The Iowa Hawkeye football team has the week off and Kirk Ferentz said after the Minnesota win it was good timing.
Iowa needs to get some players like Austin Blythe, B.J. Lowery and Damon Bullock healthy to make the stretch run in the Big Ten.
This week I’ll break down the offense, defense and special teams and try to evaluate how well they have been playing.
The Hawks are 3-2, 1-0 in the Big Ten.
Who would have thought that a walk-on running back would be leading the Hawkeyes’ ground game at this point.
Mark Weisman has been the feel good story of the season so far, pounding out 515 yards and seven touchdowns. Mark is averaging 7.0 yards per carry which is the best in the Big Ten.
Damon Bullock, before being hurt in the third game against UNI, has 280 yards and one touchdown. He is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and when he gets back, Iowa will have a good one-two punch in the running game.
Greg Garman, a top running back recruit out of high school, has picked up only 29 yards so far but I believe he will help out, especially on kickoff returns.
James Vandenberg is still the straw that stirs the drink.
The 6-3, 212 pound senior for Keokuk has completed 58.5 percent of his passes for exactly 1,000 yards. James has thrown two touchdowns and has two interceptions.
Greg Davis, Iowa’s offensive coordinator, said James has done a good job of picking up blitzes and checking off into real good running plays.
For the Hawkeyes to have a winning record, I think James will have to have close to 20 touchdown passes by the end of the year. That means averaging at least two touchdowns for the next seven games.
James has done a good job of spreading the ball around, with 11 Hawkeyes catching passes.
The top three are Keenan Davis with 26, Kevonte Martin-Manley 19 and C. J. Fiedorowicz 15. All three are averaging over 11 yards per catch.
The Iowa passing game has had its good and bad moments. Sometimes James and his receivers have not been on the same page. This should be a good time to work on that.
As far as the offensive line goes, they might be the strongest position on the team. Keep on trucking, big guys.
Iowa leads the league in turnover margin and sacks allowed.
The offense is averaging 22.6 points per game and 361 yards a game. Both of those numbers have to go up.
The young and improving defense has been good so far if you take out playing Central Michigan.
They are giving up 17.4 points a game and an average of 315 yards per game. The 315 per game is ranked 21st in the nation, second in the Big Ten.
The opposition has converted 25-70 third downs which is 36 percent and that’s not bad.
The Hawkeyes have picked off six passes and are giving up an average of 3.3 yards per rushing attempt.
Most defenses are set up for the linebackers to make plays and the Hawkeyes have three real good ones.
Anthony Hitchens has been the biggest surprise. Anthony played as a true freshman and has worked his way into the starting lineup in his junior year. His first two seasons he saw most of his action on special teams.
Anthony, a former all-state running back and linebacker from Ohio, leads the Hawkeyes and the Big Ten with 63 tackles. He ranks third in the nation.
James Morris, a former all-state pick from Solon, has 50 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a 49-yard interception and a fumble recovery. Phil Parker, Iowa’s new defensive coordinator, said James is like a coach on the field and is playing at a high level.
Christian Kirksey has 30 tackles, a fumble recovery and a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The defensive backs are led by seniors Tom Donatell and Micah Hyde. Both have 33 tackles and Tom has two interceptions.
Tanner Miller and Greg Castillo have also have picked off passes for the Hawks.
The defensive line has Joe Gaglione with 6.5 tackles for a loss, including three sacks. Louis Trinca-Pasat, Dominique Alvis, Steve Bigach and Carl Davis also have tackles for a loss.
I like the rotation and depth that is developing on the D-line.
You’ve got to love the way Mike Meyers has started the season. The junior from Dubuque has made every extra point (11-11) and is 10-11 with field goals.
Mike has also had 13-27 touchbacks on kickoffs this year, although they did move the kickoffs up five yards.
The punting game needs some work with Connor Kornbrath averaging only 36.3 yards per punt. John Wienke, who comes in for short punts, has a 38 yard average.
Micah Hyde is doing a good job at punt returns, averaging 6.8 yards.
Greg Garman is averaging 23.6 yards on kickoff returns.
I’ve got a feeling Micah or Greg will be breaking a long touchdown return soon.
Punt coverage is decent, but kickoff coverage needs to be more consistent. Overall Iowa is 3-2... six more points and the Hawks are undefeated and ranked in the top 20.