By Luke Maiers
Iowa City, Iowa – Iowa just wrapped up a typical Kirk Ferentz season. The Hawkeyes reached eight wins, won a bowl game, beat a team they were not supposed to and lost to a team they should have beaten. All-in-all, not a bad season, but I believe that Iowa has what it takes next season to repeat what they did in 2015 and go undefeated.
The schedule greatly resembles the one that Iowa played two seasons ago. The Hawks will face off against six teams that made bowl games last season, one of which is Northern Illinois which is not a non-power five school. Not to dismiss Northern Illinois, they are always a stingy team, but that is certainly not a resume boosting game.
Iowa plays seven home games next year with key games like Iowa St., Wisconsin and Nebraska all being in the confines of Kinnick Stadium. That is huge because Iowa St. and Nebraska will be on the rise. Wisconsin is always a game that could go either way, so having home field could loom large.
The only game that scares me on the schedule is the game at Penn St. Happy Valley is sure to be loud and electric, but a team with a year of experience should be able to control themselves. If Iowa can take care of Wisconsin and Penn St., they would find themselves in Indianapolis come December.
Offensive Players Returning
This team will lose a ton of talent to graduation and the NFL Draft, but don’t underestimate the players that are coming back. Stanley, Easley, Fant, Hockenson, Wirfs, Kelly-Martin and Smith-Marsette will all be returning on the offensive side of the ball. Like fine wine, this offense will get better with age. Brian Ferentz has more experience calling plays now, Stanley will continue to improve, and the tight end position will be fantastic.
I would have been amazed if you would have told me at the beginning of this season that this defense would be set next year even without Josey Jewell and Ben Niemann. There is something to be excited about with the defense next year, especially on the line and in the secondary.
Iowa will return Snyder, Gervase, Hooker, Ojemudia, Rugamaba, Stone and Hankins next season. That is just the secondary. 3-star DBs Julius Brents and Dallas Craddieth will also be coming into this elite system.
The defensive line will be just as deadly with Matt and Anthony Nelson, AJ Epenesa and 4-star recruit John Waggoner wreaking havoc up front. This defense is poised to be very good in the coming years. They’ll need to find a suitable replacement to Josey Jewell. That won’t be easy, but it will help having so much experience surrounding whomever fills that void.
Iowa fans should expect a typical year of Iowa football to result in eight or nine wins, but I believe next year has a chance to be special. The defense will keep us in every game and Stanley has a chance to lead this team to greatness.
It’s never too early to get excited is it?