A Closer Look: No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes

No. 10 Ohio State and No. 15 Iowa will battle for a Rose Bowl berth Saturday in Ohio Stadium, so now's the time to become a little more familiar with the Black and Gold. The Hawkeyes started the year 9-0 before a loss Saturday, but even a spate of injuries can't hide the fact that Iowa has lots of talent, especially on the defensive side of the football.

No. 15 Iowa (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten)
Saturday, Nov. 14
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Ohio Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

The Hawkeyes
Head coach: Kirk Ferentz, 80-53 at Iowa, 11th year
2008 record: 9-4 (5-3 Big Ten)
Series mark: Ohio State leads, 44-14-3
School location: Iowa City, Iowa
Enrollment: 30,561
Colors: Black and Gold
Stadium: Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
Fight song: "Iowa Fight Song"

Iowa Players To Watch
RB Brandon Wegher: Though it is within the realm of possibility that Adam Robinson will return from an ankle injury, it is likely that Wegher will be the starting tailback on Saturday.

He began the year as the fourth stringer before moving up, but his emergence has as much to do with his talent as it does the injuries around him. Wegher has topped 500 yards on the year and has the ability to break a long one – such as a 64-yard touchdown called back for holding against Northwestern – while also getting the tough yards between the tackles.

"This guy's got hardness to him," Ferentz said. "I think he rises to the competition, and I think he embraced the challenge (of being the starter)."

WR Marvin McNutt: The sophomore came to Iowa City as a quarterback, but the Hawkeyes recognized he had the ability to make things happen at wideout. This year, the 6-4 McNutt has averaged 23.8 yards on his 23 catches, including three touchdown passes of more than 40 yards. He also caught the game-winning touchdown with no time on the clock at Michigan State.

OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes said on Wednesday that Ohio State is aware of McNutt's credentials throwing the football and will prepare for Saturday's game appropriately.

DE Adrian Clayborn: The leader of the Iowa defensive line, Clayborn has put up impressive numbers. His 44 tackles are sixth among Big Ten defensive linemen, while his 7½ sacks are third and his 13½ tackles for loss are fifth. Clayborn checks in at 282 pounds but he has also the quickness to make things happen coming off the edge, as his three forced fumbles would indicate.

"He's really good," OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "He's really, really good. He's a big guy, and he has exceptional quickness and athleticism for his size. He's listed at 280 pounds, but he plays like a 240-pound guy. He's a really, really good athlete."

LB Pat Angerer: He doesn't have all-world skills, but Angerer is still second in the Big Ten with 106 tackles while forcing two fumbles and picking off a pass. Through hard work and meticulous habits, the senior has made himself into one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten.

"Pat finally figured it out, and he'll be the first to tell you this," Iowa linebacker A.J. Edds said before the season. "Basically, after spring ball (in 2008), Pat kind of saw his college career going by the wayside if he didn't figure out what to do to be on the field and be successful and make every snap and rep count. Pat finally made some changes that he needed to make as far as what he was doing and the way he was approaching football, and once he made those changes it was a drastic improvement."

Sept. 5, Northern Iowa, W 17-16
Sept. 12, at Iowa State, W 35-3
Sept. 19, Arizona, W 27-17
Sept. 26, at No. 4 Penn State, W 21-10
Oct. 3, Arkansas State, W 24-21
Oct. 10, Michigan, W 30-28
Oct. 17, at Wisconsin, W 20-10
Oct. 24, at Michigan State, W 15-13
Oct. 31, Indiana, W 42-24
Nov. 7, Northwestern, L 17-10

Projected Starters QB 16 James Vandenberg, 6-3, 205
RB 3 Brandon Wegher, 5-11, 206
FB 36 Brett Morse, 6-3, 238
SE 15 Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 6-1, 200/7 Marvin McNutt, 6-4, 215
WR 86 Trey Stross, 6-4, 200
TE 81 Tony Moeaki, 6-4, 250
LT 79 Bryan Bulaga, 6-6, 315
LG 77 Riley Reiff, 6-6, 280
C 52 Rafael Eubanks, 6-3, 280
RG 63 Julian Vandervelde, 6-3, 300
RT 60 Kyle Calloway, 6-7, 315

DE 94 Adrian Clayborn, 6-3, 282
DT 95 Karl Klug, 6-4, 258
DT 46 Christian Ballard, 6-5, 285
DE 91 Broderick Binns, 6-2, 255
OLB 49 A.J. Edds, 6-4, 244
MLB 43 Pat Angerer, 6-1, 235
SLB 42 Jeremiha Hunter, 6-2, 235
LC 28 Shaun Prater, 5-11, 175
SS 9 Tyler Sash, 6-1, 210
FS 20 Joe Conklin, 5-11, 195
RC 19 Amari Spievey, 6-0, 190

K 1 Daniel Murray, 5-10, 185
P 5 Ryan Donahue, 6-3, 180
PR 9 Tyler Sash, 6-1, 210
KR 15 Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 6-1, 200/6 Keenan Davis, 6-3, 200

Five Fast Facts
1. Iowa has lost five straight games in Ohio Stadium, having not emerged victorious from Columbus since a 16-9 win when ranked No. 11 in 1991. Iowa also won the Horseshoe in 1987, a win that snapped an 11-game losing streak in Columbus that stretched back to 1959.

2. Iowa has committed 21 turnovers on the season, but only five in four road games. The Hawkeye defense's 19 interceptions on the year are tied for the most in the country.

3. A number of Iowa players are among those in contention for postseason awards: Tight end Tony Moeaki is on the John Mackey Award (best TE) midseason watch list, injured quarterback Ricky Stanzi was a Davey O'Brien Award (best QB) semifinalist, safety Tyler Sash is a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (best DB), and linebacker Pat Angerer is a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (best defensive player). In addition, Angerer and Sash were named to CBSSports.com's midseason All-America team.

4. Iowa has four wins of three points or less, the most in school history.

5. Iowa is third in the Big Ten in net punting average at 38.4 yards per boot. A USA Today All-American while in high school, punter Ryan Donahue is averaging 42.2 yards per game with a long of 73 hit against Northwestern. Twenty-two of his 45 kicks have been downed inside the 20, and teams are averaging only 4.4 yards per return.

Offensive Scouting Report
Even though junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi is out for the Ohio State game because of a severe ankle sprain suffered last weekend during the Hawkeyes' loss to Northwestern, OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes expects Iowa to run a similar offense this week against the Buckeyes.

"I think Iowa is going to do what they do," Haynes said. "He got in there last week and they didn't change very much. They ran their offense. I don't think they want to put the game in his hands with a good offensive line and a good running game, but I think they're going to do what they do."

What might be missing, though, is the leadership provided by Stanzi. Though he had completed only 56.0 percent of his passes for 15 touchdowns and 14 picks, Stanzi's ability to make big plays – he had 16 passes of more than 30 yards – and direct the offense in crucial situations was the glue holding together the Iowa attack.

Redshirt freshman James Vandenberg takes over what is the 10th-ranked offense when it comes to yardage (349.8) and the ninth-ranked unit in scoring (24.1) in the conference.

Vandenberg had played in just one game before taking over for Stanzi against the Wildcats, and the Keokuk, Iowa, native probably didn't garner much confidence from the Hawkeye faithful by going 9 of 27 for 82 yards and an interception. Overall, Vandenberg is 11 for 30 on the year for 120 yards.

"James is a good football player," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said "He's walking into a tough, excellent defense. It might as well be an NFL defense we're playing, so it's going to be a tough order there. The crowd noise is going to be hard. All of those things. You couldn't ask for a tougher starting contest for him. He'll get good support. He'll be prepared. I'm not going to measure him over the next 60 minutes of play. He'll continue to improve. He's a quality football player, and he works hard. I have total confidence in him."

The Hawkeyes' other option is classmate John Wienke, who has not thrown a pass in his career.

As Hazell alluded to, Iowa probably will look to the run game to help out Vandenberg against Ohio State, but the problem there is that backs Jewel Hampton and Adam Robinson are injured as well. Hampton went down before the season, and Robinson turned an ankle Oct. 24 against Michigan State after starting seven games in a row, leaving the starting role to true freshman Brandon Wegher.

A four-star prospect that prepped at Sioux City (Iowa) Bishop Heelan last year, Wegher has rushed 44 times for 181 yards and three touchdowns in two games since taking over as the starter. Overall, he has 502 yards and six touchdowns on 131 tries, and out of the backfield Wegher has 13 catches for 112 yards.

There is a small chance that Robinson, who has rushed 135 times for 629 yards and five touchdowns, will return from his ankle injury.

The Hawkeyes' wideout unit is balanced, and two Ohioans lead the way. The explosive and consistent Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is at the top of the group, as the Youngstown Cardinal Mooney grad has pulled in 31 passes for a team-high 553 yards and two touchdowns during his junior campaign. Next up is Avon Lake, Ohio, graduate Trey Stross, more of a possession receiver with 25 catches for 368 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore Marvin McNutt, a converted quarterback, is next with 23 catches, but he's been a home-run threat with 547 yards gained – an average of 23.8 per snag – and five touchdowns.

True to form for a team that has had some excellent big targets over the years, Iowa has one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the country in senior Tony Moeaki. In seven games – he missed three because of an ankle injury – the injury-plagued Moeaki has 23 catches for 274 yards and four touchdowns.

"Tony's a guy we try to get the ball in his hands," Stanzi said. "He's a weapon. He's a great football player; he's big, fast, athletic and strong."

Backup Allen Reisner grew as both a receiver and blocker in his brief starting time, and he has 13 grabs for 134 yards and a score.

Iowa has an experienced offensive line that has drawn rave reviews from some opposing coaches this season, but the Hawkeyes are ninth in the Big Ten in rushing (119.2 yards) and seventh in sacks allowed (2.2 per game).

The anchor is left tackle Bryan Bulaga, who came into the year being raved about by NFL scouts. The junior missed three games with a thyroid illness early in the year, but he's still one of the best linemen in the Big Ten.

Two seniors with more than 30 career starts also bring experience to the line in center Rafael Eubanks and right tackle Kyle Calloway, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree last year.

Redshirt freshman left guard Riley Reiff forced his way into the lineup after performing well in Bulaga's place during his illness, while junior Julian Vandervelde is back in the starting lineup at right guard. Vandervelde missed the start of the season after offseason knee surgery, and his starting role had disappeared with Reiff's emergence before senior RG and midseason All-American Dace Richardson broke his leg vs. Michigan State.

Defensive Scouting Report
Nine of Iowa's 11 starting defenders have started every game, and the Hawkeyes have had little reason to change considering they have one of the best defensive units in the Big Ten.

Iowa enters Ohio Stadium ranked third in the Big Ten in both yardage allowed at 291.7 and points allowed at 15.9, marks that are 14th and 13th in the nation, respectively. Iowa has allowed only six runs of more than 15 yards and 18 passes of more than 20.

"We've played good defense," Ferentz said. "We haven't had quite the injury challenges to overcome there. They've done a good job. They've given us a chance."

What jumps off the page to Ohio State quarterback coach Nick Siciliano is the personality with which the Hawkeyes play.

"Let me tell you something – these guys are good," Siciliano said. "Not that Penn State wasn't very good, but these guys are good. They're very, very active, and they get after it every play. There's no quit in these guys. You turn on the film and you're like, are they ever going to shut it down? They don't shut it down. They just keep coming."

That's especially true of the team's front seven, where Iowa is allowing only 118.7 yards rushing per game and 3.6 yards per carry.

"Iowa has a big, strong D-line and their linebackers are ballhawks," Ohio State tight end Jake Ballard said. "They're great. They fly around and make plays, but I think it starts up front with their outstanding defensive linemen."

The leader of the line both on and off the field is end Adrian Clayborn, a 6-3, 282-pound physical specimen. Clayborn has 44 tackles, including team-best marks of 13½ tackles for loss, 7½ sacks and three forced fumbles. The sacks mark ties the junior for third in the Big Ten in that category, and Clayborn blocked and returned a punt for a touchdown to turn around Iowa's win against Penn State.

Iowa has also been pleased with the emergence of sophomore Broderick Binns on the other side. Binns uses his long arms to his advantage, knocking eight passes down on the year and blocking a field goal in the late going against Northern Iowa to preserve that win. He leads the line with 50 tackles to go with 4½ sacks and both a forced and recovered fumble.

His play has allowed Iowa to move Christian Ballard, who came into preseason camp as an end, inside. So far, Ballard has been fine at his new position, making 38 tackles during his junior year along with three sacks. He's joined inside by undersized junior Karl Klug, who is only 6-4, 258. Klug is active and solid with technique, which has helped him make 49 tackles, including 10 TFL and three sacks, along with two forced fumbles.

At linebacker, Iowa has one of the best units in the Big Ten, a group that is highlighted by the presence of playmaker Pat Angerer. The senior was a second-team All-Big Ten choice last year, and this year Angerer is second in the Big Ten with 106 tackles to go with four TFL, two forced fumbles, a sack and an interception. Angerer has topped 10 tackles six times this year.

Junior Jeremiha Hunter is second on the team in stops with 80, and he has two fumble recoveries and an interception. Senior A.J. Edds has put together a productive final season at the strongside position. Not only does he do the little things right at the Sam spot, he has 55 tackles along with 4½ tackles for loss and three picks.

The only changes to the starting lineup throughout the year have come in the secondary thanks to injury and suspension, but DeVier Posey says the Hawkeyes still have an excellent unit, especially given Iowa's NCAA lead in interceptions.

"They're a great group," Posey said. "They're not really that old, they don't have a lot of seniors, but they play experienced. They play really hard. They'll come down and hit you and they'll come over the top, and they play the ball really well."

Three different players have started at left cornerback after a preseason season-ending injury to Jordan Bernstine, but the position has belonged mostly to Shaun Prater. The sophomore has missed two games to suspension and another to an injury, but when in the games Prater has made 32 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions.

Sophomore William Lowe of Cleveland Glenville started two games, and redshirt freshman Greg Castillo has one start.

The other position with turnover is the free safety spot, where Brett Greenwood started the first nine games before giving way against Northwestern because of a stinger. He was replaced by senior Joe Conklin, who has 11 tackles and a pick this year. When healthy, Greenwood has been a playmaker. The sophomore second-year starter has 57 tackles and three interceptions.

His safety partner, strong safety Tyler Sash, keeps making plays to the point that it doesn't seem like a fluke. After five interceptions last year as a redshirt freshman, the 6-1, 210-pound Sash has six this year to lead the Big Ten. He's also made 70 tackles and forced two fumbles.

The other starter at corner is Amari Spievey, one of the better cover men in the league and a second-team All-Big Ten choice last year. The junior has 47 tackles and two interceptions.

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