BHGP writers unite! While the "media" was getting awesome tours of Iowa's new football facilities, your crack team of writers here at Black Heart Gold Pants were writing thousands of words predicting the 2015 season. Here is part 1 of our lengthy roundtable.
Kirk Ferentz loves to make comparisons to the past. So let’s take a page from his book. 2015 will be a repeat of…?
Adam Jacobi: Let’s go back a little farther than Kirk’s campaign and head to 1993. Iowa was in the middle of a lull and offensive line issues led to some distressingly close non-conference games and some brutal Big Ten losses. The team’s baseline skill level was still good enough to salvage a .500 season, especially in a top-heavy Big Ten, but what ensued in the Sun Bowl wasn’t pretty.
Mike Jones: 2011. The offense will be primarily passing based with Smith playing the role of Marvin McNutt and Beathard having a solid first year as Iowa’s full-time QB. There’s no superstar offensive lineman but the defensive line will have its bright spots and the backfield will be solid. I feel as if 2015 will be 2011, almost right down to the schedule.
RossWB: I think that depends on the state of the offensive line. If the offensive line we’ve seen at the open practices so far proves to be an accurate harbinger of the season to come, 2007 might be the best-case scenario for Iowa. That was another Iowa team staring down an easy schedule that had their season undone by a porous offensive line, a newbie starting quarterback, and a dearth of proven options at the skill positions. It’s not too hard to see a little bit of history repeating itself there. But if the tackle position gets sorted out and Iowa is able to get some decent protection, it’s easier to see this as a more promising season – maybe a bit like 2008 or 2013. Or maybe even a game or two better than that if Beathard is able to hit the ground running.
Matthew Lundeen: 2014. I think the offense continues to look wildly inconsistent and clunky, while the defense will be decent. If the defense ends up looking better, it may be able to carry this team to a 2013-like 8-4 regular season record.
Horace E. Cow: 2007. A mixture of expected wins and head-scratching losses against a fairly soft schedule.
hawk6894: 2011. New QB taking over (Beathard now, Vandenberg then), a stud senior receiver (Smith now, McNutt then), a pretty easy schedule (Iowa played just three ranked teams during the regular season in 2011) and in the end we can’t decide if we’re getting better or worse.
Hayden Fry's Mustache Ride: It’s August and hope springs eternal, so I’ll say 2008. They drop 3 of the first 5 games, but get better as the season progresses and close out with 7 straight wins and crack the top 25. A victory at Nebraska to close out the season would have to suffice as the signature win. This plan would require LeShun Daniels to be a spiked wrecking ball like the other guy we had in ‘08.
Patrick Vint: I hate to do it, but I’m sticking with 1998. The parallels are too eerie. A longtime head coach has a disappointing season capped with a late November losing skid and an embarrassing bowl loss, then returns with a roster that lost almost all of its top-end talent and relies far too heavily on walk-ons. There are positives in the Iowa program right now, and I really hope I’m wrong, but this just looks too much like Hayden’s last stand.
PSD: I’ll go with 2008. LeShun Daniels isn’t Shonn Greene but I see a similar arc to the season as that team. Perhaps, a work in progress that gets better as the season treads along.
FightForIowa: The first comparison that popped into my mind with C.J. Beathard at the helm was to Drew Tate. I hope that this year will be better than 2006…but there is my repeat. On offense, a good gun-slinging QB, decent duo at running back, some young talent here and there. On D there is the makings of some decent linemen, at least one NFL-caliber corner, and a mixed bag at LB. That year started off when a solid with an easy non-conference schedule, but slowly fell apart after a bunch of close losses to end the season.
In 2012 with no experience at backup QB, Iowa didn’t bother to play one. So how many non-Beathard snaps will we see this year?
Adam: One would hope more than zero, right? Iowa can’t demand 48+ full quarters of play from Beathard, and while it’s extremely unlikely that Wiegers will earn his way ahead on the depth chart, if he can be even decent enough that he can be trusted on the field with a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, Iowa needs to take advantage of that.
Mike: 30? That sounds like a reasonable number when looking at the schedule. It’s worth noting that every QB on the roster not named Beathard is a true or redshirt freshman. Old man Ferentz may be stubborn, but he’s rarely accused of being blind (except for on special teams). It’s in Iowa’s best interest to work some of these kids in as soon as possible.
Ross: Obviously we’re assuming no significant injuries to Beathard, since that would lead to the Iowa offense become em-Wiegened for an extended period of time. Barring that, though, I’m going to assume 30 non-Beathard snaps. I think there will be at least a few games with sufficient blowout action (good or bad) for us to get a small glimpse of Wiegers.
Matthew: Assuming CJB stays healthy, I think Tyler Wiegers will likely see something like 15-20 snaps against North Texas. If CJB gets murdered because of the offensive line… well, I don’t even want to think about this.
Horace E. Cow: 100. At least one ill-advised Beathard read option will result in him missing some time.
hawk6894: 20. Anything more than that and I’m switching to turpentine. Wiegers sees mop up duty against North Texas and that one Big Ten blowout that tricks people in to thinking this offense can work.
HFMR: A non-zero single digit integer. I’d say we’re looking at roughly 7 snaps during the last drive against North Texas. 5 handoffs, a 3-yard pass and a kneel down.
Patrick: Iowa runs about 65 plays per game, so I’m going to say 130. I don’t think the offensive line has a prayer of keeping Beathard healthy for the entire season, and so Wiegers will get at least one start and plenty of time replacing a banged-up Beathard.
PSD: There was a time you could point to the schedule and see mop-up minutes. There may be only one game like that this year and that’s North Texas. It’s the last non-con before Wisconsin so maybe Weigers gets some snaps there. I’ll go with 30.
FightForIowa: One thing Iowa actually did last year was beat the bottom tier of the B1G by decent final margins. That could lead to a few snaps for Tyler Wiegers through out the season… But I don’t see too much of that. Baring injury, I’ll go with 25-30.
Will Iowa fans miss Jake Rudock?
Adam: Not unless Beathard gets injured. Iowa fans saw two full years of Rudock. He’s a known quantity, and it was mostly a substandard quantity. If Rudock outperforms Beathard this year, it’ll likely be more of a referendum on Iowa’s and Michigan’s coaching staffs than on their quarterbacks.
Mike: Do Iowa fans miss James Vandenberg?
Ross: I honestly don’t think so. The only scenarios where I could see a significant portion of Iowa fans pining for Jake’s return are a Beathard injury or an extended run of terrible performances from Beathard. If he just can’t stop turning the ball over and making mental mistakes, I could see Iowa fans longing for the reliability of Rudock. But I think overall people are very excited to see what Beathard can do with the reins full-time.
Matthew: First of all, I’m grateful for Rudock’s time at Iowa. He was the ultimate team player and from what I observed, he gave it his all during his time as a Hawkeye. That being said, no, I don’t think Iowa fans are going to miss him. I think Rudock could have been a suitable quarterback in another system, under another coach, but I think Beathard is the better fit for Iowa’s system now. He gets the ball to his receivers quicker and he has the big play capability that can hopefully make Iowa’s offense look semi-explosive at times. Rudock just didn’t have that. I do wish Jake the best of luck at Michigan, though. If he does win the starting job, I’m sure I will be watching Michigan games a lot closer than I ever have before.
Horace E. Cow: In the sense that Beathard will not solve all of the problems Iowa had on offense last year, yes, there will be some "grass is always greener" pining for Rudock.
hawk6894: Yes. They won’t miss the dump-off passes to the RB on 3rd-and-10 or the numerous receivers running uncovered down the seam, but they will miss some of the consistency and efficiency. Plus, who is going to be the scapegoat now for Iowa’s middling offense? Greg Davis? I don’t think so.
HFMR: Only if he owes them money.
Patrick: Absolutely, because if there’s two things Iowa fans love, it’s a backup quarterback and the guy they let get away. The narrative changes have already begun, and will only get worse if Rudock is successful at Michigan or Beathard struggles. The vitriol directed at Rudock last season, most of it undeserved, will be completely forgotten the second that Beathard checks down to a two-yard out route or throws a horrible interception to the sideline.
PSD: Nope. They’ll tune into to every Michigan game and it’ll be like he never left.
FightForIowa: If they do, they won’t admit it. But I think yes. Having a reliable backup would be comforting, and honestly that guy was pretty good in the clutch. The Nebraska game left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, but he consistently led Iowa on 4th quarter drive to take the lead or tie the game.
With Mark Weisman gone there’s a open completion at running back again. LeShun Daniels may be listed as the starter now. But when it is all said and done, who will have the most rushing yards?
Adam: The coaching staff has rarely gone to RB-by-committee by choice, and Daniels looks like he’s in shape to tote the rock 20 times a game. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe Canzeri can be a feature back over the grind of a Big Ten season, and no indication that the staff wants Wadley in that role yet. So if Daniels stays healthy he’s the prohibitive favorite here.
Mike: Canzeri. I think this is the year that Canzeri finally stays healthy. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Daniels and how much he’s progressed this season but in all honesty I wasn’t terribly impressed with his performances last season. He seems…slow. Wadley will be used appropriately on third down situations and LeShun will get the ball when you need some hard-nosed yards, but it will be Canzeri who carries Iowa’s rushing attack.
Ross: I think it will be LeShun. I think Wadley and Mitchell will probably have a few nice flashes – enough to get people wondering why they don’t see the ball more – and I think Canzeri will break a few big plays for Iowa. But if Daniels is able to stay healthy, I think it’s a lock that he’ll end up with the most rushing yards. Iowa doesn’t really do time-shares at running back if Ferentz can help it; if Daniels can handle a 20-25 carry a game load, he’s going to get it. And if he does, he’ll lead the team in rushing yards – by default, if nothing else.
Matthew: I’m going to go with Daniels just because he is the big, physical type of back that Ferentz really seems to favor since the days of Shonn Greene. He may not be the most efficient running back in terms of yards per carry, but I do think he will get the majority of the carries in 2015, which should get him the bulk of the yards.
Horace E. Cow: Somehow, Mark Weisman.
More seriously, Jordan Canzeri
hawk6894: I would trust Daniels more if he could stay healthy (Damn you AIRBHG!), so I’m going with Jordan Canzieri, who was the lone bright spot in last year’s bowl disaster and has always seemed to be on the cusp of breaking out.
HFMR I’m going to stick with Daniels. He’s built like a brick shithouse, and as long as he’s getting the early down work it’s not like this coaching staff is big on playing a bunch of different guys in specialized roles to fit their specific strengths. If "thunder and lightning" was ever going to be a thing, it would have happened last year when thunder was running outside zones at three yards a clip.
Patrick: LeShun Daniels, because Canzeri can’t stay healthy and Kirk is afraid of everyone else donating the football to charity. Daniels has the size to take the punishment and the mentality to avoid it when needed. He’s probably more likely to be upright in November than anyone else on the depth chart, and he’ll get the majority of carries until something significant changes the gameboard.
PSD: Adam Cox.
FightForIowa: Since I went with 2006 as my comparison year, I’ll go with this… LeShun = Albert Young and Canzeri = Damien Sims. And while Sims didn’t actually have more yards than Young, he was close thanks to the long runs he’d break off. (Remember 2005, when he averaged 10 yards a pop?) Anyway, I think that can be Canzeri. He might not get the majority of the carries, but can make up for it with explosive plays.
COMING IN PART TWO: Which freshman receiver has caught our fancy? How scary is the offensive line situation? What kind of numbers is the Canadian Missile going to put up? Which senior makes The Leap? How good will the secondary be? And, oh yeah, what will Iowa's final record be?