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Iowa Football Position Grades: Michigan

Proud of this team. It’s great to be a Hawkeye!

2023 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan
Kirk and the replay system will not be exchanging holiday cards
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Before I start, I love Iowa football. We aren’t the prettiest, but we are IOWA. You know when you face us, you will get tough dudes who care about each other, the game, and the history of Iowa football. That. That is what I love. And yes, I use the pronoun “We” when talking about Iowa football. Most of us do. It is a way of life.

Michigan is a great football team. Jim Harbaugh is a great coach. I am a huge Big Ten fan. Other than the Gophers (hate them), I always want the conference to do well. I am so tired of Michigan’s self-made adversity. They cheated in a big way. They got caught. Harbaugh got scolded, but the B1G also gave him a wink and a hug as they sent Jimmy to his room for a couple of hours on Saturdays for a few weeks. I’m amazed that Michigan was able to overcome such harrowing circumstances. Michigan, the world weeps for you. Hang in there. That said, I will become a card-carrying fan of anyone Michigan plays the rest of the way. Go anyone but Big Blue.

Offense:

QB: F

Deacon Hill should not be a starting quarterback in a conference championship game. Obviously, injuries contributed to this, but the roster and quarterback coach (Brian Ferentz) were mismanaged if Hill is our only option. I attended the Music City Bowl last year. Joey Labas isn’t an accomplished passer, but he won a bowl game and he can run. I have no idea how he or Marco Lainez didn’t get a look. Kirk is averse to quarterbacks who turn the ball over. Deacon turns the ball over. A lot. Hill was 18 for 32 for 120 yards. He did not throw an interception, but he did fumble twice.

[Michigan’s Josh Wallace deserves a shoutout for the above “fumble recovery.” Great play, young man!] Deacon Hill holds the ball forever. He did have a couple of balls dropped. Hill’s big arm is a strength, yet not one time did Iowa attempt a five-step drop and let Hill throw it deep to Kaleb Brown. So many things don’t make sense with our offense. Thank you, Beth Goetz. I love Cade McNamara’s leadership, but at this point, the Hawks can’t assume Cade will be healthy. I would expect the Hawks will lose some QBs in the portal. We must address this position in the offseason. It also wouldn’t hurt to call Drew Tate (or anyone not named Brian) about coaching our signal callers.

RB: D

Iowa’s running backs ran 16 times for 41 yards (2.6). Jaziun Patterson’s fumble cost us our only chance to score three points. While watching the game I jokingly said that we should kick the field goal on 2nd down. We then proceeded to fumble. Sigh. With an anemic passing attack, I would have liked to have run more. At least running the football is an identity. I would expect the Hawks to lose multiple backs in the portal. Hopefully not, but unless there is a substantial hire for our offensive coordinator, our offense may lose some pieces.

WR: B/F

I am giving two separate grades for the first time in the four years I’ve done this blog. Kaleb Brown gets a B. He had five catches for 34 yards. He had two carries for 10 yards. He looks and plays like a Division I WR1. I do wonder why he didn’t see the field for the first half of the season. Once again, that’s on the coaching staff. Seth Anderson looked decent to good early on and then disappeared. Make it make sense. The rest of the wide receivers get an “F”. Nico Ragaini made a few terrific plays in his career, but he regressed. I found myself pleasantly surprised when he would catch a ball thrown to him.

TE: C

Addison Ostrenga is going to play in the NFL. He will be a good one. He had 7 catches for 50 yards. Zach Ortwerth dropped a good throw that would have been a first down. Coach Abdul Hodge did an excellent job this season, especially considering he was without two NFL tight ends for most of the season.

OL: F

The Hawks averaged 1.5 yards on the ground. Gennings Dunker’s absence hurt the Hawks as his replacement Nick DeJong jumped a few times. Logan Jones returned, but I feel like Tyler Elsbury played better when he manned the center position. Deacon Hill was sacked four times, but as I stated earlier, Deacon holds the ball for a week and a half in the pocket.

Defense:

DL: A

Blake Corum is an incredible running back. The Hawks held him to 52 yards on 16 carries (3.2). Iowa’s defensive line sacked J.J. McCarthy four times. Yahya Black, Logan Lee, Deontae Craig, and Max Llewellyn all joined the sack party. The defensive line is our deepest position group. Coach Kelvin Bell is an excellent coach.

LB: A

There are a few certainties in life. One of them is that if you are a B1G running back, Jay Higgins will hit you. In today’s world of the transfer portal, it is refreshing to see a student-athlete bide his time and have a monster year. Hats off to JHigg. Higgins had 14 tackles against a very physical football team. It felt like he had 24. Nick Jackson, a graduate of Virginia, came to Iowa via the same transfer portal and has been an excellent addition to Phil Parker’s defense. Jackson had eight tackles against the Wolverines.

DB: A-

Iowa’s game plan is always focused on not giving up big plays. The Hawks did just this against Michigan. J.J. McCarthy may play in the NFL next year, and the Hawkeyes held him to 147 passing yards. The Wolverines targeted Deshaun Lee numerous times; the freshman held his own collecting eight tackles and not giving up a big play. Sebastian Castro has been a one-man wrecking crew this season. He had nine tackles and a pass breakup.

Special Teams: B-

The good news. Tory Taylor punted seven times for an average of 50.4 yards. The bad news. Iowa gave up a long punt return that gave the Wolverines a short field. You have to think that if Cooper DeJean was out there, that play doesn’t happen. Coop is that good. Koen Entringer showed the world that he is going to be a good one with one of the best hustle plays you will ever see. I have watched this play more times than I have watched any Iowa touchdown this year.

It would have been nice for Drew Stevens to get an opportunity to get back on track. Stevens is an excellent kicker who will bounce back from the Nebraska game.

Hopefully, the Hawks can get a defensive touchdown in the bowl game. I don’t expect our offense to score. It’s still great to be a Hawkeye! Go Hawks!