Previewing the Iowa Offense

GoBlueWolverine's Josh Turel breaks down the Iowa offense by analyzing the Hawkeye personnel.

Backfield

Quarterback
#5 Drew Tate  6-0, 192, Sr.
#16 Jason Manson  6-1, 195, Sr.
#6 Jake Christensen  6-1, 205, Fr.
 
Running Back
#21 Albert Young 5-10, 207, Jr.
#28 Damian Sims  5-9, 185, Jr.
#23 Shonn Greene  5-11, 225, So.
 
Fullback
#35 Tom Busch  5-11, 231, Jr.
#46 Champ Davis  6-2, 238, Sr.

By now Michigan fans have become well acquainted with Iowa quarterback Drew Tate. The senior signal caller is the heart and soul of the offense and is a high energy player. Tate may not be a top NFL prospect, but he can make plays both on the run and through the air. He doesn’t have great arm strength but he can put the ball where it needs to be when given time. Tate has been held back by the fact he doesn’t have much help at the wide receiver position. Calvin Davis was supposed to be the key for the Hawkeye passing game this year, but he was been lost for the season to an Achilles injury. Despite the lack of great targets, Tate has completed 117 of his 197 passes for 11 touchdowns and only six interceptions this year.

The good news for the Hawkeyes is that top running back Albert Young should give it a go this week after missing time due to a knee injury. So far this season he has rushed for 328 yards off 80 carries and caught 19 passes for 158 yards. When Young is 100 percent healthy, there is no doubt he is one of the best backs in the conference. Though he admitted he isn’t completely healed going into the Michigan game, still expect him to give the offense a little spark. Remember last year against Michigan, Young had one of his best games of the season.
Backups Damian Sims and Shonn Green haven’t been bad thus far. Sims is a little spark plug who brings excellent moves and quickness to the fold. He has rushed for 451 yards this season off 83 carries and five touchdowns. Despite his success, Sims has had trouble holding on to the football, having fumbled now in three straight games. Also expect to see Shonn Greene in the backfield. Greene is averaging 6.4 yards a carry and has run the ball 32 times so far this season. Greene went down with injury last week against Indiana but is expected to play. With Young and Greene both coming off injury, and  Sims' fumble issues, the distribution of carries should be interesting to see on Saturday. “If Albert’s totally healthy, then he’s our #1 guy” Coach Ferentz said of the situation. “Damian and Shonn are two and three. They compliment each other, and in a perfect world, we’d love to have all three available and ready to go. That’s what I’m hoping happens.” Fullback Tom Busch is used pretty much exclusively as a blocker, but with the struggles the running backs have had in pass protection, expect to see Busch in some one back sets as well to block.

Receivers

Flanker
#80 Andy Brodell  6-3, 193, So.
#4 Herb Grigsby  6-0, 175, Jr.
 
Split End
#86 Trey Stross  6-3, 190, Fr.
#80 Andy Brodell  6-3, 193, So.
 
Tight End
#87 Scott Chandler  6-7, 257, Sr.
#81 Tony Moeaki  6-4, 250, So.
 
If the Hawkeyes are to have a chance on Saturday, the wide receivers are going to have to step up in a big way. Andy Brodell and Herb Grigsby head into the game competing for the starting wide receiver job. Brodell has caught 16 passes for 282 yards so far this season, but he let a pass skip right off his hands last week that resulted in a game-sealing interception for Indiana. That is but one example of the inconsistency that has come from the position. When asked if the wide receiver play has been inconsistent, quarterback Drew Tate responded “yeah, maybe a little bit.  I’m sure a lot of that goes back on me, too," he continued.  "But they’re playing their butts off, and that’s all you can ask of them."

The unit was hurt last week when freshman playmaker and Detroit native Dominique Douglas left the game with a knee injury. Coach Ferentz said there is a chance Douglas might play this week.  If he does. it would be a huge boost for the Hawkeye offense. Douglas has caught 23 passes for 373 yards and one touchdown so far this season.

If there was any good news that came out of last week’s crushing loss to the Hoosiers, it was the emergence of Trey Stross, who stepped in for Douglas.

“He stepped up big” said Drew Tate. “He started getting confidence when he caught the first ball. He was just going off of that. But he made some good plays on third down. He ran good routes and did everything he was supposed to do. He did a great job when I did throw the ball to him. But he did a good job stepping up in a time like that and his head was probably going. He’s been in on one personnel group, but we really don’t do much with that with receivers.  But that was his first time really to get in there on third down and be our X and run a route. He did it extremely well.”

Tate will still have his favorite target, tight end Scott Chandler, to rely on. Chandler leads the team with 28 receptions for 310 yards and four touchdowns. He is a tough match-up for any defense at 6-7, and the Hawkeyes aren’t afraid to use him on vertical routes. Chandler is a better pass protector than a run blocker, but he has improved in both areas over his career. Tony Moeaki is expected to see some more time down the stretch as well. A highly touted prospect coming out of high school, Moeaki has shown flashes of the great potential he has at the position. He has five catches for 95 yards so far in 2006.

Offensive Line

Left Tackle
#73 Marshal Yanda  6-4, 305, Sr.
#60 Kyle Calloway  6-7, 295, Fr.
 
Left Guard
#76 Mike Jones  6-5, 302, Sr.
#68 Andy Kuempel  6-7, 295, Fr.

Center
#54 Mike Elgin  6-4, 288, Sr.
#58 Rob Bruggeman  6-3, 280, So.

Right Guard
#71 Seth Olsen  6-5, 301, So.
#61 Travis Meade  6-0, 280, Fr.

Right Tackle
#75 Wes Aeschliman  6-8, 315, So.
#74 Dan Doering  6-7, 290, Fr.
 
Like other position groups on the offense, the offensive line has had its fair share of injuries. Right tackle Dace Richardson may not play this week and center Rafael Eubanks was lost to an ankle injury. To account for the loss of Eubanks, Mike Elgin moved in from guard to take over the role. To account for the loss of Richardson, the Hawkeyes slotted in huge Wes Aeschliman to hold down the spot. Aeschliman appears to have the physical skills to play the position, but his lack of polish technique wise is evident in his play. Despite some minor issues, though, Aeschliman played pretty solid in place of Richardson. He attributes this success to his preparation during the week.

 “I learned that basically watching the films is really what pays off for you,” said Aeschliman. “I watch film every week, prepare like I’m going to play. Just like last week, you find yourself jumping in pretty quick.  I did that, then just watching their defense, it helps you prepare and know what to do when you’re thrown in, given the situation.”

With the move of Elgin to center, Seth Olsen has had to step up and handle the guard spot. Although he isn’t very mobile, he displays the traditional Iowa grit and has done his best work in the run game. The strength of the line is on the left with tackle Marshal Yanda and guard Mike Jones. Jones is considered to be one of the better guards in the league and Yanda is growing into a fine tackle. Yanda is one of the better kept secrets in the league and he has been pretty solid in pass protection all season. The Hawkeye line as a whole has given up only eight sacks all season.


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