- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's time to pass out season grades for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Iowa leaned heavily on its offense for much of the season and received tremendous production at home until the final Kinnick Stadium contest against Michigan State. The Hawkeyes' big three of running back Marcus Coker, wide receiver Marvin McNutt and quarterback James Vandenberg all were among the most productive Big Ten players at their respective positions. Iowa averaged 36.7 points at home through its first six contests. The unit's problems occurred away from Iowa City as the Hawkeyes scored just three points at Penn State and seven at Nebraska, while failing to capitalize on Coker's huge performance in a second consecutive loss to Minnesota. McNutt capped a record-setting career with an exceptional senior season, but the unit's inconsistent performances mirrored those of the team.
After losing three linemen to the NFL draft plus two multiyear starters at safety, Iowa's defense appeared to be very much in rebuilding mode this season. The Hawkeyes finished in the lower half of the Big Ten in points allowed, yards allowed and rush yards allowed, and last in pass defense. Linemen Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels had their moments and several defensive backs made big plays, but Iowa had nowhere near the depth and consistency it needed to make strides on defense this season. A new coordinator will step in following the Insight Bowl as Norm Parker retires, and players in all three levels of the defense will need to make strides.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Iowa has had better years in the kicking game, although there were some bright spots like the punting unit, which finished second in the league in net average (38.2 yards). Kicker Mike Meyer connected on 14 of 20 field-goal attempts, and Iowa finished in the lower half of the Big Ten in kickoff coverage, kickoff returns and punt returns. Jordan Bernstine averaged 24.4 yards on kick returns.
Iowa's inconsistent season reflected a team trying to rebuild after losing a talented core of players from the 2010 squad. Despite the personnel losses, the Hawkeyes had a favorable schedule and were pegged by many to win eight or nine games. The team's struggles away from home resulted in a second consecutive 7-5 campaign, although this season wasn't nearly as disappointing as 2010. Iowa tries to finish with its fourth consecutive bowl win as it faces Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl.
It's time to pass out season grades for the Iowa Hawkeyes.OFFENSE: BIowa leaned heavily on its offense for much of the season and received tremendous production at home until the final Kinnick Stadium contest against Michigan State.