The 2002 Hawkeyes were a remarkable team. From out of nowhere they flew in to snatch a share of the Big Ten Championship, led by an inexperienced quarterback who suddenly became a Heisman Trophy candidate. But that was last year's team and last year's offense. Several key pieces to the 2002 season have departed, leaving gaping holes at crucial positions. Some experienced running backs and wide receivers return, but will a new quarterback, tight end and mostly new offensive line complete the puzzle? Time, coupled with a tough conference schedule and the players' mettle in crucial situations, will tell.
One word: untested. Banks, who took the Hawkeyes to the Orange Bowl and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up, hands the reins to senior Nathan Chandler. Now Chandler, who has little experience, must fill Banks' shoes. Heading into the season, Chandler and Banks share similar pasts: Chandler, like Banks, is a junior college transfer who had little playing time prior to this season and is now expected to lead the team. His limited field time has produced minimal statistics; he has completed 12 of 20 passes for 161 yards, one touchdown (a 22-yard pass to wide receiver C.J. Jones against Northwestern) and no interceptions. His rushing ability is limited, as he has eight yards rushing in five attempts, but again, this could be based on lack of playing time. His size could also be a factor—Chandler is 6-7 and 250 pounds. Although his field skills are uncertain, coaches and players have faith in Chandler and he has worked hard to maintain his size and ability.
Vying for the second spot are sophomore Matt Bohnet and redshirt freshman Jason Manson. Bohnet took the field against Northwestern in Iowa's 62-10 trouncing but had no statistics. Manson was listed as the second-team quarterback in spring camp.
Running backs analysis
The running backs should provide stability and athleticism, spots where the quarterbacks leave question marks. Senior running back Fred Russell is a gifted, speedy rusher who racked up 1,264 yards last season. He will start and, if history repeats itself, he will have a successful senior campaign. He averaged 114.9 rushing yards per game and is on the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Running Back of the Year award.
Junior Jermelle Lewis will likely be Russell's second-in-command most of the season but will miss the first few weeks of the season after a knee injury in the spring. As a sophomore, he rushed for 709 yards, including four games with more than 100 yards. Instead, look for sophomore Marcus Schnoor to back up Russell early in the season. Schnoor played in 10 games last year and had 127 yards so he could become a productive back and provide depth at the position.
Fullback Edgar Cervantes, who heads into fall camp with a starting role, is a versatile player who has played at fullback, special teams and linebacker. Most of his career rushing yards (155) came as a junior (134), with a long run of 16 yards. He started every game at fullback last season so he brings experience to the position, which those behind him on the depth chart lack.
Behind Cervantes are junior Aaron Mickens and sophomore Kevin Sherlock. Neither have much game experience so incoming freshmen could gain some playing time.
If quarterback is one untested position, tight end is another. Standout Dallas Clark opted out of his senior year for the NFL, where he now suits up for the Indianapolis Colts. This leaves senior Erik Jensen to fill rather large shoes. Jensen suffered a foot injury midway through last season. He has since recovered but still does not have much experience. He has 100 career receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Junior Tony Jackson and sophomores Ben Gates and Mike Follett will play behind Jensen. Of the three, only Jackson has experience.
Iowa's wide receivers bring more security to the aerial attack than the tight ends. Senior Maurice Brown is expected to start heading into camp and he presents a deep threat, averaging 20.1 yards per reception last season. His 11 touchdowns last year was a school record and he had 966 receiving yards.
Ed Hinkel will also start at wide receiver but watch for him as a punt returner as well. In his redshirt freshman season, Hinkel demonstrated his speed by racking up 218 receiving yards on 22 catches and 325 yards on 25 punt returns. The Sporting News named him a first-team freshman all-Big Ten return specialist last season.
Why does senior left tackle Robert Gallery's name stand out in the offensive line? He's one of the best in the country and he is the only starter returning from last year. Even line coach Joe Philbin is new. Coaches have high hopes for the new line and expect the front five to be a sound group. Joining Gallery are sophomore left guard David Walker, senior center Eric Rothwell, senior right guard Kory Borchers and junior right tackle Peter McMahon. Gallery, a candidate for the Outland Trophy and a potential all-American, has 31 consecutive starts but, of the rest, only Borchers has started.