The Epilogue 2012: The Freshmen

Jonathan Daniel

For the life of me, I cannot remember what made us think that we were going to win nine games and we'd never compromise.

Since the topic today is the freshmen, I had an amazing joke about The Verve Pipe lined up. But, for the life of me I cannot remember the joke. Oh well. Moving on.

There was a comment in some thread a while back that caught my optimistic eye. I'm not sure if the commenter was being serious or facetious, but he/she said something along the lines of, "Iowa was a pretty good team until injuries happened in the Penn State game...the offense was never able to recover." While I don't completely agree with that, there is a sliver of truth there. Injuries did play a factor in Iowa's lack of success. It's not like this is a new thing. Injuries always are a factor. But a difference this year, is that the next man in was often an inexperienced freshman, and not some 4th-year junior that has been riding the bench behind some senior about to be drafted.

Iowa was a very young team this year. And they played like it. Penalties, missed assignment, blown coverages, poor tackling, bad reads, wrong routes...you name it and Iowa probably did it wrong this year. There were plenty of upperclassmen making mistakes too. But part of it was that Iowa played a lot of freshmen.

By the end of the year, there were 13 freshmen listed on Iowa's 2-deeps, which feels like some kind of a record (I'm not about to research that, but remember the days, not that long ago, when Ferentz almost never played freshmen, and certainly not true freshmen?). Only the junior class had a bigger presence on the depth chart with 15. There were 12 seniors and 8 sophomores.

On the depth chart

Tevaun Smith - Played in 9 games. 3 catches for 31 yards. He also was back as a kick returner, though didn't return any. He looks like he has the speed to be a factor at WR. I'd put him as number 3 heading into next year behind KMM and Jordan Cotton.

Jordan Walsh - Started in 1 game and played in 6 total and was part of the OG rotation during the final half of the season. He will probably be in the mix for one of the OG spots again next year.

Austin Blythe - Started in 9 games and played in 10. He missed a couple of games due to injury and really didn't play as well after the injury. I expect him to be back strong next year and to win one of the OG spots.

Jake Rudock - Didn't play, but was listed as number 2 all season. I have a feeling he'll be listed as number 2 all next season too, but we'll see.

Greg Garmon - Started in 1 game and played in 10. He had 122 rushing yards and 57 receiving yards. Early in the year he also returned kicks. He looked okay at time and like a freshman others. And now he's gone.

Marshall Koehn - I'm pretty sure he didn't play (Iowa's site has the participation stats all messed up for the jNW game). Maybe he'll take over the squib kick and onside kick duties now that Mossbrucker is gone.

Drew Ott - Played in the final 5 games of the season. The coaches were pleased enough with his play in practice that they burned his red-shirt at the very end of the year. He didn't play a lot though and had just 3 tackles. Hopefully burning that red-shirt will end up being worth it. Iowa could really use a DE to step up.

Darian Cooper - Started the first and last game of the year and played in all the others. He was inconsistent, but had a few good games and totaled 34 tackles on the year and 3.5 for loss. It'll be interesting to see if he can hold off the two freshmen that red-shirted this year (Ekakitie and Johnson) and earn a permanent starting spot.

Melvin Spears - Played in 5 games during the second half of the season. He was a special teamer and didn't register at all on the stat sheet.

Travis Perry - Started 1 game when both Hitchens and Morris were dinged up and played in 11 total games mostly on special teams. He tallied 4 tackles.

Cole Fisher - Played in 7 games and didn't register any stats.

Sean Draper - Played in every game but the last, mostly in dime. He had 6 tackles. He could be the front-runner to take over for Micah Hyde.

Connor Kornbrath - Player in every game sharing punting duties with Wienke. He punted 53 times for a 37.9 yards average.

Other contributors

Kevin Bufford - Played in 9 games in nickel and dime packages. He had 5 tackles. I expect his role to be similar next year, though he could challenge Draper for Hyde's spot.

Jacob Hillyer - Played in every game as a special teamer, but got a few looks on offense. He had 1 reception for 15 yards. I think he has some potential, but may not be a great fit for Greg Davis's offense.

Riley McMinn - Played in 5 games early in the year and totaled 4 tackles.

Henry Krieger-Coble - Started 1 game as the number 2 tight end and played in 9 total. He came on at the end of the year and had 4 catches for 30 yards and a TD in the final 2 games. There is going to be a fight for the second TE spot next year and HKC should be right in the thick of it.

Jake Duzey - Played in 11 games and saw time as the number 2 tight end in the middle of the season. He finished with 3 receptions for 16 yards. He will also battle for second TE reps.

So what does this mean?

Maybe the future doesn't look so dim. While certainly all of these freshmen won't pan out, (there will be more transfers, injuries, etc...), it at least looks like 2 or 3 years down the road, Iowa could have a pretty experience team on its hands. And hey, isn't Ferentz known for developing players?

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