- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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Big Ten media days arrive in just less than two weeks on July 28. But we can hardly wait for the event and the season to arrive, so we’ll get you ready in the coming days by identifying three pressing questions that each league squad will face at media days, along with their possible answers.
Next up on the list is Iowa, which is bringing left tackle Brandon Scherff, defensive tackle Carl Davis and running back Mark Weisman along with coach Kirk Ferentz to talk about a program looking to compete for a title in the West Division.
1. Are the Hawkeyes legitimate contenders in the league?
No team is going to rule itself out of the race before the season even begins, so an affirmative response from the Hawkeyes should come as no surprise. But after largely spending the last few years outside of the spotlight and with relatively modest expectations, Iowa will be generating a decent amount of attention as a dark-horse pick to compete in the remodeled divisional lineup this fall. The Hawkeyes might have been undervalued for what they accomplished during an eight-win campaign in 2013, and just how strongly they make their case as potential contenders could speak volumes about how much confidence there is in Iowa City.
2. Is there a possible No. 1 draft pick anchoring the line?
Even with returning stars such as Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Ohio State's Braxton Miller around to headline the event, Scherff could wind up stealing the most attention in Chicago. There's already growing hype about the lofty draft projections for the senior lineman after he decided to come back for one more season with Iowa, and that decision will likely bring several questions about why he elected to put off a move to the next level. Scherff will no doubt have several chances to address that matter and his draft stock, and at the same time he might provide a useful advertisement for Ferentz and the program on the value of sticking around at Iowa.
3. Can the defense reload?
Replacing the experience of a group of linebackers with more than 100 collective starts is no small challenge. And considering the amount of production Iowa received from Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens and James Morris as they combined for more than 1,000 tackles during their careers, the task only looks more daunting. Iowa thrived last season in no small part because they allowed less than 19 points per game and finished second in the Big Ten in total defense, so finding replacements for those veteran linebackers is going to be critical -- not to mention what appears to be open competition for a couple starting jobs in the secondary. Having a proven veteran up front in Davis is certainly a nice foundation, and he could provide an early assessment of the new faces around him in the lineup ahead of training camp.
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4dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information