Three keys for Iowa in 2015
In what many feel is a make-or-break year in the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa will look to get back to nine wins for the first time since the Orange Bowl run in 2009. Here’s what the Hawkeyes have to do to return to the Big Ten’s elite.
In C.J. we trust
Ferentz caused quite the stir in Iowa City this winter when he announced that C.J. Beathard would be his guy in 2015, and not two-year starter Jake Rudock. As a result, Rudock transferred to Michigan for his fifth year and is eligible to play right away for Jim Harbaugh. Ferentz made a bold move, and now it’s up to the Hawkeyes to rally around their new signal-caller. Iowa has a rare mobile threat at the position now, one which could open the offense up more than years past. Reports out of Iowa City were that the junior showed a better understanding of the system and that his development surpassed Rudock’s. Ferentz put a lot on the line rolling with a quarterback with one career start compared to 25. The confident Beathard will have no shortage of expectations to live up to.
Find new short-yardage option
Nothing about Mark Weisman’s game was flashy. It’s hard to believe that he only ran for 3.8 yard per carry in 2014, but the three-year starter was as reliable as it came in the trenches. The 240-pound Chicago suburbs native will be playing on Sundays this year, which means Iowa will have to find a feature back that can do the dirty work. That won’t come easy, especially without Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff to pave the way. Fifth-year senior Jordan Canzeri, who started for Iowa as a true freshman back in the 2011 Insight Bowl, figures to have a bigger role again after injuries prevented him from staying atop the depth chart. But he came into camp listed behind LeShun Daniels Jr., who fits better into the power back system. Perhaps a combination of the two will be the only way to replace Weisman’s 32 career touchdowns.
Iowa simply made too many fourth quarter mistakes last year. Four of their five regular season losses were by seven points or less. The Hawkeyes blew two-possession leads at home to lowly Iowa State, at Maryland and at home against Nebraska in the regular season finale. Fittingly, Iowa closed the season with losses in five of its last seven. Every losing team in the country says, “We were this close to nine wins.” In Iowa’s case, that’s actually true. Forcing more turnovers — an area Iowa was second to last in the Big Ten — would help turn that around. The Hawkeye secondary returns Desmond King, Jordan Lomax and Greg Mabin and should be even better this year. Ferentz built his Iowa foundation on defense. For the Hawkeyes to rise above mediocrity, they’ll have to hold true on the back end — for 60 minutes.