It wouldn't be August without the Big Ten making their annual pilgrimage across the Big Ten in that bus, and with it comes the annual Tom Dienhart column of five things he learned at each stop.
Here's his list for Iowa, which is worth a read. Of course, there's only so much a columnist at the propaganda wing of the conference can say about the teams and players he's watching—the object here is to stir interest, not make fans upset—so we'll go ahead and unskew these dispatches for you.
The headlines are his; the analysis is ours.
1. C.J Beathard can throw the ball.
Yeah, pretty much. There's nothing in Dienhart's report you haven't heard at some point over the last seven months. It's important, don't get us wrong, it's just known to the Iowa fan base at this point.
2. Where are the playmakers?
This, along with the last note, is pretty rough stuff. Dienhart goes through a laundry list of players and gives them each a nod for something or other, but the sum total clearly doesn't excite him. It's fair to get distressed at the idea of Matt VandeBerg being the second option in the passing game, especially for a team that's probably going to have trouble sustaining drives behind a questionable offensive line (more on that later). He may be underselling Daniels' potential at tailback and Tevaun Smith has a nice little highlight reel to show for his career at Iowa, but he averaged over 20 yards per catch in precisely one game last year—Purdue, when he had one catch for 27 yards. If Smith keeps struggling to get the ball thrown his way for whatever reason (usage, getting open, QB preferences), he's not a playmaker.
Jonathan Parker has the athleticism to stretch defenses, but thinking back to the last two guys Iowa's had in that role, it's probably Paul Chaney Jr. and Damond Powell. And really, you'd hope the Hawkeyes can get more out of him than they got out of those two, right?
3. The linebackers are better.
Speaking of "you'd hope so," Dienhart praises the moves of Bo Bower and Josey Jewell to less, ahem, speed-intensive roles in the linebacking corps. Ben Niemann has to be a difference-maker at OLB for these moves to work, but even then he may just be a placeholder for freshman Aaron Mends—or the first casualty if/when Iowa goes nickel. Speaking of which—
4. Miles Taylor can bring it.
The news that Taylor has flourished at strong safety is eminently welcome, as Iowa's defense thrives when it has a boss at strong safety (Bob Sanders, Miguel Merrick, Marcus Paschal, Tyler Sash, etc.). John Lowdermilk grew into a pretty decent player by his senior season but Iowa needs another guy with a high ceiling there and Taylor seems to fit the bill. Indeed, if either of the backup safeties Brandon Snyder and Anthony Gair are good enough to keep on the field, Taylor's versatile enough to slide into a rover-type role and increase Iowa's level of speed on the field without sacrificing physicality. Big if, though.
5. Tackles are coming on.
Whenever a sportswriter goes the route of "these players have important roles they have to fill" and pretty much stops there, what he or she is leaving out is "I can't tell you they're the real deal." It's good to stop there, because you don't want your own conference's media outlet to just bury some players because they might not turn out to be good enough (and you especially don't want that on the record if they do end up succeeding). Dienhart notes that Boone Myers and Ike Boettger certainly have some familiar attributes of good offensive tackles, but one should certainly read into the dearth of praise that Dienhart otherwise heaps on the other players mentioned. Well, aside from the offensive skill position guys. One should read plenty into that too.