By Pete Ruden
It’s a big year for Iowa football’s offense.
With a new offensive coordinator, new quarterback, changes at running back, and minimal experience at wide receiver, no one is exactly sure what to expect.
Things will certainly be different from what they were like last season, but some constants still remain.
Akrum Wadley and Matt VandeBerg will lead the skill positions on their respective positions.
As one of the biggest threats in all of college football, Wadley is almost guaranteed to light up opposing defenses, whether it’s on the ground or through the air.
Wadley’s shiftiness causes problems for teams across the country, no matter where he lines up.
In addition to leading the team in rushing with 1,081 yards in 2016, he was also the second-leading receiver behind Riley McCarron with 315 yards.
With the arrival of former Nevada running back James Butler, Iowa now owns one of the best one-two punches of any Big Ten backfield.
To say the least, Iowa has plenty of talent in the backfield.
While Iowa last season had something reminiscent of Southern California’s “Thunder and Lightning” days with LenDale White and Reggie Bush, Butler has some similar strengths as Wadley but will be able to complement him nonetheless.
At 5-9 and 210 pounds, Butler is much more than a power back. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced the most missed tackles of any returning FBS back last year with 87.
Though he isn’t as big as LeShun Daniels, he gives opponents another aspect to worry about when it comes to the ground attack.
As another viable option in the running game, Butler’s presence will also benefit Wadley’s production in the passing game.
The next position where Iowa needs to see improvement is at wide receiver.
After missing out on most of his senior season, VandeBerg received a medical redshirt that will allow him to close out his college career in a manner he would like.
In only four games last season, the Brandon, South Dakota, native recorded a very respectable 284 yards with 3 touchdowns on 19 receptions.
But with the departures of McCarron, Jerminic Smith, and Jay Scheel, Iowa needs someone to step up.
Nick Easley could be that guy; the Iowa Western transfer has earned the praise of his coaches throughout the spring.
As a sophomore at the junior-college level, Easley racked up 72 catches for 954 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Devonte Young and Adrian Falconer will likely get time on the field as well, but neither one recorded an offensive touch last season.
George Kittle is also gone, leaving room for tight ends Noah Fant and Peter Pekar.
With a combined 10 receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown last year, there is room for improvement. With playing time for both likely to increase dramatically, the improvement in production is sure to come.
While there are question marks around other positions, Iowa still needs to find a quarterback.
The competition between Nathan Stanley and Tyler Wiegers is still neck-and-neck and likely won’t be decided until the Hawkeyes kick their season off against Wyoming on Sept. 2.
No matter what happens, both will have to get acclimated to the new procedures of Brian Ferentz’s offense.
It’s already apparent that Iowa’s 2017 offense will be full of changes. But how the Hawkeyes respond to the change has yet to be seen, making the unveiling of the ever-changing team that much more exciting.