Big Ten: Pat Angerer
Have a great weekend.
Patrick from Alexandria, Virginia, writes: It's been disappointing to read your constant sniping at the Big Ten's expansion into the Northeast. For example, in reporting on the successful conclusion of major cable contracts in Maryland and New Jersey you opened with: "Whether Big Ten football truly creates a presence on the East Coast remains to be seen." Well, the future always remains to be seen, so you are right in a trite way. But there's plenty of evidence of a presence, already. For example, season-ticket sales are up by about 40 percent at Rutgers and 60 percent at Maryland since 2012. I can report there's a big buzz about the coming visits from PSU, OSU, U-M, MSU, UW, Iowa, Nebraska and really the whole Big Ten. Isn't it time to come to terms with the fact that Rutgers and Maryland will be members within days, and leave the grousing behind?
Adam Rittenberg: Patrick, thanks for checking in, especially about the mood in the Northeast about the Big Ten's arrival. I'm looking forward to visiting New York and Washington later this summer to take the temperature myself. Yes, it remains to be seen how this plan works out, and it is a gamble because the Northeast hasn't been a hotbed of college football interest. There's still risk involved, and not to acknowledge it is naive. But I agree that the grousing has become a bit tired, and I've probably engaged in it too much at times. The bottom line is Maryland and Rutgers are coming. They'll be official Big Ten members on Tuesday and we'll have plenty of coverage then.
One thing I've always believed is that the Big Ten's existing product/presence looms large here. Part of those season-ticket increases can be attributed to current Big Ten fans opening their wallets. I definitely sense the buzz from Rutgers fans. Maryland fans, we haven't heard from you very much. What's your excitement level?
Rittenberg: Jeff, I agree that Iowa's recruiting approach fits the culture of the program under Ferentz. But to suggest every elite recruit is self-indulged misses the mark. At the very least, it's a sweeping generalization. Iowa doesn't have to pursue every five-star recruit from the South and West, but there are enough players living in those states who could fit what Iowa is all about and succeed in Hawkeye uniforms. To be so Midwest-focused, rather than striking a balance and spending some time in other regions, might lead to missing out on a talent upgrade.
Rittenberg: Wisconsin undoubtedly would be considered, cheese and all. It's the major state institution with a strong academic reputation. Obvious choice. Michigan State, as currently constructed, also would be a strong candidate, despite Michigan's presence. Northwestern would be an interesting case. The Big Ten loves Northwestern's location and elite academic reputation, but it's a smaller private school with not much tradition in the major sports. If the league was OK without a private, academically elite member, Northwestern likely wouldn't make the cut.
Rittenberg: I agree Wisconsin has a very realistic chance of reaching Indianapolis. But I can name 20-25 teams that look better on paper than the Badgers do at this point. They're not a playoff candidate. Could become one, but not one right now. That was my point in the post. I also think expecting to win 10 or more games simply with great running backs and a solid offensive line -- I think this line will be good, not great -- could be wishful thinking. There has to be some passing threat, and the defense needs more reliable pieces in the front seven as the secondary remains a bit vulnerable.
Rittenberg: Travis, Iowa's decorated 2005 class is fascinating because there were hits and misses and some of the less-heralded recruits -- Pat Angerer, Shonn Greene, Marshal Yanda -- turned out to be the best players. But I agree with your general point: It's fine for Iowa to continue to find the overlooked, developmental types in the state and the region. But there's no reason why Iowa shouldn't pursue higher-rated prospects both locally and nationally, and sell its program as one that will get you to the NFL.
Asked if the current squad reminds him of any in his past, Ferentz's answer likely will bring smiles to the faces of Hawkeye fans.
"Some parallels to the '08 season," he told ESPN.com last week. "Not exactly the same, but that's a team that never really worried about what was being said about them. We were coming off of two non-bowl years, and we were 3-3 that year. We were 4-3 this year and people weren't exactly throwing roses at us or anything like that. Both those teams stayed focused on improving and what was in front of it.
"It turned out a little bit better than people anticipated."
After a 4-8 clunker in 2012, Ferentz's worst record since his second season in 2000, Iowa entered the fall with myriad questions. A quarterback who had never taken a snap in a college game would lead an offense that finished 114th nationally in yards and 111th in scoring last season. Injuries had plagued the running back spot for years, the receivers seemed unexceptional and the defensive line had few proven players.
Ferentz brought in three new assistants, completing a staff overhaul that began with the retirement of longtime defensive coordinator Norm Parker after the 2011 season.
"We've been through a little bit of a transition here as a program," Ferentz said. "It hasn't been seamless. There's a process to that, too, but everybody’s more comfortable with where they're at, who we are, what we're doing, and that reflected with our players."
Sophomore Jake Rudock stabilized the quarterback spot, AIRBHG steered clear of a power run game led by junior Mark Weisman and the offensive line, considered a strength before the season, performed to expectations. Seven players have 12 or more receptions and five have multiple touchdown catches.
Iowa's underrated defense has been the biggest difference, as linebackers James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens have led a unit ranked seventh nationally in yards allowed (303.2 ypg) and 11th in points allowed (18.8 ppg).
"They've just been exemplary," Ferentz said.
In 2008, Ricky Stanzi emerged to take control at quarterback, while Shonn Greene won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back. Like the current team, the 2008 squad had excellent linebacker play with Pat Angerer, A.J. Edds and Jeremiha Hunter.
Although the 2008 Hawkeyes had a better signature win (against No. 3 Penn State) than the current team, it also lost to an Illinois squad that ended up going 5-7. Iowa's four losses this season came against ranked teams, and Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois have a combined record of 45-6.
When Ferentz mentions parallels with 2008, the natural inclination is to think Iowa could continue on the same path. Iowa went 11-1 in 2009 and ended the season on a podium at the Orange Bowl, celebrating a championship as Stanzi told a national television audience what they can do if they don't love America.
While you couldn't blame Hawkeyes fans for assessing Rudock's level of patriotism, Ferentz prefers to live in the moment.
"Whatever good happened in '08 wasn't going to help us in '09," he said. "The credit goes to our players. We're sitting there at 4-3 not that long ago and there weren't many people talking about us going to a nice bowl game.
"Most people wrote it off. Fortunately, our players never did."
Here's a tip: Don't take this year's version too seriously.
Iowa will have no shortage of position battles when preseason camp begins in August. The three-man quarterback race between Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard will get most of the attention, but Iowa is unsettled at spots like wide receiver, right guard, defensive end and cornerback. The Hawkeyes return several familiar names at running back, and the competition there should be spirited.
Eventually, Ferentz will fill out a depth chart for the Aug. 31 opener against Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium. He'll do so in pencil.
"When you go 4-8, there aren't a lot of incumbents," Ferentz told ESPN.com this week. "I'm not a big one for incumbents anyway, but everybody's got a chance to compete. In fairness to our team, at every position, we'll make those decisions as we go along in August."
Iowa officially returns six offensive starters and eight defensive starters from 2012, including all three linebackers and Mark Weisman at running back. But the Hawkeyes are looking for difference- makers to emerge on both sides of the ball, as they hope to spark a passing attack that ranked 99th nationally in 2012 and a pass rush that struggled for much of the fall (113th nationally in sacks, 105th in tackles for loss).
Although preseason camp should provide some clues, the true answers might not come until the games begin. The Hawkeyes who start against Northern Illinois might not be the same ones who start the Big Ten opener Sept. 28 at Minnesota.
Ferentz, always prepared with a historical reference, recalled the 2008 season -- the start of Iowa's mini renaissance -- when quarterback Ricky Stanzi and linebacker Pat Angerer didn't emerge as starters until late September. Stanzi and Angerer played key roles as Iowa went 17-3 between Oct. 11, 2008, and the end of the 2009 season.
"I could see a lot of that going on with our team right now," Ferentz said. "We're a young team. The quarterback [race] is prominent because that's what any guy on the street is going to ask about, but we have a lot of those situations on our football team right now, a lot of different positions where we have some interesting competition."
In 2008, Ohio State had linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. In 2009, Iowa had defensive end Adrian Clayborn and linebacker Pat Angerer, while Penn State countered with defensive tackle Jared Odrick and linebacker NaVorro Bowman. In 2011, Nebraska had the league's top linebacker (Lavonte David) and the league's top defensive back (cornerback Alfonzo Dennard). Last season also featured standout tandems at Illinois, Wisconsin and other spots.
There's no shortage of choices. Wisconsin returns the Home Improvement tandem of Tim Mike Taylor and Al Chris Borland, who combined for 293 tackles, four interceptions and eight forced fumbles in 2011. Michigan State's defense is led by end William Gholston and cornerback Johnny Adams, both of whom could be first-round draft picks in April. Penn State brings back first-team All-Big Ten linebacker Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill, one of the league's top interior linemen. Purdue has the league's top defensive tackle back in the fold (Kawann Short), along with an experienced playmaking cornerback (Ricardo Allen). Illinois has a nice track record of producing defensive stars, and linebacker Jonathan Brown and end Michael Buchanan could be next in line.
The poll only affords us five options, so several potentially good tandems (Iowa's James Morris and Christian Kirksey) didn't make the cut. Some teams have one proven defensive standout (i.e. Ohio State's John Simon) but need a second to step forward. Still, the list is filled with familiar names who earned significant accolades in 2011.
Here's your chance to vote. Should be an interesting result.
- An interesting look at Big Ten recruiting, past and present, from The (Champaign) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen.
- Ohio State looks to add another quarterback to its 2011 class, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Former Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer voices his support for Kirk Ferentz, Chris Doyle and the coaching staff. Ferentz's statement Sunday seemed to absolve players of blame, but an explanation is still necessary, Dave Curtis writes in The Sporting News.
- Ryne Reeves' long wait to sign with Nebraska is nearly over, Rich Kaipust writes in the Omaha World-Herald.
- Illinois is bringing in a large and locally based recruiting class, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune. Recruiting is once again a strong point for Illinois, GateHouse News Service's John Supinie writes.
- Former Penn State star Mike Munchak, a candidate for the Tennessee Titans job, would be a good choice to replace JoePa, statecollege.com's Mike Poorman writes. The Lions load up on linemen in their 2011 class, Frank Bodani writes in the York Daily Record.
- Michigan State and Michigan are bringing in comparable recruiting classes, Pat Caputo writes in The Daily Tribune. Offensive lineman Kyle Lints passed up scholarship offers to walk on at Michigan State.
- A look at how the Air Force-Michigan game in 2012 came to pass, annarbor.com's Pete Bigelow writes.
- New Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is dealing with a shortage of scholarship players, Sid Hartman writes in the Star Tribune.
- Wisconsin will learn Jacoby Brissett's decision on Wednesday, the Miami Herald reports.
In compiling these lists, I tried to look at positions that have depth issues for 2011 and/or 2012.
Let's start off with the Legends division.
Running back: Marcus Coker's breakout performance in the Insight Bowl got Iowa fans excited for the future, but there's still a significant depth issue here. If Adam Robinson can't get reinstated, the Hawkeyes will be looking for No. 2 and No. 3 options behind Coker. As we've seen the past two seasons, freshmen backs will see the field at Iowa.
Linebacker: Iowa felt the losses of Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds this season, and it must continue to rebuild the depth at the three linebacker spots. Multiyear starter Jeremiha Hunter departs along with players like Jeff Tarpinian and Troy Johnson. Iowa needs to build around rising star James Morris.
Wide receiver/tight end: Iowa loses Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Allen Reisner and Colin Sandeman this year. Also, receiver Marvin McNutt and tight end Brad Herman depart after the 2011 season. Although the Hawkeyes boast young talent at both positions, they need to build depth with this class.
Secondary: The Wolverines couldn't find many answers here in 2010, and though the return of players like cornerbacks Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd will help, there are opportunities for freshmen to make an immediate impact. Michigan simply needs more options at both secondary spots in 2011.
Defensive line: It's crucial for coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison to begin building depth up front. Future NFL player Mike Martin departs after 2011 along with Ryan Van Bergen, so Michigan needs to solidify both line positions.
Kicker: Field goals were an adventure in 2010, and Michigan simply can't have so much uncertainty at kicker going forward. The Wolverines need a reliable leg here ASAP.
Linebacker: I like some of the young linebackers the Spartans bring back in 2011, but you can't overlook the losses of multiyear starters Greg Jones and Eric Gordon, not to mention reserve Jon Misch. Michigan State should have a decent group of first-string 'backers, but wants to build depth in the defensive midsection.
Offensive line: Not only do the Spartans lose three starters from the 2010 line, but they're still not where they need to be depth-wise up front to become a consistent top-tier Big Ten program. Michigan State wants to become like Iowa and Wisconsin. The big step is to keep fortifying both lines, especially on the offensive side.
Pass rusher: Minnesota finished last in the Big Ten in sacks last season (9) and hasn't had an intimidating pass rusher since Willie VanDeSteeg in 2008. The recent departure of defensive tackle Jewhan Edwards, who led the team in both sacks and tackles for loss in 2009, underscores this need.
Offensive line: The Gophers lose three starters up front, and while they boast some promising young linemen like tackle Ed Olson, the depth just isn't there yet. Minnesota's best teams had powerful offensive lines, and new coach Jerry Kill must continue to create competition up front.
Running back: The Huskers lose standout Roy Helu Jr., and while Rex Burkhead quickly will become one of my favorite Big Ten players, he might not be an every-down back for Nebraska going forward. You always want options in the backfield, and Nebraska must continue to address its run game with the 2011 class.
Wide receiver: Nebraska loses Niles Paul and wants to identify playmakers to surround Taylor Martinez or whomever starts at quarterback. Brandon Kinnie departs after the 2011 season, and while Burkhead helps in the receiving department, Nebraska needs others to emerge.
Running back: Although Mike Trumpy and Adonis Smith emerged as possible answers late in the 2010 season, Northwestern needs to create real competition here. The Wildcats have lacked a dominant back during the Pat Fitzgerald era and need a dangerous rushing option to complement Dan Persa.
Defensive line: The Wildcats lose only one starter (Corbin Bryant) from the 2010 squad, but four more rotation players (Vince Browne, Jack DiNardo, Kevin Watt and Niko Mafuli) depart after 2011. Fortifying the pass rush is a major priority going forward.
Where did Iowa's crunch-time mojo go?
It's a question that haunts coach Kirk Ferentz and his players as they endured a very disappointing 2010 campaign. Iowa blew fourth-quarter leads in all four of its Big Ten losses and allowed late touchdowns in all five of its defeats. A senior-laden team seemed to lose its magic touch and never regained it.
The most puzzling thing about Iowa is that unlike last year's squad, the 2010 Hawkeyes looked dominant at times. They crushed teams like Iowa State and Penn State and delivered a 37-6 knockout of then-No. 5 Michigan State on Oct. 30. It seemed like the Hawkeyes would be rolling after stomping the Spartans, but instead they backslid throughout the month of November, squeaking out a win at Indiana before dropping their final three games.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi had Heisman Trophy-caliber numbers for most of the season and avoided the major mistakes that dogged him throughout 2009. But like his teammates, Stanzi wasn't immune from the late-game struggles this fall. Iowa's defense dominated for stretches but didn't have quite the production it expected from the front four and really missed linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds as well as cornerback Amari Spievey. Perhaps most surprising were Iowa's problems on special teams, which surfaced in the losses to both Arizona and Wisconsin.
Offensive MVP: Ricky Stanzi. Stanzi improved in every major statistical category except the one that he cares about the most -- win-loss record. The senior passed for 2,804 yards with 25 touchdown strikes and only four interceptions, ranking 11th nationally in quarterback rating (160.5). After tossing 15 interceptions in 2009, four of which were returned for touchdowns, Stanzi had just two picks and 19 touchdown passes through the first two months of the 2010 season. Running back Adam Robinson merits a mention here.
Defensive MVP: Adrian Clayborn. He didn't have the dominant senior season many had expected, but No. 94 brought a formidable presence to the defensive line. Clayborn commanded double-teams and allowed teammates like Karl Klug and Mike Daniels to rack up numbers. Clayborn finished the season with seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries, a blocked kick and a forced fumble. Daniels, safety Tyler Sash cornerback Shaun Prater merit mentions here.
Turning point: Iowa opened Big Ten play at 2-0 and had a banged-up Wisconsin team on the ropes Oct. 23 at Kinnick Stadium. But the Badgers shocked Iowa with a fake punt deep in Wisconsin territory and went on to score the go-ahead touchdown. Ferentz botched the time management in the final seconds as Iowa fell 31-30. Another turning point arrived Nov. 13, as Iowa squandered a 17-7 fourth-quarter lead against nemesis Northwestern and fell 21-17.
What's next: The Hawkeyes will try to regroup and send their decorated senior class out with a win in the Insight Bowl against Missouri. Despite being in bordering states, the two schools haven't met since 1910. Iowa has won back-to-back bowls and really could use a win before an offseason of retooling on both sides of the ball begins.
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes boast two of the Big Ten's top 10 linebackers in Ross Homan and Brian Rolle, and they also have good depth. Homan might have been the league's most underrated defender in 2009 after tying for fourth in the league in interceptions (five) and finishing eighth in tackles (8.3 per game). Rolle makes up for his lack of size with speed and explosiveness. Ohio State's supporting cast includes Etienne Sabino, Andrew Sweat, Dorian Bell and others.
2. Michigan State: Back-to-back Big Ten preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones enters the season as the frontrunner to win the Butkus Award. But he's not alone on what should be a loaded linebacking corps. All-Big Ten candidate Eric Gordon has played a ton of football alongside Jones, and the coaches were pleased with Chris Norman this spring. Hopes are extremely high for true freshmen William Gholston, the Big Ten's top-rated recruit, and Max Bullough. It's clear to see why the Spartans are moving closer to the 3-4.
3. Wisconsin: Health remains a concern, as Mike Taylor's knee problems will linger and Chris Borland comes off of shoulder surgery, but Wisconsin has plenty of talent here. Borland is a rare, do-everything player who won Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2009. Taylor likely would have contended for the same award if not for a torn ACL against Iowa. The Badgers also bring back Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen.
4. Northwestern: As a College Football Hall of Fame linebacker, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald loves the look of this group. Senior Quentin Davie is a bona fide NFL prospect who has consistently reached the offensive backfield throughout his career. Middle linebacker Nate Williams enters his third year as the starter, and the coaches have solid options in Bryce McNaul, Ben Johnson and David Nwabuisi. Fitzgerald says this is the most linebacker depth Northwestern has had in his tenure.
5 (tie). Iowa and Penn State: These teams combine to lose five All-Big Ten 'backers from 2009, including first-team selections Pat Angerer (Iowa) and Navorro Bowman (Penn State). But both have historically reloaded at linebacker, and this year should be no different. Iowa's Jeremiha Hunter returns for his third year as a starter, and Jeff Tarpinian and Tyler Nielsen are primed for bigger roles. Troy Johnson and Bruce Davis are two other names to watch, and hopes are high for freshman James Morris. Penn State loses all three starters, but Nate Stupar and Bani Gbadyu have played a lot of football. Michael Mauti's return from an ACL injury and Penn State's strong recruiting at linebacker also elevate hope for the group.
Next up: Secondary
More rankings ...
What's new: The offensive line certainly has a new look after the departures of Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Dace Richardson and Rafael Eubanks. Iowa will be breaking in a new right tackle, most likely Markus Zusevics, and the center spot is up for grabs between Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz. The only other spot that gets a major overhaul is linebacker, as standouts Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds both depart. Iowa is one of only 11 FBS programs to return its coaching staff fully intact for 2010.
Sidelined: Iowa enters camp relatively healthy, although linebacker Ross Petersen won't participate in full-contact drills for at least a week because of a torn pectoral muscle.
Key battle: The competition at center between Koeppel and Ferentz should be good, but Iowa really needs to identify a second starting cornerback opposite Shaun Prater. Amari Spievey leaves a huge void, and the Hawkeyes will be looking to players like Micah Hyde and Jordan Bernstine to step up. Bernstine missed all of last season with an ankle injury, but he played as a reserve in his first two seasons. The situation at running back also should be very interesting to watch during camp.
New on the scene: Iowa doesn't typically play many true freshmen, but heralded tight end recruit C.J. Fiedorowicz should see the field following the departure of standout Tony Moeaki. Homegrown product A.J. Derby is a very interesting young prospect, but indications suggest he'll redshirt this fall.
Back in the fold: Jewel Hampton entered last summer as the projected successor to All-American Shonn Greene at running back, but a series of knee problems ended his season before it began. Hampton is back in the fold but must beat out Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher for the starting job. He'll miss the season opener because of a suspension, but we should finally see Hampton's return in Week 2 against Iowa State.
Breaking out: Iowa opened up its passing attack last season and saw Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos emerge as legitimate deep threats in the Big Ten. Johnson-Koulianos likely will finish as Iowa's all-time leading receiver, and McNutt averaged 19.8 yards per reception with eight touchdowns. Both players could have even bigger years in 2010. Along the defensive line, everyone knows about Adrian Clayborn, but watch out for Broderick Binns, Karl Klug and Christian Ballard, who should see increased opportunities to make plays this fall.
Quotable: "We tend to be a developmental team. We were 9-0 at one point last year, and we were a good team, we had played some great football, but we weren't a great team at that point. In January, we were a pretty good team. We really grew. So it's a race against time. I don't know where we stack up in that race right now." -- Head coach Kirk Ferentz
Pat Angerer, LB: Angerer was the heart and soul of Iowa's defense in 2009, racking up 145 tackles (sixth nationally), two forced fumbles and an interception. He earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors, first-team All-America honors from several outlets and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. Angerer always found himself around the football and had some of his best games (Penn State, Georgia Tech) against some of Iowa's better opponents.
Bryan Bulaga, LT: Despite missing three games in September with a thyroid condition, Bulaga won Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors and protected Ricky Stanzi's blind side. He started for two and a half seasons at left tackle/left guard and would have provided valuable experience for Iowa's line had he returns for his senior year. Bulaga earned first-team All-American honors from several outlets in 2009.
Adrian Clayborn, DE: Several opposing Big Ten coaches were shocked that Clayborn passed up the NFL draft for one more year in Iowa City. The consensus first-team All-Big Ten lineman could have a monster season in 2010 after recording 11.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, nine quarterback hurries and two blocked kicks. The Orange Bowl MVP should contend for national awards this fall as he tries to lead Iowa to a Big Ten championship.
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR: DJK isn't short on personality or big-time receiving numbers. He has led Iowa in receiving for three consecutive years and will take aim on two team receiving records this fall. Johnson-Koulianos needs only 31 receptions and 401 receiving yards to break Kevin Kasper's records. If Iowa continues to air it out with Stanzi, DJK should have a big year.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE: Iowa loses a very valuable piece in Tony Moeaki, a tight end who looked like an All-American at times last year. Fiedorowicz is Iowa's most decorated recruit and boasts tremendous size and athleticism. Iowa likes to feature multiple tight ends, and Fiedorowicz might be the perfect complement for Allen Reisner if he can improve his blocking.
A.J. Derby, QB: A heralded recruit who grew up right in Iowa City, Derby is already generating a ton of buzz among Hawkeyes fans. He was one of only two incoming freshmen to enroll early and go through spring practice. Although he's staying at quarterback for now, he has the skills to contribute in several ways. Derby is a great candidate to run the Wildcat or shake things up on offense with a special package of plays.
More revolving door ...
No. 22: Quentin Davie, LB, Northwestern, Sr., 6-4, 230
2009 numbers: Tied for 12th in the Big Ten in tackles (90); finished tied for fifth in the league in forced fumbles (4); has recorded 22 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 147 tackles and six passes defended in the past two seasons.
Most recent ranking: Unranked in the 2009 postseason player rankings.
Making the case for Davie: I include Davie in a fairly sizable group of Big Ten linebackers who were overlooked last season, in large part because Greg Jones, Navorro Bowman and Pat Angerer performed so well and hogged the hype (justifiably, I might add). Ohio State linebackers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle, who you'll see later in the rankings, also were part of this forgotten fraternity. But Davie shouldn't struggle to get noticed this year. NFL types are already inquiring about him as he prepares to enter his third season as a starter. Davie transformed his body before the 2009 season, adding mass to a big frame but not losing any speed. He responded with 90 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss, and recorded four forced fumbles and an interception. He'll anchor a linebacker corps that should be the strength of Northwestern's defense this fall.
2009 conference record: 6-2 (T-2nd)
Offense: 6, defense: 8, kicker/punter: 2
QB Ricky Stanzi, WR Marvin McNutt, WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, RB Adam Robinson, OT Riley Reiff, DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Karl Klug, DE Broderick Binns, S Tyler Sash
LT Bryan Bulaga, RT Kyle Calloway, TE Tony Moeaki, G Dace Richardson, C Rafael Eubanks, LB Pat Angerer, LB A.J. Edds, CB Amari Spievey
2009 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Adam Robinson* (834 yards)
Passing: Ricky Stanzi* (2,417 yards)
Receiving: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos* (750 yards)
Tackles: Pat Angerer (145)
Sacks: Adrian Clayborn* (11.5)
Interceptions: Tyler Sash* (6)
1. Man in the middle: Jeff Tarpinian emerged from spring ball as Iowa's starting middle linebacker, taking over for first-team All-Big Ten selection Pat Angerer. Tarpinian has big shoes to fill but boasts some experience and stepped up his play this spring. "I'm really pleased with his progress," head coach Kirk Ferentz said of Tarpinian.
2. Separation along O-line: Iowa's offensive line remains its No. 1 area of concern, but six players separated themselves this spring, which is a good sign. Along with returning starters Riley Reiff and Julian Vandervelde, right tackle Markus Zusevics and right guard Adam Gettis emerged as front-runners at their positions. Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz are neck-and-neck at the center spot, and the competition will continue in August.
3. Klug steps up: Adrian Clayborn is the defense's undisputed leader, but defensive tackle Karl Klug established himself as Clayborn's right-hand man this spring. Klug admits he's not the most vocal player, but his experience and attitude command respect on the field. "Karl played well in the fall," Kirk Ferentz said, "but if you surveyed any 10 of our players now, at least nine of them would tell you, maybe 10, that Karl Klug is one of our best leaders and one of our best players."
1. Running back: Iowa boasts depth at running back, but the No. 1 spot is very much up for grabs entering the summer. Robinson missed spring ball following shoulder surgery, Brandon Wegher sprained his shoulder during the spring and Jewel Hampton was held out of contact as he recovers from his knee injury. Iowa needs to keep these guys healthy in camp and figure out how the carries will work this fall.
2. O-line chemistry: The offensive line will be a major area to watch until the season opener and likely beyond. Iowa loses four players with starting experience and will lean heavily on Reiff and Vandervelde to lead the group. Just because the Hawkeyes have a strong record up front doesn't guarantee the line will reload, and Iowa knows it needs to keep Stanzi on the field after last season.
3. Kicking it: Ferentz said the kickers were inconsistent this spring, and Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker will continue to compete throughout fall camp. Murray connected on 19 of 26 field goal attempts last season but missed some chip shots, and Mossbrucker, the team's top kicker for most of 2008, has worked his way back into the mix.
As we all know, Ferentz won the award, his third after claiming the honor in both 2002 and 2004. Tressel amazingly has never won the award despite leading Ohio State to six Big Ten titles, a national title, seven BCS bowl appearances and a 59-13 mark in conference games since he took over as head coach in 2001.
Let the record show that I endorsed Ferentz for the 2009 award, though I wouldn't have made a fuss if it had gone to Tressel. I cited Iowa's ability to overcome a brutal road schedule and several key injuries as primary reasons why the award should go to Ferentz. Plus, Ferentz and his assistants regularly take average recruits and turn them into All-Big Ten performers.
"Ferentz had so many things working against him this season, namely a brutal road schedule and several unfortunate injuries. ... Ferentz readily admits Iowa isn't the most talented or deepest team in the Big Ten, but he and his assistants got the most out of the Hawkeyes this fall. ... Tressel deserves to win this award one of these seasons, and he did a great job turning things around after Purdue and worked his November magic yet again. I'd be happy for Tressel if he got the nod tonight, but the honor should go to Ferentz."
So how does the NFL draft change this, if at all?
Well, Iowa had six players drafted, including a first-round pick in left tackle Bryan Bulaga, a second-round pick in linebacker Pat Angerer, two third-round picks in cornerback Amari Spievey and tight end Tony Moeaki, and a fourth-round pick in linebacker A.J. Edds.
Ohio State, meanwhile, had its weakest draft in recent memory. The Buckeyes had no players drafted in the first three rounds and only one, outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, drafted before the seventh round.
The draft also mirrored the 2009 All-Big Ten selections, which included only two first-team selections from Ohio State (safety Kurt Coleman and guard Justin Boren) and five first-team selections from Iowa (Bulaga, Spievey, Angerer, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and safety Tyler Sash).
Despite having a weak senior class, at least according to NFL potential, and one of his least decorated teams at Ohio State, Tressel won another Big Ten title, not to mention a Rose Bowl championship.
Did he deserve the Coach of the Year Award over Ferentz?
I've heard plenty from both fan bases on this topic, and I'll attempt to summarize the viewpoints.
Ohio State fan argument: It's ridiculous Tressel has never won the award despite dominating the Big Ten since his arrival. Why should he get penalized for Ohio State recruiting well and being the preseason favorite all the time? Look at the 2009 season. Iowa had more than twice as many first-team All-Big Ten selections, and a much stronger NFL draft class. And Ohio State still beat the Hawkeyes head-to-head to win the Big Ten championship and then the Rose Bowl. This was one of Tressel's best coaching jobs, and if he can't win the award in a year like this one, he'll never get it. O-H!
Iowa fan argument: It's ridiculous that Tressel has never won Big Ten Coach of the Year, but Ferentz deserved the award in 2009, just like he did in 2002 and 2004. Look at where Iowa's recruiting classes rank next to Ohio State's year after year. Ferentz consistently does more with less talent, while Tressel wins the league because he has the most gifted recruits. It goes back to recruiting and player development, and a coach should be judged by what he does with players after they come under his watch.
Both sides bring up great points, and both coaches certainly did enough to deserve the award last fall.
I took a look at who was winning Coach of the Year in other conferences. Specifically, I wanted to see how often the award went to the coach from the dominant team, or the team that recruited the best.
- Pete Carroll won Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors three times during his dominant USC tenure. He claimed the award outright in 2006 and shared it with Washington State's Bill Doba in 2003 and UCLA's Karl Dorrell in 2005.
- Oklahoma's Bob Stoops has won Big 12 Coach of the Year four times, while Texas' Mack Brown won his second award last season. The Sooners and Longhorns have dominated the league in the last decade.
- Florida's Urban Meyer has never won SEC Coach of the Year, making him the closest parallel to Tressel. Nick Saban has won or shared the award three times, once with LSU and twice with Alabama.
- Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer won back-to-back ACC Coach of the Year awards in 2004 and 2005. Beamer and the Hokies have been the league's dominant team since moving over from the Big East.
This shows that dominant head coaches can win Coach of the Year awards in their leagues, although Tressel and Meyer both have been passed over.
Pretty much everyone agrees that Tressel deserves this award, but unless Ohio State takes a nosedive on the field or in recruiting, his drought likely will continue.
- Michigan DE Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles, No. 13 overall
- Iowa LT Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers, No. 23 overall
- Penn State DT Jared Odrick, Miami Dolphins, No. 28 overall
- Indiana LT Rodger Saffold, St. Louis Rams, No. 33 overall (first pick of Round 2)
- Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, No. 39 overall
- Penn State LB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys, No. 55 overall
- Purdue DT Mike Neal, Green Bay Packers, No. 56 overall
- Iowa LB Pat Angerer, Indianapolis Colts, No. 63 overall
- Iowa CB Amari Spievey, Detroit Lions, No. 66 overall
- Illinois G Jon Asamoah, Kansas City Chiefs, No. 68 overall
- Minnesota WR Eric Decker, Denver Broncos, No. 87 overall
- Penn State LB Navorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers, No. 91 overall
- Iowa TE Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs, No. 93 overall
- Northwestern DE Corey Wootton, Chicago Bears, No. 109 overall
- Ohio State DE/LB Thaddeus Gibson, Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 116 overall
- Wisconsin TE Garrett Graham, Houston Texans, No. 118 overall
- Iowa LB A.J. Edds, Miami Dolphins, No. 119 overall
- Northwestern QB Mike Kafka, Philadelphia Eagles, No. 122 overall
- Wisconsin DE/LB O'Brien Schofield, Arizona Cardinals, No. 130 overall
- Illinois TE Mike Hoomanawanui, St. Louis Rams, No. 132 (first pick of fifth round)
- Northwestern CB Sherrick McManis, Houston Texans, No. 144 overall
- Michigan P Zoltan Mesko, New England Patriots, No. 150 overall
- Penn State TE Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers, No. 154 overall
- Minnesota LB Nate Triplett, Minnesota Vikings, No. 167 overall
- No Big Ten players selected
- Penn State TE Mickey Shuler, Minnesota Vikings, No. 214 overall
- Michigan State CB Jeremy Ware, Oakland Raiders, No. 215 overall
- Iowa RT Kyle Calloway, Buffalo Bills, No. 216 overall
- Indiana DE Jammie Kirlew, Denver Broncos, No. 232 overall
- Ohio State DT Doug Worthington, Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 242 overall
- Ohio State S/CB Kurt Coleman, Philadelphia Eagles, No. 244 overall
- Indiana CB/KR Ray Fisher, Indianapolis Colts, No. 246 overall
- Michigan LB/S Stevie Brown, Oakland Raiders, No. 251 overall
- Ohio State LB Austin Spitler, Miami Dolphins, No. 252 overall
- Penn State LB Josh Hull, St. Louis Rams, No. 254 overall
Here are the selections according to Big Ten team:
Michigan State: 1
Ohio State: 4
Penn State: 6
- Three of the biggest draft steals from the Big Ten were pass-catchers in 2009: Illinois wideout Arrelious Benn, Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker and Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki. Benn had first-round skills but a fourth-round college résumé. Decker most often was compared to former Broncos wideout Ed McCaffrey, and if healthy, he could do big things in Denver. If Moeaki stays healthy, the Chiefs might have found the next Tony Gonzalez. Kirk Ferentz puts Moeaki right up there with Dallas Clark in Iowa's top tight ends.
- Love the Colts' pick of Angerer, who could be a very good pro in a great situation in Indy. With Angerer and Indiana's Fisher going to Indianapolis, the Colts now have drafted 26 Big Ten players under Bill Polian.
- Northwestern's Kafka also goes to a very good situation in Philly, as the Eagles love to pass the ball and will run some shotgun.
- Penn State's Lee, Purdue's Neal, Wisconsin's Schofield and Northwestern's Wootton and McManis could all be steals for their teams. Health has been an issue for Lee, Schofield, Wootton and McManis, so they need to find ways to get on the field and stay there.
- It was interesting how one Big Ten left tackle, Indiana's Saffold, rose up the draft boards late in the process, while another, Iowa's Bulaga, dropped.
- Ohio State had four players drafted, but this has to be the Buckeyes' weakest draft class in recent memory. I thought Gibson would go in the second or third round, but Worthington, Coleman and Spitler barely made the cut. Did Jim Tressel deserve Big Ten Coach of the Year over Ferentz? The case looks stronger now.
- Draft snubs included Michigan State wide receiver Blair White, Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott. Warren was the only Big Ten junior not to get drafted. His decision to leave looked reasonable at the time, but he clearly could have used another year in Ann Arbor. All four players have reportedly signed free-agent deals.
A game was going on at the time, and fans sitting in the stands took notice of the football players. Well, one of them, at least.
"Me, [Christian] Ballard and Broderick [Binns] were walking next to Adrian," defensive tackle Karl Klug recalled. "And everyone's like, 'Adrian! Adrian!' Screaming and stuff.
"We were just kind of tagging along. He's a recognizable dude."
The beard and the dreads make Adrian Clayborn hard to miss, but his play on the field truly makes the Iowa defensive end stand out.
"It's an honor for people to know who I am," Clayborn said. "It feels good."
Clayborn comes off of an exceptional junior season in which he earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors after recording 20 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, nine quarterback hurries and a very memorable blocked punt.
"He doesn't really like the spotlight, but that's where he's at," Klug said. "People recognize him after all those plays he made."
Clayborn earned more than enough recognition to bolt for the NFL after last season, but in late December he said he would return for his senior season. He stuck to the decision even after his dominating display in the Orange Bowl.
His decision surprised many people around the Big Ten, and disappointed them, too.
"I figured with all the attention he was getting nationally, he'd get on out," Klug said. "It was a good surprise."
"It could have gone either way," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He would have clearly been a first-round draft pick. There was no doubt about that. I would compare his decision to Robert Gallery's decision. The thing that's surprising is that in this day and age, more guys leave than stay."
Clayborn stayed to correct "a bunch of flaws" in his game. He spent spring practice fine-tuning things, trying to keep his pads lower and expand his pass-rush moves.
Ferentz expects Clayborn to be on "every [preseason award] list in America," and after a year were Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh made defensive line an "it" position, Clayborn will garner plenty of accolades this fall.
But he earns the highest compliments from his teammates and coaches.
"No question he's the chosen leader of the group," defensive coordinator Norm Parker said. "If we had an election to send a representative some place, they would vote Adrian. And it's more because of Adrian the person than Adrian the football player."
It's never a guarantee that a team's best player will step up as a leader, but Clayborn welcomes the responsibility.
"It feels good, but it also comes with a lot," he said. "I'm up for the challenge. Pat [Angerer] left, and he was pretty much the leader of the team last year, so I'm going to try to take his role."