By Adam Hensley
Football season is still far away, and head coach Kirk Ferentz even said it himself — the Hawkeyes are nowhere near ready for the season-opener on Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois.
Maybe football withdrawal is getting to my head, but hear me out on something: On paper, Iowa’s offense has the possibility to do some very big things this year.
Yes, it’s way, way too early, and it also is only the second year under offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s command, but the potential is there for Iowa to have one of its best seasons offensively in a long time.
You’ve got Nate Stanley, who chiseled his name into Hawkeye history with one of the best statistical seasons Iowa fans have ever seen. Throw in the one-two running-back punch of Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin on the ground, combine that with young receivers oozing with potential (Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith), and remember that Nick Easley, Noah Fant, and TJ Hockenson are all back, and you’re staring at a recipe for an offense that can gouge defenses in more ways than one.
There’s one big question mark for the offense, and that’s whether we’ll see an improved offensive line. Iowa struggled mightily when faced with the blitz last season — take the 38-14 loss to Wisconsin in Madison last season, for example. The Badgers crowded the line of scrimmage and continually bombarded the Hawkeyes with a blitz that snowballed into something almost unstoppable.
Stanley could barely take a few steps back after receiving a snap before Wisconsin defenders were in his face, throwing off the entire passing game. The running game was virtually nonexistent; the Hawkeyes finished with more carries (26) than yards (25).
But I don’t see a regression in Year No. 2 of offensive-line coach Tim Polasek’s unit.
Iowa’s offense was boom-or-bust at times last season consistency was a major issue. When the Hawkeyes won, they averaged 37.4 points per games, scoring 44 points or better four times. In losses, Iowa averaged 13.6 points.
Brian Ferentz’s offense was streaky to say the least, scoring 24, 44, and 31 points in the season’s first three games,then scoring 14 and 15 in two-straight losses against Wisconsin and Purdue.
I saw last season as one big regrouping time, yet the team won eight games. If you were to tell me that Stanley would throw for roughly 2,400 yards and toss 26 touchdowns in his first season as a starter, I wouldn’t have believed you — but yet, it happened.
I can understand if you don’t have high hopes for the Hawkeye offense this season, or your you consider yourself uber-logical and can’t see a jump in production, but that’s you; I have legitimate faith that the offense makes a significant leap.
We’ve seen just how deadly the offensive firepower can be, whether that was hanging 55 points on Ohio State or 56 on Nebraska.
It all comes down to consistency, and I think with another year under everyone’s belt, we’ll see fluidity.