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Report Card: Iowa Football 2020

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Final grades are in for the Hawkeye position groups.

How’d the position groups do this year?!

Thinking back on my feelings after Iowa was sitting 0-2 to start the year, I was pretty pessimistic. And then slowly our offense starting getting a little better. Also, Phil Parker did Phil Parker things with the defense and our squad rattled off 6 straight. Oh what could have been... This year, however, it was terrific to have Iowa football. I can’t imagine a fall without it, as it’s seriously one of my favorite things on the planet. I have included an average grade for all 8 regular season grades as well as a grade point average for our student-athletes.

Offense

QB: C+ (2.3 GPA)

Spencer Petras disappointed a bit this year, at least as far as random dude in Minnesota was concerned (me). Highlight tapes and Big Ten opponents are very different. A good lesson for all of us. Spencer did make some very good strides as the season went along. As Iowa football fans, we have been pretty spoiled through the years; Hayden and Kirk have given us 40 good years of football. Spencer did show that he has a big arm, he cares, and he enjoys playing the game. Also, I will never forgive Brian Ferentz for having Petras throw 50 times against Northwestern as we led for much of the game. Spencer will need to prove himself this offseason as next year we will face hostile crowds. I hope the coaching staff truly opens up this competition to be fair. I love our coaching staff, but we’ve become a bit jaded when it comes to this. Jake Christensen/Ricky Stanzi. Jake Rudock/C.J. Beathard.

RB: B (3.2 GPA)

Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent were a pretty dang good one-two punch this season. Tyler was named First Team All-Big Ten and the sky is the limit for him. This grade would have been better as I averaged an A and an F for the Purdue game (2 fumbles). That C gave this a slight decrease. The Hawks have to develop some depth at this position. It would be nice to have Sargent return. I have not hard anywhere that he is.

WR/TE: B- (2.7 GPA)

Iowa’s wide receiver group was much-hyped coming into this season. As a whole it was somewhat lackluster. I would attribute a great deal of this to a new quarterback. It just never felt like Petras was going to get these guys the football. Iowa also had a few more drops than normal. I honestly thought part of that came from our WR’s not expecting the ball to be thrown to them in a catchable location. Still, that’s on them. If the ball hits you in the hand(s), you catch it. The Hawks got Ihmir Smith-Marsette going in the Wisconsin game. I wasn’t a fan of his flip. His showboating would have kept him off the field had we played Michigan. Iowa’s tight ends had a nice season. Not a typical Iowa tight end season, but both Sam LaPorta and Shaun Beyer had flashes of excellent play and all-around good production.

Iowa v Penn State
Offensive Line pushing people around
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

OL: B (3.1 GPA)

This letter grade surprised me a little bit, but looking back I gave the big uglies a C+ against Northwestern and a C against Nebraska. I also think that Hawkeye fans expect “A work” from our offensive lines. Iowa always has and always will be good up front. Pretty crazy to think that Tristan Wirfs could have been plowing people over this fall for the Hawks. Tyler Linderbaum is a nasty dude. I hope we see him for one more year in Black and Gold. I also love that The Baum Squad had three tackles this year. Basically, if Petras throws a pick, you know Lindy is looking to put a lick on someone! You’d never guess he was a wrestler and defensive lineman. Alaric Jackson came back and will be playing on Sundays. Cole Banwart was named Third Team All-American by one site. The Hawks got some quality snaps for a number of offensive linemen. With Kirk Ferentz overseeing this group, it’s easy to see that we will continue to be bullish up front.

Defense

DNix devastated opponents this year
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

DL: B+ (3.4 GPA)

The Hawkeyes were a little slow out of the gate, struggling against Purdue (D+). After that, this group was Iowa’s best position group (sorry special teams) and it didn’t feel very close. Daviyon Nixon had a historic year, winning both the Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Big Ten as well as the Defensive Player of the Year. It would be terrific to see big DNix one more year for us, but when he’s being projected as a top 10 NFL pick, big fella gotta get paid. Chauncey Golston had a tremendous year for the Hawkeye defense. He made many big plays and stuffed the stat sheet game in and game out. His strip of Adrian Martinez may have saved the game against Nebby. Iowa also got very nice production out of transfers Jack Heflin and Zach VanValkenburg.

LB: B (3.2 GPA)

Iowa got excellent production from its linebacking corps. Nick Niemann was all over the place; he had 30 more tackles than anyone else on the team, Seth Benson played solid ball, and after getting back after an illness, Jack Campbell made numerous big plays. Iowa’s linebackers put together a very good year. This group got better every week. That’s not just an Iowa mantra, it’s reality.

DB/Cash: B (3.0 GPA)

This group put together a quiet, excellent season. The Hawks didn’t have any one player who was jaw-dropping good, just a group of 5 players who played great together. Phil Parker continues to do his magic with Iowa’s defense. It’s never more apparent than with his defensive backs. I remember when Parker was a defensive back at Michigan State in the early/mid-80’s. He was a bad man then and he’s a bad man now. This position group takes on his personality. Dane Belton, Riley Moss, Matt Hankins, Jack Koerner, and Kaevon Merriweather were a big reason for Iowa’s success this season, especially as the offense endured some growing pains.

Special Teams: B+ (3.5 GPA)

Kick Return / Punt Return: B (3.0 GPA)

Charlie Jones brought some electricity to the punt return game. Dude is fearless. It did cost him a fumble against the Badgers, but you’ve gotta love guys that play with no fear. Ihmir Smith-Marsette didn’t have the opportunities in the return game that he had in the past. Others teams learned from past mistakes.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 05 Iowa at Illinois
Tory Taylor punting = Winning!
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Punting: A (4.0 GPA)

Tory Taylor went from never attending an American football game to All-Big Ten. Not bad. The Thunder from Down Under will be booting balls all over the Midwest for the next 3+ years. Punting is winning. You know Kirk sleeps well at night knowing he has Double T in his back pocket. Taylor was flagged for an illegal kick against the Badgers. Especially because this didn’t hurt us, it was kinda awesome! Austin Spiewak deserves a shout-out for a job well done this year. No one knows the long snapper’s name until everyone knows the long snapper’s name.

Placekicking: A- (3.7 GPA)

Keith Duncan converted 77.8% of his field goals. He only missed one kick inside of 50 yards. My Minnesota Vikings would do well to give him a call. I know the NFL is all about the big leg, but if you can’t count on getting that one point after each score, I think the whole leg strength becomes pretty ridiculous. Mike Zimmer wouldn’t hate Mr. Duncan like he does every other kicker the Purple has had. Caleb Shudak did a nice job kicking off for the Hawks this year.