2012 Iowa Preview – Offense
Iowa C James Ferentz
Iowa C James Ferentz
Posted May 9, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Iowa Hawkeye Offense

Iowa Hawkeyes

Preview 2012 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: New offensive coordinator Greg Davis has to get extremely creative. The offense struggled with its consistency and struggled way too much to score. The Hawkeyes 7-1 when they scored 24 points or more and 0-5 when scoring fewer, and it's going to be a bit of a fight this year to find any pop with a retooled line, no real running back to rely on, and a shaky receiving corps. Senior James Vandenberg is a good veteran quarterback to build around, but he loses top target Marvin McNutt to rely on and needs a few unknowns to grow into instant helpers to go next to Keenan Davis. With Marcus Coker gone and Jordan Canzeri out with a knee injury, the running game might rely on a few true freshmen if Damon Bullock or De'Andre Johnson can't step up and shine. The biggest change under Davis will be tempo. He's going to try to speed things up a bit and do more to stretch the field, but that might be easier said than done with so many new starters to work with.

Returning Leaders
Passing: James Vandenberg
237-404, 3,022 yds, 25 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: De'Andre Johnson
18 carries, 79 yds, 0 TD
Receiving: Keenan Davis
50 catches, 713 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB James Vandenberg
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore RB Damon Bullock
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Brandon Scherff
Best pro prospect: Junior TE C.J. Fiedorowicz
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fiedorowicz, 2) C James Ferentz, 3) Vandenberg
Strength of the offense: Tight End, Vandenberg
Weakness of the offense: Proven Depth, Running Back


The Iowa passing game needed to be stronger, and needs to be terrific this year with little running game to count on. Senior James Vandenberg has grown into the starting role completing 59% of his throws for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions, but he was a bit inconsistent. While he was good enough to lead the way to the greatest comeback in Iowa history with 399 yards and three scores in the win over Pitt, but failed to do much of anything against Penn State. He lit up Purdue with a crisp 22-of-32, 273-yard, three score day, and followed it up by completing just 16-of-35 passes for 182 yards and a pick in the loss to Nebraska. He has the 6-3, 212-pound size, the arm, and the experience, and now he has to take his game up a few notches. The 2007 Iowa High School Player of the Year has the prep résumé, throwing for 7,709 yards and 93 touchdowns, and now he's starting to live up to the billing.

The 2013 starting job might be open, but it could be closed in a big hurry. 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman Jake Rudock appears to main man for the backup job going into the fall with the talent and upside to eventually be a special playmaker with a little bit of experience. The Miami native is a pure passer with accuracy and arm to make the air attack shine next year.

If needed, 6-5, 220-pound senior John Wienke can step in. The backup quarterback last year, now he's the full-time punter and won't move back over to the offensive side unless there's an emergency. A tremendous high school passer throwing for 6,070 yards and 68 touchdowns, he was also a strong defender making 113 tackles with six sacks to go with recognition as an Illinois all-state punter. A top recruit for Michigan, he ended up picking Iowa once the Lloyd Carr era was done. Now he'll try to come up with a big final year for the Hawkeyes on the special teams.

Watch Out For … Rudock. Vandenberg is the unquestioned starter, but Rudock is a good-looking prospect who won a Florida state title. He'll get a wee bit of a battle from Cody Sokol, a 6-2, 205-pound JUCO transfer, but the job should be his next year.
Strength: Vandenberg's experience. He stepped in when needed in 2009 and dabbled a bit in 2010, but last year the offense was his and he made the most of the opportunity. Even with a new coordinator, he should have the offense down.
Weakness: Backup experience. Sokol has JUCO time logged in, and Rudock was a part of the practice mix last year, but unless Wienke steps back over after misfiring on his one pass attempt, there's no real experience behind Vandenberg.
Outlook: Vandenberg has to be great, and he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum. Iowa was 5-2 when he didn't throw a pick and 1-4 when he did, with the lone win coming in the epic comeback against Pitt. With so many question marks at running back he has to be phenomenal. If he's not the team's best player, the Hawkeyes don't have a chance to challenge for much in the Big Ten race.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Who's going to be next up in the rotation? Iowa never seems to have much luck at keeping running backs around and healthy, but it gets decent production out of anyone running the ball. For the moment the main man will be Damon Bullock, a 6-0, 195-pound sophomore who got a little bit of work as a true freshman running ten times for 20 yards and catching a pass for 11 more. More than anything else he has been a good scout-teamer and practice star, and now he'll be a quick, darting back who'll get every chance to show what he can do.

5-8, 200-pound sophomore De'Andre Johnson is a shifty speed back with decent thickness for the inside and a good burst. The Miami native only saw time in four games running 18 times for 79 yards, but now he'll play a much bigger role in the rotation. Staying healthy is a must after having problems staying on the field throughout his high school career.

The starting job was going to go to 5-9, 180-pound sophomore Jordan Canzeri, an extremely quick back with sprinter's speed. After finishing second on the team with 114 yards he appeared to be ready to roll, but he suffered a torn ACL and will be out meaning the running game will have to rely on a few true freshmen to be a part of the rotation. 6-1, 200-pound Greg Garmon was one of the team's top recruits with excellent size and home run hitting ability. He could be the power back in the equation, while 6-0, 210-pound Barkley Hill was the Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year and Parade All-American running for over 6,000 career yards and 89 scores. Very fast for his size, he has the tools to quickly be a factor.

The fullback situation is solid with the return of junior Brad Rogers, a 5-10, 230-pound veteran blaster for the ground game. He's not going to carry the ball and he won't be a big part of the passing game, but he's bigger, stronger, and healthy again after having heart issues before last season. Bringing more size to the position is 6-3, 240-pound senior Jonathan Gimm, a special teamer and a part-time fullback who could be used like a tight end or H-back. He caught a pass for five yards, but he'll mostly be used as a blocker.

Watch Out For … the true freshmen. Bullock can handle the load and Johnson has skills, but if they were special they would've stepped in late last year. The coaching staff won't have any problems inserting Garmon or Hill if needed.
Strength: Quickness. Iowa recruits to a type. The backs might not come in with a slew of stars next to their names, but they can always move and they're always going to be shifty. Zipping and cutting through the line is never a problem for the Hawkeye backs.
Weakness: Talent? Reliability? Experience? The Iowa ground game is all but starting from scratch after giving Marcus Coker the boot and losing Canzeri. There are several options, and Iowa always seems to come up with a productive back from out of nowhere, but this is a very, very iffy area going into the season.
Outlook: It might be tempting to think Iowa will rotate all the running back options, but usually the coaching staff finds a hot hand and sticks with him. Last year, Coker gained 1,384 of the team's 1,790 yards and 15 of the team's 18 scores. It'll be a work in progress to find the right runner for what will be the team's biggest question mark.
Unit Rating: 6


With leading receiver Marvin McNutt and his 82 catches and 12 touchdowns gone, it'll be up to senior Keenan Davis to go from being a good complementary receiver to a great No. 1 target. At 6-3 and 215 pounds he has great size and he can get deep, averaging 14.3 yards per grab with 50 catches for 713 yards and four scores. While he didn't catch a scoring pass over the final seven, he was a key part of the win over Pitt with ten catches for 129 yards and a score and hit the 100-yard mark in the win over Northwestern. The key will be to stay healthy, missing the Minnesota game and being out for a bit this spring, but all the tools are there to grow into an impact star.

6-0, 205-pound sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley appeared ready to roll for Bowling Green but ended up at Iowa, finishing second on the team with 30 catches for 323 yards and three scores. He made most of his noise early on with his best day coming against ULM catching six passes for 82 yards, but he was mostly good for around a catch per game. With speed and upside he should stretch the field at split end, while 6-3, 190-pound junior Don Shumpert will be a part of the rotation after spending most of his time on special teams. He has yet to do much of anything so far for the offense, but the former defensive back is needed in three-wide sets.

6-3, 195-pound senior Steven Staggs caught five passes for 45 yards as a reserve and will see more time in a rotation with Davis. He got the starting spot on top of the depth chart this spring, but that'll quickly change this summer. Even so, the former walk-on will get his chances along with junior Jordan Cotton, a 6-1, 185-pound all-around option who only caught a pass for four yards but has good moves and quickness in the open field.

Junior C.J. Fiedorowicz was a tremendous recruit, and now it's salary-drive time. After originally signing with Illinois he bailed for Iowa, and after a few years of seasoning should now become one of the team's top targets following a 16-catch, 167-yard, three score season. At 6-7 and 265 pounds he has NFL size, athleticism, and hands, and he should put it all together to be in the mix for All-America honors. The former star high school basketball player has all the tools and all the skills; he just has to get the ball his way a bit more.

6-3, 240-pound senior Zach Derby was a spot starter last year and used as a big wide receiver and in two tight end sets catching 12 passes for 117 yards. At 6-3 and 240 pounds he has excellent size to go along with good hands. Reliable, he can be used as a short-to-midrange target and has no problems getting tough as a blocker.

Watch Out For … Martin-Manley. Someone needs to show up in place of McNutt. Davis will be more than fine taking over in the No. 1 spot, and now it's up to Martin-Manley to step up his game and go from being a nice complementary target to a bigger factor.
Strength: Tight ends. Fiedorowicz is on the verge of becoming a really big deal, while Derby is a starting-caliber tight end who can be used in a variety of ways. James Vandenberg needs safe outlet targets to rely on, and it'll be easy to go with two tight end sets.
Weakness: No. 2 receiver. Martin-Manley is a good prospect, but can he really help replace everything McNutt brought? If Davis isn't healthy, like he wasn't this offseason, then the receiving corps will quickly be scrambling.
Outlook: Davis has to be fantastic and Fiedorowicz has to play like the top NFL prospect he has the tools to be. Vandenberg will spread the ball around and there will be plenty of passes for everyone, but deep plays are a must from someone other than Davis and a surprise from somewhere could be needed for the corps to be anything to worry about.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

By Iowa standards the line had a rocky season. It struggled in pass protection and it didn't do enough for the ground game even with a first-round NFL draft talent in Riley Reiff at left tackle. Looking to pick up the slack and be the next great Hawkeye blocker on the left side is sophomore Brandon Scherff, a three game starter at left guard with 6-5, 310-pound size and good enough feet to get by. A nice all-around talent who's still growing into his frame, he's a physical pounder who'll push some people around. However, he needs to be great in pass protection on a consistent basis.

Ready to take over at right tackle is 6-7, 292-pound junior Brett Van Sloten, an academic all-star off the field and a very, very physical prospect who should shine with a little bit of time. Mostly a special teamer so far, he's been groomed for the starting job with the size, athleticism and talent to blast away for the ground game. He might not be Scherff, but he should be a good one.

The anchor of the line will once again be center James Ferentz, the 6-2, 284-pound son of head coach Kirk Ferentz. An honorable mention All-Big Ten performer, he would've received far more attention if the league wasn't loaded with top-shelf centers. This year, with Wisconsin's Peter Konz, Michigan's David Molk, and Ohio State's Michael Brewster gone, Ferentz should be one of the Big Ten's stars up front. He has the experience and talent to be the leader up front. He's a technician.

Along with Ferentz. Senior left guard Matt Tobin is the only returning starter seeing time in ten games after working at left tackle a few years ago. At 6-6 and 290 pounds he's built like a tackle and moves just well enough to step outside if needed. The former walk-on isn't going to be a star, but he'll be a key veteran for the retooling line.

It'll be a battle at right guard to between redshirt freshman Austin Blythe and junior Conor Boffeli to replace Adam Gettis. The 6-3, 275-pound Blythe is a big talent who might not be massive, but he's extremely skilled. It would be nice if he was around 290 pounds like Boffeli, but he's a terrific blocking prospect who should hold down a job for the next four years. Boffeli is built like a tackle at 6-5 with a little bit of experience and the versatility to work at center if needed.

Junior Nolan McMillan earned CFN Freshman All-America honors, but he was out all of last year hurt after being expected to step in at right guard. At 6-6 and 290 pounds he has great size and the versatility to work inside or at right tackle, where he'll likely start out the season behind Van Sloten.

Watch Out For … Scherff. Reiff is gone, and Scherff appears to be ready to step in and pick up the slack. He was destroying defenders in spring ball and appears ready to take the job by the horns. Be shocked if he doesn't earn all-star honors over the next few seasons.
Strength: Ferentz. His NFL future, if there is one, is as a mid-to-late round pick for a zone-blocking team, but for now he's a great leader for a reworked line. There's talent up front, but the Hawkeyes needs a veteran to work around and Ferentz is the perfect option.
Weakness: Experience. There's not a whole bunch of reliable starting experience to rely on out of the box. Tobin is a returning starter, but he's not going to be a star in any way and it'll take a little while before the rest of the line to come together around Ferentz.
Outlook: Even with Reiff and Gettis the line wasn't exactly great last year and it's not going to be any better. Scherff and Van Sloten will be excellent at the tackles, but the depth is a wee bit thin and it's going to be a work in progress to find something this group can do at a high level. Iowa is known for carving out great O lines from out of the blue, and this year it'll have to be patient.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2012 Iowa Preview | 2012 Iowa Offense
- 2012 Iowa Defense | 2012 Iowa Depth Chart
- Iowa Previews  2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006