Happy new year, Hawkeye fans! It’s time for the last Player to Watch of this season. It was a pretty fun year for the Hawks — well, outside of four ugly losses, it was fun. Know what would make things a million times better? Winning a bowl game to give this program and fan base some positive momentum heading into the new year. That’d be cool, right?
So, without further ado, let’s jump into things. Antonio Callaway was the player that stuck out most (positively speaking, of course) in the five and a half quarters of Florida football I watched this season. Luckily, YouTube and our Rob Donaldson exist, so let’s take a dive in.
Outside of the perplexing choice to use Maino and T-Pain’s 2009, uh, hit, that peaked at No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, the most striking element is Callaway’s combination of size and speed. He’s near the top of a somewhat forgettable list of pass-catchers the Hawkeyes have faced this season — finishing 10th in the SEC with roughly sixty yards per game.
Throw in the fact Iowa’s basically out of options not named Desmond King, Michael Ojemudia, and Josh Jackson at corner, and that matchup could be better. It is nice, however, that the Gators seemingly have no one to get him the ball, and the Outback Bowl likely won’t be won or lost in the passing game. But, keeping a big moment from a playmaker like Callaway off the table certainly wouldn’t hurt the Hawkeyes.
So, Phil Parker, Desmond and Company, let’s keep the 5-11, 198-pound receiver from doing that thing Calloway did on the first play, huh?
His affinity for catching balls with one hand during his freshman season is impressive, as is his ability to beat a guy one-on-one down the sideline. Maybe it’s an effect of watching an anemic aerial attack all year followed by some less-than-stellar bowl performances, but for whatever reason, Callaway’s versatility to have an impact on the outside or in the middle of the field sticks out.
I’m not so sure the Hawkeyes are going to have King play Calloway’s shadow given the ability of the secondary options in the Gator passing game, so it’s tough to envision him lining up with the Gator wideout more than a handful of times in his final game at Iowa.
Jackson will likely be targeted with a frequency similar to the one he saw against Nebraska in the regular season finale — the sophomore had varying levels of success in that contest. If nothing else, it’s a good barometer to see where the guy who will likely go into the offseason as the No. 2 corner behind Manny Rugamba on the Hawkeye depth chart.
Callaway against the Iowa secondary won’t be the most prolific matchup to watch in this contest, but it will be a fun one.