2013 Iowa Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Iowa Hawkeye Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis has to come up with more pop. The receiving corps didn't get downfield enough and it needs to be stronger and more dangerous with a new starting quarterback trying to get his feet wet. It'll be a fight for the starting gig until the finish, and the new guy should get time to work behind a decent line that could be great at tackle but needs experience in the interior. For the first time in a long time, the running game doesn't appear to be a problem with three healthy and able bodies – a rarity for the Hawkeye backfield. However, everyone has to stay in one piece to form a good rotation. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is a talent who needs the ball in his hands more.
Star of the offense: Senior TE C.J. Fiedorowicz
Rushing: Mark Weisman
159 carries, 815 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Kevonte Martin-Manley
52 catches, 571 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Jake Rudock
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Austin Blythe
Best pro prospect: Fiedorowicz
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fiedorowicz, 2) OT Brandon Scherff, 3) Blythe
Strength of the offense: Running Backs, Tackle
Weakness of the offense: Deep Passes, Consistent Scoring
Gone is James Vandenberg, a good, talented quarterback who did absolutely nothing for the passing game last season. It's a three-way fight to replace him led by sophomore Jake Rudock, a 6-3, 200-pound pure passer from Miami with the accuracy and arm to start pushing the ball down the field a bit more. He didn't do anything last season, but he's a good talent with size, a great résumé and the smarts to become a good, solid producer for the next three seasons – if he can hold on to the job.
In the hunt for the starting job is 6-2, 215-pound junior Cody Sokol a JUCO transfer from Scottsdale Community College who spent last year on the sidelines to be ready for this year. A big passer with good athleticism and a nice arm, he looked polished enough this offseason to be given a long look. The Phoenix native is tough – he saw time at linebacker in high school – and he'll run for a few big third down plays now and then if he's the starter.
While redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard is being given every shot for the starting job, he's behind Rudock and Sokol. At 6-2 and 195 pounds he's not all that big, but he's a talented, accurate passer who put up huge numbers for his Tennessee high school. A leader and a winner, he has a good arm and he knows how to win.
Watch Out For … Nic Shimonek, a 6-4, 196-punder from Texas who bombed away for 33 touchdowns last season and showed nice running ability. Potentially the most dangerous runner of the quarterback options, he could offer something a little bit different, even though he's not likely going to be in the hunt for time for another few years.
Strength: 2012. No matter who the starter is, he can't do worse than Vandenberg did last season. The passing yards weren't bad, but he only threw seven touchdown passes and there were never, ever any big plays down the field; the offense didn't move. The expectations aren't exactly through the roof.
Weakness: Experience. Yeah, Vandenberg struggled, but he still threw for 2,249 yards and was a two-year starter. No, he wasn't the problem. Sokol has JUCO time logged in, but that's about it for the three top options.
Outlook: Painfully inefficient and woefully ineffective last season, the passing game has to be far better and it needs one of the quarterbacks to step up and make the job his. There are good options, but the rest of the pieces have to be good, too. None of the three top quarterbacks are strong enough to carry the team.
Unit Rating: 6
The Iowa running game needed a spark, and for four games it got it from junior Mark Weisman, a 6-0, 225-pound thumper who came from out of nowhere to run for 113 yards and three touchdowns against UNI and followed it up with three more 100-yard games including a 217-yard, three score day in the loss to Central Michigan. However, he got banged up an missed time over the second half of the season, coming back in time to do a decent job against Michigan and run for 91 yards against Nebraska. While he's a pure power runner between the tackles, he can also catch a little bit with 15 grabs for 90 yards and a score. There's nothing pretty about the former fullback's game; you know what he's going to do.
Junior Damon Bullock started off the season with 150 yards and a score on 30 carries against Northern Illinois, but 63 carries over the first three games took their toll and, as a part of the Iowa running back curse, he got hurt and missed a bulk of time before coming back to take over for a banged up Weisman. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he's not big, and he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry, but he finished second on the team with 513 yards with three scores and caught 18 passes as a short-range target. He's quick enough to start doing far more.
Back and healthy is sophomore Jordan Canzeri is back after missing all of last year with a knee injury. Extremely quick and with sprinter's speed, he ran for 114 yards two years ago and showed this offseason that he's ready to roll and be more of an all-around playmaker. While he's not huge at 5-9 and 192 pounds, he can move.
Wesiman could see time at fullback if needed with Brad Rogers taking a medical redshirt. 5-11, 215-pound sophomore Adam Cox and 6-2, 234-pound sophomore Macon Plewa will combine forces to mostly be blockers and occasionally receivers. Cox is a walk-on who cranked out 34 rushing scores as a high school senior and was a tough, productive defender. Plewa is a former linebacker who didn't see much time as a freshman, and now he's needed on the offensive side.
Watch Out For … LeShun Daniels. At 6-0 and 215 pounds he's a big, tough runner size-wise but was an Ohio all-state high school sprinter. A good, smart recruit, he could end up moving to linebacker if needed but will end up doing more on the offensive side.
Strength: Real, live running backs. Really? Iowa running backs are healthy? If everyone is in the mix, all of a sudden, Iowa goes from searching for live bodies to carry the ball to actually having options.
Weakness: Rushing production. The individual numbers might not be all that bad, but Iowa still finished dead last in the Big Ten in rushing and it wasn't because of the sack numbers. Iowa averaged just 123 yards per game and finished with 1,476 yards and averaging 3.7 yards per play.
Outlook: This should be the best Iowa running back situation in a long time – if everyone stays healthy. There's a nice blend of speed and power, and there should be enough options to keep everyone fresh.
Unit Rating: 7
Arguably the team's best all-around player should also be one of the most dangerous offensive weapons. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was big-time recruit and has NFL tools, but he chose to come back for one more season after finishing third on the team with 45 catches for 433 yards and a score. After originally signing with Illinois, the 6-7, 265-pound senior switched allegiances and has been a key part of the Iowa offense – no he needs to be used more. He has the tools, the size and the athleticism, but the former high school star basketball player has to start stretching the field a bit more and has to be targeted on a regular basis.
Iowa needs more deep threat options and will be looking for more big plays, but junior Kevonte Martin-Manley is a short-range slot target who led the team with 52 catches for 571 yards and two scores, but he averaged 11 yards per play. He has the speed to stretch the field more and he has decent 6-0 and 205-pound size, but he's at his best when he's making things happen to try to move the chains. Backing him up is senior Jordan Cotton, a good veteran who caught 12 passes for 172 yards and a score averaging a team-best 14.3 yards per try. While he's better on kickoff returns, he'll play a bigger role as a speed target.
Sophomore Tevaun Smith is a 6-2, 200-pound Canadian who saw time as a true freshman making three catches for 31 yards in is limited time. He did it all in high school including seeing a little time as a quarterback, but he's needed for his athleticism in the receiving corps. He'll be backed up by 6-4, 205-pound sophomore Jacob Hillyer at split end. A statistical superstar in high school, the Texas native has the size and hands, but he spent last season as a special teamer and caught just one pass for 15 yards.
In a Y-Back role – like a jack-of-all-trades tight end, is sophomore Jake Duzey, a blocker who's built a bit like a big wide receiver and can be used in a variety of ways catching three passes for 16 yards on short-range throws.
Watch Out For … Jon Wisnieski, a 6-5, 220-pound tight end with the toughness to be a decent blocker and the downfield athleticism to come up with a few big plays from time to time. Very tough, he'll make the tough grab, and he has the size and frame to get a little bigger and be even more imposing.
Strength: A decent core. Fiedorowicz is an NFL-caliber tight end who needs attention and Martin-Manley is a leading receiver who can make things happen as long as a No. 1 corner isn't locking down on him. These two form a good base to build around.
Weakness: Deep plays. There weren't any. Martin-Manley came up with a 51-yarder, but that was about it. There was a big concern going into last season that no one could replace Marvin McNutt, and as it turned out, the fears were right on the money.
Outlook: Is there talent here? Fiedorowicz is a talent and Martin-Manley and Cotton are decent targets, but they have to make the new starting quarterback look better and not vice versa. The deep plays have to start coming.
Unit Rating: 6
Considering all the problems across the board with the offense, the line wasn't too bad. There might be some big losses, but it'll help to get back a few key pieces including junior left tackle Brandon Scherff, a 6-5, 310-pound veteran who took over for Riley Reiff and did a nice job for the first half of last season before suffering a leg injury. A good, strong all-around blocker to work behind, he's a pounder who'll get physical for the ground game.
Next to Scheff on the left side if senior Conor Bofeli, a 6-5, 290-pound tackle-sized guard with the versatility to work anywhere on the line including center. He took over the left guard job late last season and should hit the ground running, but he as to hold off redshirt freshman Mitch Keppy, a promising 6-5, 295-pound talent with the raw strength to grow into a mauler of a run blocker. He'll be a longtime starter next year at the absolute earliest, but he might have to put things on hold if Nolan MacMillian returns healthy after missing the last part of the season hurt. At 6-6 and 294 pounds, the former CFN All-American has great size to go along with the versatility to move to tackle if needed.
Stepping in for mainstay center James Ferentz is Austin Blythe, a tremendous talent who hit the weights hard to get up to 300 pounds after operating at around 275 last year at right guard. A technician, he's smart and does everything right; he'll be more than fine, and maybe an upgrade, in place of Ferentz. If Blythe moves back to guard in an emergency, JUCO transfer Eric Simmons will step in with 6-2, 300-pound size and the versatility to move to guard if needed.
6-7, 292-pound senior Brett Van Sloten is back at right tackle after starting every game last season. An academic all-star off the field, he's also a very, very physical prospect who should shine now that he's experienced with the size, athleticism and talent to blast away for the ground game. He might not be Scherff as an all-around blocker, but he holds his own on the outside. Meanwhile, 6-7, 305-pound junior Andrew Donnal is back at right guard after missing most of the second half of last year with a leg injury. A backup throughout most of last year before getting hurt, he's the one X factor up front and needs to be steady to hold off 6-4, 270-pound sophomore Jordan Walsh.
Watch Out For … Colin Goebel. The Hawkeyes didn't come up with a big class of linemen, but Goebel is a good one who'll eventually start at guard. The 6-5, 280-pounder is a physical hitter, but he still needs to beef up a big to get up to around 300 pounds.
Strength: Experience. A reworked and revamped line going into last season, the line should be solid even though it technically has to replace three starters. Scherff and Donnal coming back from leg injuries is a start, while Blythe should shine at center.
Weakness: Blasting for the ground game. Hawkeye backs succeeded as individuals, but overall the ground attack wasn't anything special.
Outlook: The line did a decent all-around job, but it wasn't close to Iowa's normal standards and hasn't been for a few years. This year's group could be a little bit better if everyone can stay healthy and if the interior shines, but being physical is a must. The pass protection was good, but it might have to be even stronger with the new starting quarterback.
Unit Rating: 7
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