BHGP ROUNDTABLE: Iowa Football 2008 (Part One)

This piece was meant to have been an all-inclusive, one-stop-pop roundtable discussion on the upcoming Hawkeye football season.  All four authors that contribute to BHGP were to answer 12 incredibly written questions and give their expertly expert expertise.  Seeing that I collaberate with a bunch of overzealous, pompous wannabees (I can only assume they were the same guys who, as kids, ran to the front of the class to be first to hand in their math assignments), this story is much larger than I anticipated.  Henceforth (yeah, big word, I know), this will be a double dipper.  Six questions now, six questions later.  Wow.  Fun.

LEGEND (for those of you scoring at home):

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Oops Pow Surprise

Hs_medium

Hawkeye State

Jhc_medium

Jebus H Christ

Ss_medium

storminspank

EXPLANATION OF THE LEGEND:  If you were wondering about the basis of the icons for each contributor to the roundtable.  Here’s your answer.  I suppose I could have used everyone’s current avatar, but that would just confuse everyone severely.  The only logical thing to do was to go to Google.  It basically runs everything in the world, top to bottom.  The Google image results were studied and the most applicable images were used.  Sure, JHC gets a flaming unicorn and I get Pearl Jam rocking out on stage, but that’s randomization at its best.  If you disagree, go screw.

 

Now, without further ado, the questions…

 

Well, there’s a little more ado.  The questions are after the jump… so… make the jump… now.

 

Good, you made the jump.  Now you can continue onto our Roundtable feature, but I will warn you right now... the information contained might:

a.)  make your head explode
b.)  cause you to become pregnant
c.)  force you to empty your bowels

You've been warned...  finally, the questions that are dying to be answered.

IOWA'S OFFENSIVE MVP

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There are two, and only two possible answers, and that's Jake Christensen or Tony Moeaki. We'll find out about Moeaki when he's on the field, but his blocking/receiving capabilities are vitally important for the offense as a whole, and let's face it, Brandon Myers isn't there on either front yet.
        
Jc_tony_medium
Meanwhile, JC, too, is critically important to the team's success, and it's imperative that he not only has the system in place to succeed (we'll see about that), but also the mental fortitude (again, we'll see). It's awfully tough for a college quarterback to struggle the way Christensen did last season, then come back and put together a monster year, and while we're not saying he's now forever tainted, he does have a long way to go.  Then again, maybe just eliminating the threat of being sacked by Vandervelde as he's tossed backwards will make everything settle into place more easily.

Hs_medium
I'll go ahead and say it: Jake Christensen.  Kirk Ferentz has already compared him to Matt Rodgers, who had an atrocious sophomore year (only honorable mention All-Big Ten while finishing 2nd in the league in passing yards behind Jeff Freaking George) before massacring all in front of him in his junior and senior years. I don't see why Christensen (who had a much better sophomore year, finishing 11th in the conference in passing efficiency) should be any different.  If the line improves as it should, and the receivers improve as they should, and the return of Tony Moeaki gives him a reliable target over the middle, and we find a running back...
         Olsen_medium
Oh, who am I kidding?  Your offensive MVP is Seth Olsen.  By default.

Jhc_medium
Kyle Calloway Jr. (son of former Hawkeye Kyle Galloway), who will (probably) start at RT - Talk all you want about our backs and receivers, but if JC doesn't have his ass protected, we're screwed.
         Kylecalloway150_medium
I know you think it can't be worse than last year, but it can. If JC starts getting hammered from behind by Maine, the boo-birds will be there to finish him off.   Save the QB, save the world (sorry). 

Ss_medium
Probably the easiest question of the entire roundtable discussion.  Tony Moeaki.  The TE position has always been the safety blanket for QBs under the Kirk Ferentz regime.   Brad Banks had Dallas Clark.  Drew Tate had Scott Chandler.  Now Jake Christensen has Tony Moeaki. 
         Tonym_medium
All three TEs mentioned will be in the NFL in a few years.  In fact, you all know Tony is going to win the Mackey Award.  YOU KNOW IT!  Go ahead and ink it in.  Moeaki is NFL ready right now, can block effectively, has soft hands, possesses a high football IQ, and (barring injury) will be one of the main targets for Jake this year.  Also, Moeaki is going to defeat McCain this November, as well… pencil that one in, though.

 

IOWA'S DEFENSIVE MVP

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This has to be the DT tandem of Kroul and
Unusual Punishment. While the ends are just as critical to the success of the defense (moreso the secondary), everyone will be feeding off the energy of Kroul and King up front.
         Kup_medium
A healthy, active front 4 is critical to the rest of the defense functioning like a typical Parker defense ought to: angry and unabated.

Hs_medium
There is only one answer, and it's not who you think.  In a defensive system predicated on a front four pass rush with limited blitzing, it's Matt Kroul who is key. 

         1136122_medium
Without Kroul in the middle taking on 3 offensive linemen, Unusual Punishment and his young compadres on the outside wouldn't stand a chance of getting to the quarterback.  Without Kroul plugging the middle, the linebackers (who, by the way, are also young) can't flow to stop the run.  Without Kroul, the secondary is defending receivers longer than should be allowed in a zone scheme.  King will get the accolades, but it's Kroul that makes Iowa's defense run.  He's the most valuable player, and it's not even close.

Jhc_medium
Ryan Donahue, P - No, I'm not kidding. We do not have a dynamic offense. We will have a stout defense, but I don't see anything dynamic out of our D either. When we were good, we dominated field position. We will need to do it again to have any success against good teams this year.
         Donahue_medium
Donahue has a huge leg and with a year of experience I expect consistency... jesus, a fucking Right Tackle and a Punter as our MVPs... sigh.

Ss_medium
Saying "Mitch King" here is like predicting that Peyton Manning is going to start at QB for the Colts next year.  Pretty obvious one, so I’m not going to say it (Waaaait, I just did).  Anyway... I’m going to go with A.J. Edds. 
         Edds_medium
He’s a smart guy (BXI All Academic Team).  Weighs in around 250 lbs, yet runs a sub 4.7 40.   A brutal combination of speed, size, and strength.  The guys up front are going to take care of business this year (please, oh please), which will allow Edds to go Greenway on opposing offenses.  Rumor is A.J. has put on 35 more lbs, dropped his 40 to 4.39, and added 17" to his vertical.  Good news for Hawk fans.

 

BIGGEST OBSTACLE FOR THIS IOWA TEAM

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God, where to begin? The running game isn't even on the same continent as "stable," the offensive line needs to actually show some improvement, and we don't know if anyone on offense is capable of staying healthy over the course of the year, with the exception of maybe Eubanks and, uh, DJK? Everything hinges on having the offense ready for the Big Ten slate by the time they head to
Pittsburgh. From there, they'll be missing OSU and Michigan, but there's no opportunity for a letdown.

Hs_medium
September.  We haven't gotten through September without a loss since 2001, and that was because the ISU game at Ames was moved to the end of the season after 9/11.  Iowa has 4 games it can absolutely win in September - all at home - and a road game at Pitt, which would be problematic if not for the Wannstache.  If they get through September unscathed, a bowl game is a near-certainty and 9+ wins is not out of the question.  4-1, and things are OK.  Anything less and the wheels will spin off this wagon.

Jhc_medium
We need to stay healthy! We need to beat ISU! We need to stay out of the Johnson County JaiLOL! No, we need to play hard. Our biggest obstacle is lassitude. We didn't play with passion for 4 quarters last year, not once. The only thing we can control is how hard we play, and when you lack superior talent, you need to play with fire. 

Ss_medium
Douchacitis.  That disease has run rampant through the program the last few years, and it’s time it stopped.  Arrests.  Lame ass attitudes.  Academic issues.  Just stop it already.  Fucking strap up and play Iowa Football.  Throw away your skirts and pussy-ass attitudes and go punch someone in the mouth already.  Stop making excuses and start making plays.

 

IMPACT PLAYER NOT IN THE STARTING LINEUP LAST YEAR

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Aside from the "impact" of Casey McMillan throwing the referee into the Jumbotron, this would probably be either of the two probable starting cornerbacks, Amari Spievey and Jordan Bernstine.
         Jb_as_medium
Neither of the two has much D-I experience, but they're both supremely athletic and have a history of high-level performance. Spievey, if you'll recall, was ass-bananas at his JUCO this season, and Bernstine was a heavily-recruited safety/corner from DM Lincoln. Sure, tossing a couple unproven corners out at the same time might be risky, but the last time Ferentz did that, they were Antwan Allen and Jovon Johnson, and those two little smurfs did pretty fucking well for themselves. I like Bernstine and Spievey more than the midget marauders.

Hs_medium
As of right now, it's Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.  Brodell and Stross are listed as the starting wideouts, but the slot receiver - the traditional blocker for the KOK bubble screen - is just as important. 
         http://pictopia.com/perl/get_image?provider_id=503&size=550x550_mb&ptp_photo_id=2765526
Plus, given the never-ending issues surrounding Brodell's hands, having a sure-handed receiver in the slot can only help.  And, yes, I know DJK wasn't exactly sure-handed last year, but he makes Brodell look like Cris Carter.

Jhc_medium
Shonn Greene - I'm telling you, if he can walk, he'll play.
         http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/iowa/sports/m-footbl/auto_action/254374.jpeg
If he plays, he'll make an impact. 

Ss_medium
I don’t know where he is going to play or how often he will see the field, but rest assured that when Karl Klug gets on the playing field there will be a lot of impacting  – dude can flat out play and has a motor that does not stop.
         Klug_medium
Whomever the impact player ends up being, it’s likely going to be on the defensive side of the ball.  Other nominees:  Christian Ballard, Adrian Clayborn, Amari Spievey, Marcus Wilson.  (Listing additional players isn’t a cop-out, all four of those guys can fucking ball.)  Iowa has a ton of potential for new starting faces on defense and they are all extremely talented players.

 

WHY IOWA WILL SUCCEED THIS YEAR AS OPPOSED TO THE LAST FEW YEARS

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Well, the plain and simple fact is that the things that went wrong can't possibly be as bad this year. In '05, it was a horrific case of the drops and bad luck. In '06, the quarterback was at 50% all season and morale bottomed out (note: at Iowa, bottoming out still means six wins). In '07, the rate of attrition from injuries and poor behavior totally gutted the offense and led to such ridiculously unfit freshman starters as Colin Sandeman and Julian Vandervelde. Things just can't be worse, especially in the receiving corps and on the line. Granted, the running situation sucks, but it's not as bad as it was in 2004, and you saw how that worked out. Veteran QB, plenty of known quantities at receiver, decent and experienced line, and a rough defense? Sure, Iowa's not going to the Cap One again, but it's not like they're doomed to 4-8 either, especially not with this joke of a schedule. Look for 8-9 wins. 

Hs_medium
Because we lost nothing.  Look, I love Al Young.  I love Damian Sims.  Tom Busch might be my favorite Hawkeye not named Bob Sanders.  I watched Mattison and Iwebema for three seasons.  Klink and Humpal played their asses off.  Godfrey might have been the best Hawkeye corner since Tom Knight (OK, since Jovon Johnson).  The fact is Al was hobbled by injuries and lacked top-end speed, Sims fumbled too much, Iwebema spent the last season bear hugging tackles, and Mattison didn't go boffo until his last year.  There are obvious replacements for the defensive graduates, and almost all of them are more athletic.  We might not have a running back right now, but we'll eventually find one.  Smart freshmen can run in this system; hell, just ask Damian Sims.

Jhc_medium
I think the offensive line will be better than it's been in 3 years. We have some talented guys, and with some work, we'll have a solid unit. It's been a long time since I had any confidence in our guys up front. This year I do. 

Ss_medium
The crew is healthy (for now).  If the main parts of this team can stay on the field, it’s actually pretty potent on both sides of the ball.  If the Hawks can avoid the injury plague and start playing with some moxy, success should come to this team.  We won’t see a repeat of the last few years.  Not going to happen.

 

WHY IOWA WILL CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE JUST LIKE THE LAST FEW YEARS

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The running game. Holy God, the running game. The spiraling, unstoppable descent of the offensive line. The shaky-at-best secondary. And as SMQ says, if the best thing you can say about a team is who they don't play, do not bet on that team.

Hs_medium
Because we lost nothing.  This year's starters are, by and large, last year's starters.  Surely there were injury problems later in the season, but all the key parts were in place in Ames, and we all saw what happens.  Any optimism for this season is predicated on a big step forward by these players, and such expectations might be too much to ask.

Jhc_medium
We sucked 2 years ago and didn't make any changes. We sucked last year and didn't make any changes. If you keep making the same mistakes over and over - you suck. The end.

Ss_medium
Iowa will continue to struggle on offense with Ken O’Keefe patrolling the sidelines, holding offensive plays in his sweaty hands, and wearing a headset too big for his noggin.  Look, I’m not on the KOK hater bandwagon (although I might have founded it), but it’s time Iowa gets someone who knows offensive fundamentals… such as when to run the ball and when to throw the ball.  Kirk, we know Kenny is your BFF, but if he doesn’t adjust sooner than later, it might be time for him to head back to Fordham or Allegheny College.

 

[WATCH FOR PART 2 OF THIS FEATURE SHORTLY]

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