2012 Iowa Hawkeyes Football Preview
The Iowa Hawkeyes will need to throw the ball a lot this season. They won't have the ability to run the ball as often as they'd like. Why? They don’t have many bodies available.
The problem surrounding Iowa's running backs is well-documented. The Hawkeyes – due to injuries but also transfers and player misconduct – have lacked long-term continuity at the position over the past decade. The 2012 Iowa squad could have been so deep at the running back spot, and under 14th-year head coach Kirk Ferentz – who embraces an NFL-style pro set attack with smashmouth principles – that's how this team needs to play. The Hawkeyes have never won with razzle-dazzle creativity or flair; when they win, they do it with more muscle in the trenches and superior execution, overpowering opponents at the line of scrimmage and grinding them into so much fine powder as the fourth quarter arrives.
Just how well-stocked was Iowa hoping to be at running back this year? Meal-ticket running back Marcus Coker was supposed to be the centerpiece of the offense, but he was suspended for the 2011 Insight Bowl against Oklahoma for violating the school's code of conduct, and he transferred in the offseason. Coker's backup, Mika'il McCall, was dogged by a broken foot before he decided to transfer this past offseason. This left Jordan Canzeri as the next available running back, and in spring practice a few weeks ago, Canzeri suffered a tear in his anterior cruciate ligament – yes, his ACL. He'll almost surely be out of the picture for the entirety of the season; there's an ever-so-slight chance he could work his way back into the lineup in late November, but that's just not likely. Iowa is a decimated team at running back, which means it will have to throw a lot of short passes this season. Quarterback James Vandenberg will get a workout each and every Saturday, that's for sure.
Iowa's lack of depth on the offensive side of the ball, especially in its backfield, is particularly crippling not just because the team butters its bread with the ground game, but also because this is a team that needs to be able to play the game in ways that will foster more confidence. Ferentz is an accomplished coach, having directed Iowa to two Orange Bowls and a Capital One Bowl over the years, plus a split Big Ten championship in 2002 (with Ohio State). However, for all that Ferentz has achieved in Iowa City, it's worth noting that in the past seven seasons, he's won more than eight games in a regular season on only one occasion, in 2009. Iowa has clearly fallen short of its potential in recent years, and in order to reverse that trend, the Hawkeyes need to know that they're the stronger team in the arena. Without the ability to run the ball, Iowa can't re-establish that identity. It's going to be a struggle for the Hawkeyes as they try to work their way to the top of the Big Ten Legends Division this season.
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