Lindy’s Top 40 Countdown: No. 26 Iowa Staff

July 29, 2014 at 11:44 am.

Jake Rudock is prepared to lead the Hawkeyes offensive attack behind a very talented O-line. (Steve Mitchell USA TODAY Sports)


LOCATION: Iowa City, Iowa

COACH: Kirk Ferentz — At Iowa: 108-79, 15 years; overall: 120-100, 18 years



LAST LEAGUE TITLE: 2004, co-champions


RETURNING STARTERS: 12; 6 offense, 5 defense, punter

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Jake Rudock, RB Mark Weisman, RB Jordan Canzeri, WR Kevonte Martin-Manley, LT Brandon Scherff, DT Carl Davis, DT Louis Trinca-Pasat, CB Desmond King

PRIMARY STRENGTHS: The Hawkeyes have some of the Big Ten’s premier offensive and defensive linemen. Scherff was All-Big Ten last season and will push for All-American in 2014. Davis and Trinca-Pasat are fifth-year seniors with proven talent.  Rudock returns with a strong cast in the backfield.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: The secondary is going through a bit of a rebuild. Iowa is looking for a corner and a free safety, and the candidates are largely unproven. Iowa’s offense has been working toward more explosive plays, and that goal remains elusive. Iowa has to replace three senior linebackers who drove the defense in 2013.


Quarterback Jake Rudock wants to be more efficient (ninth in the Big Ten in passing efficiency last season), hit the target more (his 59.0 completion percentage was seventh in the league) and cut down on the interceptions (his 13 tied for the league high). He passed for 2,383 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first season as the starter.

Wide receiver is a position that needs to take a step forward. Kevonte Martin-Manley led the Hawkeyes with 40 catches for 388 yards and five touchdowns. The group stands to gain a boost from freshmen Derrick Willies, a spring standout.

The Hawkeyes could have as many as nine running backs on scholarship this fall. The top three are Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock. Weisman is the force of nature. Canzeri (5-9, 190) is the team’s most instinctive runner.

Iowa’s calling card in most years is the offensive line. That could again be the case this year, but it might take some time. Scherff, a potential All- American, and center Austin Blythe, a two-year starter, are great places to start.


Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat are defensive tackles who go about their business in very different ways. While Davis is a physical presence, Trinca-Pasat is more in the high-motor, never-say-die mode. They’ll be cornerstones for the 2014 defense.

Defensive ends Drew Ott and Mike Hardy can set the edge against the run. Pass-rush skills are the next step in their development, but they provide what this defense asks of them.

Iowa loses senior linebackers Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens and James Morris, who com- bined for 35.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and six interceptions last season.

Senior Quinton Alston is the new middle linebacker. Sophomore Reggie Spearman will get the first crack in the weakside spot. Last season, they were defensive ends in a third-down rush package. Junior Travis Perry takes over at outside linebacker.

Iowa returns cornerback Desmond King, who made a few Freshman All-Big Ten teams, and strong safety John Lowdermilk. Junior Jordan Lomax moved from corner to No. 1 free safety.


Junior punter Connor Kornbrath is a two-year starter, but Iowa signed junior college transfer Dillon Kidd to push Kornbrath, who averaged 40 yards on 65 punts last season.

The Hawkeyes also are trying out new kickers. Junior Marshall Koehn might have the inside edge. Senior wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley finished second in the Big Ten with 15.7 yards per punt return.


Iowa crawled out of the rubble of the 4-8 record in 2012 with last season’s strong finish. The foundation is there to be solid on the lines of scrimmage. Also, Iowa has as favorable a schedule as any Big Ten team could, missing out on the biggies and playing host to West division rivals Nebraska and Wisconsin. Many pieces are in place for a successful season.


WR Derrick Willies: The three-star prospect from Rock Island, Ill., redshirted in 2013, but it wasn’t an easy decision. At 6-4, 210, he offers a combination of size and speed that is unique for Iowa’s receiving corps. Willies ended spring as No. 2 on the depth chart.