|The 2008 football season is almost upon us. It has been a long and painful offseason since that epic loss to Western Michigan back in November prematurely ended Iowa’s 2007 season, but with every fall each season starts anew. Now with kickoff almost 24 hours away, let’s take a look at eight things to watch for on Saturday as the Hawkeyes face off against Maine.|
1. The Quarterback Situation
Rumors were swirling early this week that the Hawkeyes may have a new signal caller starting on Saturday, but those rumors were squashed on Tuesday when Kirk Ferentz released the two-deeps and Jake Christensen was listed as the starter. Ferentz did say however that Rick Stanzi will see action. What will be interesting to see is when Stanzi comes into the game and how many snaps he will actually receive. One thing is for sure, the battle for the starting QB position was very even towards the end of fall practice and if Jake shows as much inconsistency and inaccuracy this season as he did last, Coach Ferentz appears ready to make a change.
2. Offensive Line improvement?
Much of Iowa’s offensive struggles last year can be attributed to offensive line play, or lack thereof. Not only did the Hawkeyes finish last in the Big Ten in yards per carry last season, but the O-Line also gave up 46 sacks. It’s hard to have much success on offense without any protection or any consistent running game. This year’s unit will feature returning starters Kyle Calloway and Seth Olsen along with Rob Bruggeman at center and Bryan Bulaga making his first start at left tackle on Saturday. Left guard will rotate between Andy Kuempel and Rafael Eubanks to start the season, but expect Dan Doering to also get into the mix once he returns from injury. Whether those guys up front show any improvement this year could be the key to success for Iowa this season.
3. Shonn Greene is back
After missing all of last season due to academic issues, Iowa fans will get to officially welcome Shonn Greene back to the offense on Saturday. It will be very interesting to see whether Greene shows some rust from his year absence or whether we see the same back that showed so much promise as a freshman and sophomore for the Hawkeyes. With JuCo transfer Nate Guillory recently leaving the team, the rest of the running backs on the roster are very young and inexperienced, and Greene will bear most of the responsibility this year for bringing Iowa’s running game back to respectability.
4. Amari Spievey
Another Hawkeye returning to the program after academic troubles is sophomore cornerback Amari Spievey. After spending a season at Iowa Central Community College, Spievey is back and quickly earned a starting spot on defense during fall practice beating out returning starter Jordan Bernstein. A lot has been made of Spievey’s playmaking ability that he showed at Iowa Central. In his one season in Fort Dodge, Spievey intercepted seven passes, returning one for a touchdown, returned two kick-offs back for scores, and blocked five punts. Obviously playing for Iowa Central is nothing like playing in the Big Ten, but Spievey has a knack for creating big plays and could be a guy on defense that brings fans in Kinnick Stadium to their feet this year.
5. New faces at Linebacker
A.J. Edds is back to head up the Linebackers this season and will have some new faces playing beside him. Sophomore Jeremiha Hunter is slated to start on the other side of the field with Jacody Coleman listed as the starter at MLB. Coleman is listed as #1 on the depth chart, but you can expect to see a lot of junior Pat Angerer on the field as well. Those four guys will try to carry on the tradition of outstanding linebacker play set by the likes of former greats Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge, and others.
6. Kicking duties
Sophomore Daniel Murray will be handling the kickoffs on Saturday, but kicking duties beyond that are still up in the air. Tuesday Ferentz was unwilling to say whether Murray or true freshman Trent Mossbrucker will be handling field goals and PAT’s. This shouldn’t be too pressing of an issue against Maine, but looking ahead with an offense not expected to light up the scoreboard this season, every field goal attempt will be very important.
7. Three letters: D.J.K.
Everyone’s favorite acronym, sophomore Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, will be starting at wide receiver and returning kick-offs for the Hawkeyes this season. Once touted as the best high school recruit from the state of Ohio by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, and one would think he’d know a little bit about Ohio football, DJK showed flashes of greatness last year as a true freshman. His one-handed touchdown catch against Wisconsin was one of those special plays that catapulted DJK to star status among Hawkeye fans. Now with a year of experience under his belt and a starting spot, fans will be watching and hoping this year will be a breakout season for the man known as DJK.
8. The Boom!
Are you ready?