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BYE WEEK LOOK AHEAD...WAY AHEAD

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Yeah there are still at least seven games left this year, but we're looking ahead two years down the road.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

With the bye week my mind has been wandering. Though this season is still young, it’s fun to look toward the future. It occurred to me when reviewing the Purdue game that most of the players I was writing about were young…really young. On Iowa’s latest depth chart, there are 10 freshmen and 12 sophomores on the 2-deeps. C.J. Beathard is a sophomore. Jonathon Parker, who provided the biggest spark on offense, is just a freshman. Both corners are sophomores. Imagine that secondary in 2 years. The outside will be locked down.

So even though a lot could change over the next couple of season, I’m pegging the 2016 season as the one. (Though back in 2009 I said the same about 2012. Vandenberg would be a senior, Wehger and Robinson were supposed to be a killer RB duo, etc… And we know how that turned out.)

The Offense

QB

Known Entities: C.J. Beathard
Other possibilities: Tyler Wiegers

RB

Known Entities: LeShun Daniels, Jonathan Parker
Other possibilities: Akrum Wadley, C.J. Hilliard

WR

Known Entities: Derrick Willies, Matt VandeBerg, Riley McCarron
Other possibilities: Derrick Mitchell, Andre Harris

TE

Known Entities: George Kittle
Other possibilities: Jon Wisnieski

OT

Known Entities: Ike Boettger
Other possibilities: Ryan Ward, Cole Croston

OG/C

Known Entities: Sean Welsh
Other possibilities: Boone Myers, Mitch Keppy

There’s no question Iowa has been a little lax on the offensive line recruiting lately in favor of the skill positions. The lack of depth this year hasn’t been a problem (yet... /knock on wood), but when looking two years down the line, there isn’t much certainty there. Sean Welsh is the only starter right now that will still be around. Even tight end looks a little heavy on the older side, though George Kittle is starting to see a little time (though mostly on special teams).

But the skill positions do look promising. Parker is emerging as a versatile player and paired with LeShun Daniels, he should give Iowa a good backfield. At receiver, Derrick Willies has had a few big moments (though unfortunately most have been in practice). The coaches certainly like Matt VandeBerg and he had a beautiful catch against Pitt. Riley McCarron only has a few catches, but is a trusted special teamer right now and I assume his role on the offense will grow.

And of course, Beathard. I can’t help myself with dreaming about a different offense, but the interesting thing about a lot of these players here is that they were all part of the "Beathard package" Iowa used against Ball State. That one drive was a little more spread/zone read than anything Iowa usually does. And I think against Purdue we saw a few glimpses of that type of offense too, especially with Parker.

The Defense

LB

Known Entities: Reggie Spearman, Bo Bower, Josey Jewell
Other possibilities: Ben Niemann

CB

Known Entities: Desmond King, Greg Mabin
Other possibilities: Maurice Fleming, Malik Rucker

S

Known Entities: Anthony Gair
Other possibilities: Miles Taylor, Solomon Warfield, Kevin Ward

DL

Known Entities: Faith Ekakitie, Jaleel Johnson,
Other possibilities: Nathan Bazata, Brant Gressel, Matt Nelson

I am kind of obsessed with the idea of Desmond King and Greg Mabin as a pair of senior cornerbacks in full lock-down mode. King has been so good and Mabin is really starting to come into his own. Anthony Gair in his limited time looked fine. I’m not sure about that last safety spot, but knowing Iowa, it’ll probably be some last minute commit from small-town Iowa that turns into a decent DB.

The linebacker corps will also be an experienced group in 2016. Depending on the positions where they land, it could be Bo Bower, Reggie Spearman, and Josey Jewell as the three starters (maybe Jewell moves to MLB). All three have gotten significant playing time this year and have been growing.

Up front, Iowa should have two good defensive tackles. Like this year, there will be a pair of seniors in Faith Ekakitie and Jaleel Johnson. Both of them have seen their playing time increase over the past two weeks, as Phil Parker has employed a deeper rotation on the line. The defensive ends (as it has been for a while now) remain the question marks on defense. Also, Drew Ott and Nate Meier are both juniors, so it will likely be two brand new starters in 2016. But the Hawkeyes have had no problem throwing DT bodies at DE in the past, so that could also be an option. Or we could see Spearman move down to DE as Phil Parker talked about the other day.

The Schedule

Date Opponent
9/03 Miami (OH)
9/10 Iowa State
9/17 North Dakota State
10/01 Northwestern
10/08 at Minnesota
10/15 at Purdue
10/22 Wisconsin
10/29 at Rutgers
11/05 at Penn State
11/12 Michigan
11/19 at Illinois
11/25 Nebraska

Somehow Iowa has worked it out that Wisconsin and Nebraska are both home games in the even years (and Iowa State and Northwestern…games it should help to be at home). So, it at least looks like, it’ll be every other year that Iowa has a better chance at winning the West. The 2016 schedule probably isn’t as easy as this year’s schedule. Hopefully North Dakota State drops off a little by then (we don’t need to lose to an FCS school). Michigan and Penn State are probably an upgrade (assuming both teams are better in two years) over Indiana and Maryland, but that schedule still looks pretty manageable.