By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Iowa Hawkeyes vaulted up the national rankings with their first 9-0 start in school history, highlighted by a 21-10 win at then fifth-ranked Penn State in late-September. They also had a flair for the
dramatic, mounting fourth-quarter comebacks over four straight opponents to
climb as high as No. 4 in the nation.
But the Hawkeyes hopes for a BCS Championship were dashed when quarterback
Ricky Stanzi was knocked out of a November 7th contest at home against
Northwestern, which the Hawkeyes went on to lose 17-10. The next week,
redshirt freshman James Vandenberg got the start under center and wound up
throwing three interceptions in a 27-24 overtime setback against No. 11 Ohio
To their credit, the Hawkeyes were able to rally the troops and finish strong,
knocking off Minnesota (12-0) in the regular-season finale, then dropping
ninth-ranked George Tech (24-14) in the Orange Bowl to finish seventh in the
final AP poll.
OFFENSE: Ricky Stanzi has proven during his two-year tenure as Iowa's starting
quarterback that he knows how to win (18-4). Still, that doesn't mean he isn't
without his flaws. Priority No. 1 for Stanzi's progression this year is to cut
down on the turnovers. He tossed 15 interceptions in 11 games, including four
that were returned for touchdowns.
A trio of sophomores will split the rushing load. Adam Robinson set an Iowa
freshman record with 834 yards last year, while Brandon Wegher set a freshman
record with eight touchdowns to go along with 641 yards. Jewel Hampton missed
last year with a knee injury, but he set the previous freshman touchdown
record in 2008 as Shonn Greene's backup.
At wideout, senior Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and junior Marvin McNutt do
everything coach Kirk Ferentz asks them to do in the offense. Johnson-
Koulianos has led the team in receiving for three straight seasons and is 30
catches and 400 yards away from becoming the school's all-time leader.
The only question mark on the offense, albeit a big one, is the offensive
line, which must replace four starters.
DEFENSE: The Iowa defense was downright dominant last year, ranking in the
top-10 nationally in both scoring defense (15.4 ppg) and total defense (276.5
ypg). But replacing stars like linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, and
cornerback Amari Spievey won't be easy. Coach Ferentz will look to the guys in
the trenches to establish what the Hawkeyes would like to do defensively.
"The strength of our football team overall probably and certainly on the
defensive yard, defensive line, we have all four starters coming back, and a
young guy, Mike Daniels, has really stepped up and done a great job this past
spring," Ferentz said at the Big Ten's Media Day. "We consider him to be a
starter, too, so we have an opportunity maybe for a nice rotation."
Ferentz called senior defensive end Adrian Clayborn one of the better players
to come through the program in the past decade, and it's tough to argue.
Clayborn camped out in the backfield last year, compiling 11.5 sacks, 20
tackles for loss, four fumble recoveries and was named MVP of the Orange Bowl.
Two-thirds of the linebacking corps has moved on, although three-year starter
Jeremiha Hunter is back after registering 89 tackles last year. Senior Jeff
Tarpinian will likely slide into the middle after being Angerer's understudy.
All-Big Ten safeties Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash will anchor the secondary,
while junior Shaun Prater returns at one of the corner spots.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Iowa needed two blocked kicks in the final seven seconds to
preserve a season-opening 17-16 victory over Northern Iowa. Had the special
teams not come through on that early-September afternoon, it's anybody's guess
how the season may have played out. Clayborn also blocked a punt and returned
it for a touchdown to seal the win at Penn State. All things considered, you
can be sure Ferentz and his staff will continue to emphasize special teams.
Johnson-Koulianos averaged an impressive 31.5 yards on kick returns, and his
99-yard kick return in the fourth quarter against Ohio State helped swing the
momentum of that huge game. Senior Daniel Murray is tops on the depth chart at
the moment, but he had a few bad misses down the stretch last year and will
need to show some consistency to hold onto the job. At punter, there may not
be a better option in the Big Ten than senior Ryan Donahuue, who had 12 punts
longer than 50 yards and allowed only 131 return yards all year.
OUTLOOK: Coming off only the second 11-win season in school history, and the
program's biggest bowl victory in more than 50 years, the Hawkeyes face lofty
expectations entering the 2010 season. And although six players left Iowa for
the NFL, the Hawkeyes still have plenty of ammunition to make another BCS run.
Fifteen starters return in all. The offense is sprinkled with playmakers, and
the defense is loaded at every level.
Is this the year it all comes together for the Hawkeyes? Virtually every
preseason prognostication has them challenging Ohio State for Big Ten
supremacy. Coincidentally, Iowa plays Ohio State at home this season, along
with Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.