As they did a year ago, Iowa released a new football depth chart to set things up as we head into the offseason. There aren't any changes here as dramatic as the one last year that put C.J. Beathard atop the QB position (and put the dominoes in motion that led to Jake Rudock transferring to Michigan), but there are several smaller changes all over the depth chart as Iowa looks to replace departing seniors. Let's break things down.
QB: C.J. Beathard (SR), Tyler Wiegers (SO)
RB: LeShun Daniels, Jr. (SR), Akrum Wadley (JR) or Derrick Mitchell, Jr. (JR)
FB: Drake Kulick (JR), Brady Ross (RS FR)
WR: Jerminic Smith (SO), Jay Scheel (SO)
WR: Matthew VandeBerg (SR), Riley McCarron (SR)
WR: Riley McCarron (SR), Adrian Falconer (SO)
TE: George Kittle (SR), Jameer Outsey (SO)
LT: Cole Croston (SR), Boone Myers (JR)
LG: Boone Myers (JR), Ryan Ward (SR)
C: James Daniels (SO), Steve Ferentz (SR)
RG: Sean Welsh (JR), Keegan Render (SO)
RT: Ike Boettger (JR), Dalton Ferguson (SO)
Let's start with what didn't change much: the skill position spots. Unlike last year, there's no dramatic change at QB -- it's CJ one, Wiegers two, the same as it's been all season long and the same as it's probably going to be all next season. 2017 is when the QB picture will get interesting (or terrifying, depending on your perspective). RB is also pretty unchanged, minus the loss of Canzeri -- who leaves big shoes to fill. LeShun is the first name listed, but if 2016 is anything like 2015, Wadley will get a lot of carries, too. Derrick Mitchell should continue to serve as Iowa's third-down back. Fullback isn't exactly a skill position -- even in an Iowa offense that cherishes them more than most -- but it has a key role in the Iowa offense and we're going to see a different look there next fall -- expert road graters Macon Plewa and Adam Cox are both gone, so Iowa's going to be looking at Drake Kulick and Brady Ross (both former walk-ons) to see if they can provide the run blocking Iowa's offense needs to be effective.
Wide receiver brings back some familiar faces, beginning with VandeBerg, who is a locked on starter at one spot. As expected, Jerminic Smith slides up the depth chart to replace Tevaun Smith (no relation) at the other WR spot; he did the same earlier this season when Tevaun missed a few games with a knee injury, so that move was expected. He's being backed up by Jay Scheel, who could be a very exciting addition to Iowa's offense if he's able to stay healthy, pick up the playbook, and block effectively. Riley McCarron is listed as the starter at the other WR spot (replacing Jacob Hillyer), but that may be a placeholder spot -- it certainly seems like there's room for one of Iowa's younger receivers to emerge there (like Adrian Falconer, listed behind McCarron on this depth chart). Tight end brings back George Kittle as starter; with the departures of Henry Krieger-Coble and Jake Duzey, Kittle is Iowa's only experienced tight end. Backing him up is Jameer Outsey, who made the move from linebacker to tight end this season and saw very limited action. Let's hope he's a quick study at the TE position, especially when it comes to blocking.
The offensive line, though, is a little bit crazy. We knew there would be new names at center and right guard with the graduations of Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh, but there's been a lot more moving around than just that. James Daniels is in line to replace Blythe at center; he saw action as a guard during the 2015 season, but he was always slated to be Blythe's long-term replacement at center. That said, it's not good that he's having surgery and will likely miss spring practice as a result -- that isn't going to help the new Iowa line's efforts to gel and develop continuity. Replacing Walsh at right guard will be Sean Welsh, who spent most of 2015 as a left guard, although he also filled in at tackle (and in fact started the Rose Bowl as Iowa's right tackle). Replacing Welsh at left guard is Boone Myers, who spent all of 2015 at tackle (mostly at left tackle); left guard to left tackle is a not-uncommon transition at Iowa, but left tackle to left guard is a bit stranger. That leaves Croston and Boettger to take over the tackle spots, Croston at left and Boettger at right. Both played several games at those tackle spots this year, so there's at least some experience there. The backups are mostly familiar names, albeit in new places -- Ferentz was last listed as a backup RG, now he's a backup C; Render was last a backup LT, now he's a backup RG. Ward has appeared sporadically on Iowa depth charts in the past and he's listed as a backup LG here. Dalton Ferguson is new to the depth chart -- he's a redshirt freshman walk-on from Solon. Whew. That's a lot of change on the line. In (Brian) Ferentz We Trust, I guess?
DE: Matt Nelson (SO), Sam Brincks (SO)
DT: Jaleel Johnson (SR), Faith Ekakitie (SR)
DT: Nathan Bazata (JR), Kyle Terlouw (SR)
DE: Parker Hesse (SO), Anthony Nelson (RS FR)
OLB: Ben Niemann (JR), Bo Bower (JR)
MLB: Josey Jewell (JR), Jack Hockaday (SO)
WLB: Aaron Mends (SO), Jack Hockaday (SO)
CB: Greg Mabin (SR), Maurice Fleming (SR)
SS: Miles Taylor (JR), Anthony Gair (SR)
FS: Brandon Snyder (SO), Jake Gervase (SO)
CB: Desmond King (SR), Josh Jackson (SO)
Obviously the defensive line depth chart doesn't include Drew Ott because the result of his appeal for a medical redshirt is not yet known. In his absence, the defensive line features three returning starters from 2015 -- Johnson, Bazata, and Hesse (who started over half the season after Ott went down). Matt Nelson replaces Nate Meier at the other defensive end spot -- he saw increased action after Ott went down and a lot of snaps over the last few games, as Meier was limited by several injuries. Backing up Nelson and Hesse are Brincks, a sophomore walk-on from Carroll, and Anthony Nelson, a redshirt freshman and 3* recruit from Waukee (no relation to Matt Nelson). Experience (or lack thereof) remains a concern on the defensive line; it would be an absolutely enormous boost for Iowa to get Ott back for a fifth season.
Linebacker remains largely unchanged, with the exception of Aaron Mends coming in for Cole Fisher as starting WLB and Jack Hockaday being listed as the main backup to Jewell (at MLB) and Mends (at WLB), suggesting that he may be the first man in at LB if any of the listed starters get hurt. Mends and Hockaday played sparingly during their freshman years, but both generated some positive buzz from coaches and practice observers -- hopefully they live up to that hype on the field.
The secondary is also pretty stable with the surprising (but exciting) return of Desmond King. King's return means that 3/4 of the 2015 secondary is back -- only senior FS Jordan Lomax will need to be replaced. This depth chart lists sophomore walk-on Brandon Snyder, Lomax's backup all year, as the new starter, which is no surprise. Backing him up is another sophomore walk-on, Jake Gervase from Davenport. A walk-on starting at free safety? Now that's the Iowa defense I remember. The only other change to the secondary is the removal of Sean Draper, who was listed as one of King's backups, as well as a nickel corner for Iowa. His absence means that Jackson is now King's primary backup and he and Fleming will likely handle all nickel corner duties.
P: Colten Rastetter (RS FR), Migel Recinos (SO)
K: Miguel Recinos (SO), Mick Ellis (SO)
PR: Desmond King (SR), Riley McCarron (SR)
KR: Desmond King (SR), Riley McCarron (SR)
LS: Tyler Kluver (JR), Matt Nelson (SO)
H: ???, Tyler Wiegers (SO)
Change is afoot on special teams thanks to the departures of Iowa's senior placekicker (Marshall Koehn) and punter (Dillon Kidd). Iowa's special teams were generally improved in 2015, although there were certainly moments of inconsistency (what was with all those missed extra points, Marshall?). Miguel Recinos, a sophomore kicker from Mason City, seems to be first in line to replace Koehn's game-winning shoes, with sophomore Mick Ellis (from Texas) set to battle him for the starting kicker job. Ellis was the scholarship recruit and Recinos was (and is?) a walk-on, but Recinos seems to have the edge on him for now. Hopefully one of them will emerge as a guy that can kick the ball consistently over a solid distance. (Let's also hope one of them can be good on kickoffs, as that may be where we miss Koehn the most -- he boomed a lot of touchbacks for Iowa over the last two seasons.) Colten Rastetter, a redshirt freshman from Guttenberg, Iowa, is set to be Kidd's replacement, with Recinos also an option here. As we all know, punting matters at Iowa, so hopefully one of them will be able to reliably flip field position for the Hawkeyes.
The depth chart released today didn't seem to include return specialists or a long snapper, but since everyone from last year's depth chart is back at those positions, I think it's safe to assume that Iowa won't be changing things up there. King wasn't able to break a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, but he had several big returns that provided short fields to Iowa's offense. Holder also wasn't listed on the new depth chart, although it's likely that either Wiegers or Rastetter will handle holding duties -- Iowa typically uses the punter or backup QB in that role.