The Iowa Hawkeyes put on perhaps their best show of the season last week when they pulled away from Rutgers to secure a 22-0 home win, as well as a share of the Big Ten West title. The Hawkeyes looked as good as they have in six weeks on offense in the second half of that victory and notably, they did so with some guys banged up.
Obviously, Cade McNamara has been out for weeks and Deacon Hill’s struggles have been the major storyline of the season (well, that and the implications for Brian Ferentz’s career). But beyond the QB, Iowa was dealing with even more attrition at tight end with Steve Stillianos out last week and the offensive line had multiple guys listed as questionable entering the day while Beau Stephens will be out for some time.
Despite the injuries, though, the Hawkeyes battled through and the offense line had one of their better performances all year. The question now is who will be healthy as the Hawkeyes prepare to secure the outright Big Ten West division title this week against Illinois. We got a glimpse on Monday when Iowa released their official depth chart for the final home game of 2023.
[Note: We had some feedback that the depth chart images were difficult to read given the size so trying out a different format to hopefully break it up and make it a bit bigger this week. Feedback is welcome.]
- Every time it bears repeating: this is largely a reflection of the end of the prior game and is not necessarily indicative of who will truly start. Injuries pop up, guys get healthy mid-week. Yada yada yada.
- On the offensive side of the ball, how great is it to see Kaleb Brown finally listed where we thought we might see him: atop the WR depth chart. The OSU transfer hauled in three catches for 27 yards and added 20 yards on a pair of rushes last week while grabbing his first career TD. He’s got more speed and athleticism than anyone else at the position in the black and gold and he has really showed what he’s capable of the last two weeks. With Diante Vines injured, Brown ultimately started last week and looks to do the same this week.
- With Vines out and Brown into the starting lineup, it’s also interesting to note we get three WRs listed opposite Nico Ragaini and Seth Anderson. For the first time, I believe, in his career, Jacob Bostick is listed on the depth chart. Bostick has spent much of his time in Iowa City injured, including the vast majority of this season. But he’s gotten a snap each of the last two games (both runs) and has the biggest frame of anyone on the depth chart at 6’2”. Getting him into the rotation a bit could really add a new dynamic to a passing game that has needed something all season.
- OK, while the Bostick and Brown stories are fun and interesting to watch, perhaps the most notable thing on this depth chart is the change at center. Logan Jones has been dinged up for a couple weeks now and while he started vs Rutgers, he was quickly replaced by Tyler Elsbury. Elsbury also ended the matchup with Northwestern on the field. Now he supplants Jones as the listed starter at center. Lots of discussion on the right move for the future here, but Elsbury has looked great the last two weeks out and the offense seems to be in a better place right now with him captaining the offensive line ship.
- One other thing on offense this week. Jaz Patterson is now listed second at RB. A week ago we saw Kaleb Johnson listed there but ultimately it was Patterson who led the team in carries with 14, including the only rushing touchdown of the day. Interestingly though, Johnson led the running back room in yards per carry at 5.4 on his 10 attempts. The Hawkeyes truly have a three-headed monster and all three find themselves listed this week.
- On defense, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Pitching a shutout certainly is not broke.
One other thing to call out this week, aside from the depth chart itself. Per the game notes for this week’s matchup, the Hawkeyes will honor 20 seniors prior to Saturday’s home finale, including: Erick All, Sebastian Castro, Nick DeJong, Joe Evans, Asher Fahey, Rusty Feth, Kyler Fisher, Jermari Harris, Jay Higgins, Nick Jackson, Logan Lee, Daijon Parker, Nico Ragaini, Chris Reames, Liam Reardon, Quinn Schulte, Noah Shannon, Josef Smith, Steven Stilianos and Tory Taylor.
Of note here is the inclusion of transfer TE Erick All. With the injury time this year, returning for another year was a possibility. While it’s possible he could change his mind, this would seem to indicate his time in the black and gold is over.
The Hawkeyes and Illini will kick off at 2:30pm CT on Saturday with the Hawkeyes looking to clinch the West division title. This week’s matchup will be broadcast on FS1.