Okay, so the first "Reasons for Optimism" may not have gone over so well. The comment section basically boiled down to, "There were only 3 plays that worked in the entire season!! We're doomed!!!" I admit it was a stretch, but I had to do something to make myself feel better about Greg Davis coming back. Anyway, hopefully reason number two is a little more encouraging on the optimism front.
Kirk Ferentz has had an extremely good track record with senior starters. Basically all of them get a shot of some kind in the NFL...a lot of them drafted. While senior talent hasn't completely correlated with number of wins, it has been a decent predictor of a team's success.
Take a look at the 2009 roster. It was full of talented seniors. Some of the guys blocking up front were: Dace Richardson, Kyle Calloway, Raphael Eubanks, and Tony Moeaki...Not a bad line and TE to run behind. The defense was led to A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer.
Then take a look at last year's group of seniors. Yes Micah Hyde and James Ferentz were solid, and Keenan Davis had his moments. But for the most part, it was a forgettable class and a forgettable season.
But this year, oh this year...here is a list of all the seniors:
- B.J. Lowery
- Tanner Miller
- Don Shumpert
- Christian Kirksey
- Dominic Alvis
- Jordan Cotton
- Conor Boffeli
- Brett Van Sloten
- Nolan MacMillan
- Mike Meyer
- James Morris
- Casey Kreiter
- Gavin Smith
- Anthony Hitchens
- C.J. Fiedorowicz
So that's 15 seniors. Out of that group I expect at least 12 to be starters at their position (all but Shumpert, MacMillan, and Smith)...Shumpert will probably get his fair share of snaps too. And of that group, there are probably 4 to 6 guys who, with a good year, could get drafted.
It starts with C.J. Fiedorowicz. It took half the season to get him integrated into the offense last year, but if he is used in a similar fashion for a whole season this year, he should easily lead the team in receptions. And I am hopeful that KF saying that Greg Davis is a better "Iowa coach" means that he knows how to effectively use the TEs. With the big question marks at WR, it would be surprising if CJF wasn't the most targeted receiver this season. Plus, at least one dude thinks CJF is the #45 on the Hot 100 Seniors list.
Next up, all the 3 senior linebackers: Morris, Hitchens, and Kirksey. While they haven't always looked great out there, I think a large part of that can be chalked up to injuries and poor defensive line play in front of them. The D-line should be better this year and hopefully the LBs stay healthy and all take a step forward.
Mike Meyer won't be drafted, but I expect him to land a spot on an NFL roster. He had a couple of off games (missed both attempts against PSU and his only one against Nebraska), but started off the season as one of the nations best kickers and finished the year making 17 of 21. He has been clutch in the 4th quarter of games and has shown decent range (he has made 2 FGs from 50 yards).
Two other players I think have a shot are B.J. Lowery and Brett Van Sloten. Lowery seems to fit the mold of senior Iowa cornerback (Hyde, Prater, Spievey, etc...) that should be good enough for a zone/cover 2 team in the NFL. He was 7th on the team in tackles last year despite missing 2 games. He has at times flashed a knack for making big plays. If he can do that more consistently this year, then he might be NFL bound.
Van Sloten started all 12 games at RT last year and likely will again this year. He is a smart dude, earning Academic All B1G for the past 3 years. And he's liked enough by the coaches to be taken to the B1G media days a few weeks ago. Plus, it's almost a guarantee at this point, if you start at offensive tackle under Ferentz, you're going to get a shot in the NFL.
The more long shots are probably Miller (he has been a long time starter), Cotton (if he can prove to be a threat at more than just a returner), Alvis (he'd need a big year), and Kreiter (do long snappers get drafted?). But still, those guys should have positive impacts on the team this year, NFL talent or not.
So, again talented seniors doesn't necessarily mean a successful year, but it can't hurt to have nearly half of your starters as senior, and nearly half of those have legitimate shots to get drafted. Feeling any more optimistic yet?