The Iowa Hawkeyes—like their rival Wisconsin Badgers—are going to be a team that will undergo a lot of transition in 2011. Ricky Stanzi, the team’s quarterback for the last three years, is moving on to the NFL. Three running backs that led the team in rushing the last two years have been either dismissed from the team or transferred away. The best receiver in school history—Derrell Johnson-Koulianos—was suspended for the Insight Bowl and will never play for the Hawkeyes again.
The fearsome defensive line has moved on, and the two-headed monster at safety in Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash has also moved on.
So what can we expect from the Hawkeyes in 2011?
Well, it’s going to be an uphill battle in a tough conference, but they have a favorable schedule this year. Iowa’s new quarterback James Vandenberg is already battle tested having nearly brought the Hawkeyes from behind on the road at Ohio State two years ago when Stanzi went down with injury, and he has ice running in his veins.
The Hawkeyes also return an All-American left tackle in Riley Reiff and a very solid linebacker corps, and possibly one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory.
This is an Iowa team full of young talent, so I expect them to be very competitive this year. Vandenberg is a cool customer and he has a nice arsenal of weapons at his disposal, including running back Marcus Coker, the breakout star of last year’s Insight Bowl.
This could be a tough season for the Hawkeyes, but based on their talent level alone, I think they could easily win nine games. Coach Ferentz is going to need to rally the troops after some offseason controversy, but this is a school whose players always come to work on Saturdays, and they are right back where they want to be—under the radar.