The football season is near. And the Iowa Hawkeyes are out to prove that last year’s 4-8 record was a flash in the pan and not an indication of where the program is headed under Kirk Ferentz.
While not going to a bowl game and finishing with just four wins is not what anyone inside the program wanted, the Hawkeyes can see it through a half-full glass and realize that four of the eight losses were decided by three points or less and the season finale against Nebraska was a six-point defeat.
If the ball bounces the other way in a few games, Iowa could have been looking at 8-4 or even 9-3. Even so, you are what your record says you are and the Hawkeyes are aware that improvements need to be made.
Here is a rundown of my five most important players for 2013. Iowa better get production from this group of it could be staring at another bowl-less campaign.
Jake Rudock, quarterback
It appears that the former all-stater from Florida has won the job in camp over redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard and junior college transfer Cody Sokol.
If that is the case, Rudock is going to have to produce more of a passing than the Hawkeyes did last year under then first-year Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis. The Hawkeyes were abysmal last year through the air as James Vandenberg – sometimes for reasons that weren’t his doing – threw just seven touchdowns and averaged only 187 yards passing.
Those numbers have to climb way up if Iowa wants to get back contending for Big Ten championships. Rudock is said to be a smart, athletic quarterback who will put himself into positions to be successful. It will help if he also gets more production (and separation) from his wide receivers.
Damond Powell, wide receiver
There has been a lot of pressure put on this junior college transfer as he has delivered on the high expectations in practice. Whether or not the potential No. 1 wide receiver lives up to those expectations in games, remains to be seen.
What we do know though is that Powell can fly. He is easily one of the fastest athletes on the team.
He has only been in camp for a few weeks now so learning the playbook as fast as possible could go a long way in turning the anemic passing game around.
Carl Davis, defensive tackle
When Iowa has great teams, the boys in the trenches are getting the job done. Iowa’s offensive line was dominant last year until Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal went down with injuries. But the defensive line has left a lot to be desired the past two years.
Defensive end Dominic Alvis should provide the team with plenty of leadership and production on the outside, but the Hawkeyes will need to return to an elite level on the inside of the defensive line.
Louis Trinca-Pasat surprised a lot of Hawkeye fans last year with how productive he was. Davis though has yet to break through and needs to do so this year.
Davis is big, strong and has tons of potential. Defensive line coach Reese Morgan needs to see production from him and the rest of the defensive line so the talented trio of linebackers can roam free to make tackles.
Jordan Lomax, cornerback
Coming off an injury in 2012, it appears Lomax will hold down a starting cornerback spot opposite of B.J. Lowery. Lomax is young but he is athletic and talented enough to take over the role. He will certainly get challenged by opposing quarterbacks who are trying to throw away from the established Lowery. It is up to Lomax to step up, make plays and not be considered a liability or weakness to the secondary.
Brandon Scherff, offensive left tackle
This future NFL draft pick is certainly one of the key pieces to the offensive line. Just look at last year for proof. When he was in the game, Iowa begin the Big Ten season 2-0. When he went down with an injury, Iowa lost its final six games.
Scherff, the starting left tackle, is big, strong and a corn fed Iowa product who likes to get nasty in the trenches. If he can stay healthy, whoever is running the ball will certainly find success.