We will start with position battles, and will go from Ice Cold to Red Hot over the course of the next three days.
These are positions where I would be shocked to see a position change from the end of last year to the start of 2009:
STARTING QUARTERBACK: I would have written the same thing last year at this time, and in fact I probably did. But Rick Stanzi has a solid grip on the starting position after helping lead
Stanzi completed 59.1 % of his passes on 254 attempts for 1,956 yards in 13 games as a starter. He didn't play the entire way in two of those starts, either. He had a touchdown to interception ratio of 14 to 9; Stanzi needs to improve in that area this year, which comes down to decision making and comfort in the system. The kid took some big shots last year and got right back up and kept going, which is a good thing. It's not a given that players are going to stand in the pocket and deal well with the heat, but he has now been there and done that. I should also see his completion percentage improve this year, too.
Some might say that Stanzi will face more heat this year in the absence of Shonn Greene, and I respect those opinions. It's not a bad thing to break into the starting lineup with the best running back in school history behind you, and playing behind one of the best lines of the last two decades. But Stanzi showed enough moxie on his own to make me feel this is an open and shut position this spring.
The left and right tackle positions will be held down by Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway, respectfully. They started there last year and they will start there this year, barring injury. Calloway enters his senior year with still more room to improve, and I think he is capable of doing just that. Bulaga will be entering his true junior campaign and might make some preseason All American lists. The only way one of these two isn't starting is if they get hurt, so let's hope that's not the case. As solid as these two positions are, the rest of the offensive line is open for debate, which we will get to late this week.
Pat Angerer, A.J. Edds and Jeremiha Hunter will start the 2009 season the way they ended the 2008 season; starting alongside one another behind Iowa's defensive line. Edds and Hunter started all 13 games for
This crew might not have the name recognition and explosiveness of the Abdul Hodge/Greenway era, but they are fundamentally sound and will be poised to execute their tasks on the same level. Again, if someone other than these three is manning one of the linebacker positions next fall, it will be due to injury.
ONE CORNER IS ICE, ICE, BABY; TOO COLD!
Amari Spievey had an outstanding season for
THREE OF FOUR ON THE D-L
Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns will be starters next year. Or at least, that's how I see it. That's not a tough call to make, as Ballard started 13 games and Clayborn started 11, missing two starts due to injury. Binns played in all 13 games and was splitting time with Ballard at defensive end over the final four games of the season. In my opinion, he was more disruptive from that position than was Ballard, but I can't sit here and tell you that teams weren't keeping an eye on him as much when he was in the game; perhaps they devoted all of their attention to Mitch King at that point.
On the offensive line,
Ryan Donahue will be entering his third year and is well on his way to an excellent career as a four year starting punter for the Hawkeyes. He should really come into his own this year and become a great weapon for the defense. I am still blown away when I see that Iowa allowed just 12 punts to be returned all season long in 2008. That's not all on the punter, but a lot of it is. Donahue gets great hangtime and he has his leg dialed in no matter what the situation calls for. This year, it comes down to consistency and getting rid of the occasional shank, though there were not too many of those last year.
There are two or three other positions that are close to locks, but not close enough for me to move them into the Ice Cold category. They are more lukewarm, and we'll talk about those tomorrow.