Where am I? What happened? What year is it?
It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to sit here on a Monday morning and overreact. But, then again, it’s been a while since we’ve had too much going on in Hawkeye Nation. I wake up this Monday morning to the aftermath of what truly was a crazy week in the world of Hawkeye sports. Let’s take a look back and do what we do best, shall we?
1. Another Year, Another Embarrassment
Well, we turned the calendar to 2017 last Sunday, but you sure wouldn’t have known it if you tuned in to the Outback Bowl. Good Lord. New year, same old Hawkeye bowl performance. That’s three straight proverbial restroom breaks down the collective legs, 5 straight bowl losses and 2,204 days since Iowa won a bowl game.
We heard all about yet another approach to bowl prep this year. Adjustments. Things being cleaned up. And to be fair, the first half wasn’t terrible and I was feeling pretty damn good about things the first 5 minutes or so of the game. But when you get 2 turnovers in those first 5 minutes and come away with 3 points, trouble is in store.
Honestly, I don’t need to rehash the rest for you. You remember (although I’m sure you’re doing your best to forget). The offense was flat out brutal. CJB got hurt, Kirk and Co. went all Kirk and Co. and left CJ in there to throw pick after pick. Despite the game being clearly out of reach, there was no sign of getting decent reps for guys who will be called upon to fill big roles next year (lookin’ at you Nate Stanley). The worst part, and I’m being dead serious, is it really didn’t sting this time. We’re used to it. Puke.
2. Greg Davis Gone
But wait! What’s that I see? Why, yes, I believe that IS light at the end of the tunnel! Just when things seemed to be at their worst, Hawkeye fans were granted a minor miracle. It was Christmas in January. Greg Davis announced his retirement a few short days after that putrid offensive performance in the bowl game.
Now, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think Greg Davis was the only problem. I don’t even think he’s a bad OC, necessarily. But his system with the personnel at Iowa and the head man he was reporting to was a terrible fit from the start. From what I’ve heard, Davis is a nice enough human being. But given the way things have been going and the fact this is an overreaction piece, let me just say, “Hallelujah!”
The offense can’t get much worse. Iowa finished 117th in total offense in 2016 (out of 128). They finished in the same spot in passing yards per game. All that while boasting two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in school history and a QB who is widely expected to get a shot at the NFL. So that’s it, I’m calling my shot. Iowa finishes better than 117th in total offense in 2017. You heard it here first.
3. Wadley Back
Another reason for optimism on my bold prediction above was the news earlier in the week that whoever the new OC is will have a nice, shiny Ferrari in the garage when he opens the office door. The return of Akrum Wadley to the Hawkeye offense for next year gave Iowa fans multiple Christmas presents in January (to be fair, they were much needed following the, uh, lump of coal they got on January 2nd).
can't get enough Akrum Wadley pic.twitter.com/t52PfviR1X— Heavens! (@HeavensHawkeye) January 6, 2017
The kid is a legitimate highlight reel. There is the obvious concern around handling a full workload at his slight size, but with the other guys in the RB stable, I think he will be just fine running 15-20 times a game. All we need now is an offensive coordinator who will use his talents in the best manner possible: get him in space, get him to the edge and get him involved in the passing game. It took too long to get there this year.
Wadley needs to be running between the tackles enough to keep defenses guessing, but running to the edge enough to break big plays. And with a reeling passing game, the new OC has to find ways to consistently incorporate him into the passing game besides just tossing him screens. Wheel routes, angle routes, flat patterns. Doesn’t matter. The more he touches it, the better Iowa will be.
4. Army All-America Bowl
In case you missed it on Saturday (I don’t why you would have, I told you about it last week - geez, it’s like you guys don’t even care what I have to say), a pair of future Hawkeyes faced off in the US Army All-America Bowl in San Antonio. Offensive tackle commit Tristan Wirfs, of Mt. Vernon, represented the West in a 27-17 loss to the East and defensive end commit AJ Epenesa of Edwardsville, Illinois. Epenesa looked solid and started for the East, recording 2 solo tackles.
Also of note was Iowa City West star and potential Hawkeye Oliver Martin, who joined Wirfs on the West. Martin didn’t record a catch as the West team struggled a bit offensively, only managing 144 yards and only threw 12 passes.
They did run the ball a few times and Iowa fans everywhere enjoyed watching former commit Eno Benjamin get 3 runs for 24 yards before being stricken down by an Iowa football deity who shall remain nameless and has apparently turned friendly to the Hawkeyes.
Here’s a link to the stats if you’re interested.
5. Eno Commits
Speaking of Eno, he announced his commitment on live TV during the game. After getting a few hopes (not your’s truly’s) by sporting an Iowa hat during an early commercial break, Benjamin committed to Arizona State on Saturday. You may recall, that’s one of the schools he was busted visiting in secret while still committed to the Hawkeyes. I’ll admit I was pretty surprised. Despite a lot of positive talk about them over the last several months on his Twitters (it’s only creepy if you want it to be), I was pretty convinced the kid would end up at a bigger name school.
Thank you & God bless— EB5™ (@eno_benjamin5) January 7, 2017
A lot of people I talk to (to be fair, a LOT is a stretch, I’m not that popular) find the kid to be a bit of a prima donna (who’s paying attention). By all accounts, he has a very outgoing personality and no one has ever accused him of shying away from the limelight. But I didn’t count myself among those who thought it was all about the attention for him. Despite that, I did think he would end up at a Michigan or a Texas after they finally offered. I recall even saying, “who cares if he visited ASU? Why wouldn’t you at that age. It’s not like he would ever choose them.” Oops.
All this to say, I wish he was still coming to Iowa. He made some mistakes, but he also did more for Iowa recruiting in Texas in 6 months than Iowa staff had been able to do since bringing their Texas duo. He looks dynamic and it sure would’ve been nice to keep his WR buddies in the fold given the current situation at that position. I wish him all the best at ASU. Thank God Iowa likely won’t ever face him. I hope he learned from his mistakes and Iowa perhaps makes some changes based on theirs.
6. Future Bright Again?
So with all this going on in Hawkeyeland, is the future bright again? I mean, seriously, what a difference a few days makes. Ask me that last Tuesday and I would have said emphatically, “hell no!” Iowa looked awful offensively in that bowl game. Recruiting hasn’t exactly been a bright spot since about September. There were no signs things would be changing and Wadley was looking like an NFL lean.
Now, less than a week later, Wadley is back, we got to see a pair of future Hawkeyes play on one of the biggest HS football stages and there is new life with the promise of a new OC. There are some big shoes to fill and some legitimate holes in this team, but the future looks pretty bright at this point.
Of course, it is Iowa and it is Kirk Ferentz. Perhaps I’ll be back next week to overreact to the hiring of a terrible OC, the Outlaw bailing and some recruiting losses. That’s football.
7. Hoops Rollercoaster
Oh hey, look, Iowa plays basketball too! It’s easy to forget with everything going on in football, but the Iowa hoops squad is full of youth and enthusiasm. Yes, youth and enthusiasm is a euphemism for mistakes and head-scratchers. The team is legitimately athletic, more so than any team I’ve seen in the Fran era, and you can see the signs of really good things to come. But you also see total mental lapses, bad defense and no rebounding at times and costly turnovers late in games.
We got all that in the double OT loss to Nebrasketball. It was tough to swallow, albeit entertaining. And then a few days later, the young squad turns around and finds a way to overcome some of those same issues, knock down some shots and get a win on Sunday. Yes, it was Rutgers, and yes, it was ugly at times, but it was a win and it was a comeback. We knew it would be a bumpy road, and certainly has been, but this team is still fun to watch and the sheer amount of youth has to make you excited about the future.
Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the week. Enjoy this tweet.
I've watched this no fewer than 30 times. pic.twitter.com/4LcVgsifxs— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) January 6, 2017
We have yet another post-season presser later today from the Captain. There will be snorts. There will be things to clean up. There may even be an updated depth chart. Will there be OC or other staff announcements? Keep with The Pants to find out.
Happy Monday. Go Hawks!