter who Kirk starts at quarterback?

Jon: I think it might matter right now, just because of Stanzi's unfamiliarity with road games.  That's not to say that Rick can't handle it, but I think he might actually be better suited coming off the bench for a series here or there with less pressure on him right out of the gate.  Jake seems to have taken in the pressure from losing the starting position and at least run with it in practice.

Rob: I'm not sure if it matters yet. I hate the ride the fence, but I'm not sold on either guy starting after seeing Stanzi against ISU. I think the tendency would be to say that Christensen is better prared for the relief role because he's shown he can handle it; that benching Ricky after one week as the starter could hurt him. I think it could help him to watch for a bit and get into the game after the defense has worn down a tad. I need to see more to determine if it matters who starts is what I'm saying.

Brian: Of course it does, otherwise the Iowa fans won't know who the bad guy is this week. Seriously though, I don't think so. I think the gameplan, at least early in any game, is going to be to pound the rock with Shonn Greene. After that, hopefully, things will be open enough that either of the two could make the throws. It's when Iowa gets behind in a game and needs the quarterback to win (as opposed to manage) the game that it begins to become a concern. I don't think that happens this week.

4. After three games, which position are you most comfortable with and which has you most uneasy?

Jon: Offensive line.  I really like what Iowa is doing out there in the trenches.  Granted, the tests will get tougher each and every week from now until the end of the season, but thus far, this group has been imposing their will.  I really needed to see them step up and play well early this year, and we have seen this group perform at a level that we did not see last year.  As for being the most uneasy, I will go with wide receiver.  I am still not seeing a ton of separation from the defender out there.  That puts a lot more pressure on quarterbacks to make perfect throws and no one is perfect.  Getting Trey Stross back into the mix will help.

Rob: I think I'm most comfortabel with running back. Greene has been a beast and I think the backup spots are in good hands with O'Meara and Hampton. I also like Morse. He's looking like another in a long line of bruising Hawkeye fullbacks. I'm going to go with place kicker as the one with which I'm most uneasy. The duo of Murray and Mossbrucker are 1 of 3 the last two weeks. Granted one of those was from 50-plus, but I won't be comfortable until I see one of these guys nails a big one in a big game.

Brian: Offensive line. Everything starts there for the offense. Pass protection and run blocking, even against lesser competition, has looked very good so far this year. Again, I go back to the fact that for the majority of camp and through the season, we've been working with the same guys, with only one position 'up for grabs.' In previous years, it's been 3 or 4 games (or more) before everyone is settled in and we've determined that starting five. It's allowed for a much smoother, productive experience.

5. With the way that he runs, straight ahead and taking on hits, can Shonn Greene continue to average 18.3 carries a game and hold up for nine more games?

Jon: I think Iowa needs to keep him around 20 to 25 so that he can be at optimum performance, with an occasional game of over 25 if he is really running downhill or things call for must have yards late.  I am comfortable with either Paki (I can't believe I am saying that, but I mean it) or Jewell getting six to ten reps apiece.  Iowa is going to need a fresh Shonn Greene in the fourth quarter to win a game or two.  Get him going in the 1st quarter, then crank him back up in the third and fourth.

Rob: It worries me a bit. Shonn, like Marion Barber for the Dallas Cowboys, enjoys contact and that has a tendency to create a little more wear and tear on the body. He's fresh now because he had a year and a half off, but it might be a good idea to get O'Meara and Hampton some more touches. With Iowa likely to be involved in close games from here on out, that means giving those backups key carries in meaningful situations.

Brian: I would normally be concerned, but you have to remember that Shonn hasn't had the same type of beating on his body that other backs have. Yes he played some in his first two years on campus, but then he had an entire year off. So while he's a junior, he hasn't seen this type of workload, and his body's in much better shape. I don't think Kirk wants to test that theory by feeding him 30+ times a game the way he did with Albert, but I feel comfortable with Shonn starting off at 20, and then playing it by ear. If he can take a few more carries, toss them in, but I think 20 is a good plateau for reconsideration.

6. Who is your pick to click?

Jon: Shonne Greene.  I think the Hawks are going to ride this horse as far as he can take them on Saturday.  Iowa has a big offensive line size advantage over Pitt's defensive line, so until Pitt stuffs the Hawks repeatedly, Ken is going to feed the big man the ball.  Another 100+ yard rushing game for Iowa.

Rob: I'll stick with the defense here and say Pat Angerer. I know he'll probably get fewer opportunities than some other guys because of the rotation with Coleman, but Angerer is a playmaker. LeSean McCoy will become very well acquainted with Mr. Angerer.

Brian: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. I think Pitt wil lline up and stack the box early, and it's going to take a few deep routes to force them to back out. I think DJK's shown that spark and will make a few big plays early, making way for the running game to dominate throughout the second half.

 


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