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Preview of Iowa football 2017: part two

Hawk Talk

This is the second part of a preview of Iowa Hawkeye football.
Last week, I talked about the offensive line, tight ends and running backs.
This week, I’ll look at wide receivers, quarterbacks and the defensive line.

Wide Receivers

The development of Iowa’s wide receivers could be the most important part of the Hawkeyes and their success this fall… along with the development of a starting quarterback.
Senior Matt VandeBerg (6-1, 195) is the only returning receiver who caught a pass last fall.
VandeBerg had 19 receptions before breaking his foot in practice following the third game of the season and he was subsequently red-shirted.
In VandeBerg’s junior year, he caught 65 passes, ranking third all time in single-season receptions.
Wide receiver coach Kelton Copeland said VandeBerg is one of the best leaders he has coached, saying Matt leads on and off the field.
“That’s awesome,” said VandeBerg about the coach’s comments. “You learn from watching the older guys do things.”
VandeBerg thinks the new receivers will be ready when the season starts.
“I see a lot of young faces that are ready to learn,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for. They’re trying to get better every day. We are trying to build blocks everyday and continue to improve.”
I think if Iowa’s offense is going to be effective, VandBerg needs to catch 45 to 50 passes this season.
Last Saturday at Kid’s Day, a couple of the receivers stepped up and made some plays.
True freshman Brandon Smith (6-3, 205) led the way with four catches for 22 yards.
Tight end Noah Fant caught three passes for 25 yards, but wide out Devonte Young (6-0, 200) probably made the biggest impression with two catches, both touchdowns. One touchdown catch went for 52 yards, the other was a 22-yard score.
Young is listed as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Nick Easley, who was listed as No. 1 but didn’t play because of an injury.
Adrian Falconer (6-1, 192) and freshman Shaun Beyer (6-5, 222) also caught two passes.
Young and Falconer both played last season, but didn’t have any catches.
I think it’s important for both to catch passes in the first game.
Look for freshmen Ihmir-Smith Marsette (6-2, 175) and Max Cooper (6-0, 175) to have a chance to play receiver this year for the Hawks. Both have decent speed and good hands.
The Hawks also got some good news when transfer Matt Quarells became eligible last week. Quarells transferred from New Mexico, graduating in three years, and has two years left to play. He has nice size (6-1, 195) and good speed, but played on a team that ran the ball all of the time.

Quarterbacks

If last Saturday’s scrimmage had anything to do with who starts at quarterback against Wyoming in the season opener, Nathan Stanley will be the man.
It’s not that Tyler Wiegers looked bad, Stanley just looked better.
Unofficially, Stanley was 13-23 for 153 yards and three touchdowns.
He looked pretty comfortable running the offense, and the only minor knock I heard about the 6-5 sophomore from Wisconsin was he is not a very vocal leader. That could improve as the season goes on and Stanley feels more comfortable running the offense.
Wiegers was 6-14 for 31 yards and was unofficially sacked seven times.
“We’ll see what happens this week,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz after the scrimmage. “We’ve got another scrimmage this Friday night which is a big night for us. Maybe the thing will be a little clearer then. But we’d like to let this thing run out a little bit.”
Remember the sacks are only made by a defensive lineman touching the quarterback because they don’t want quarterbacks getting hurt in practice.
Stanley is 6-5, 235 pounds, and Wiegers is 6-4, 225, so I don’t think either will be brought down with a one-arm tackle.
Sophomore Ryan Boyle (6-2, 215) will be the third option at quarterback this year.
Boyle was a great dual-threat quarterback at Des Moines Dowling and wouldn’t it be interesting if they tried him in the Wildcat formation?
I doubt it would happen, but it’s fun to think about.
Peyton Mansell (6-3, 210) will be a freshman this fall with nice size and a good arm, but hopefully he will redshirt. Mansell completed 70 percent of his passes his senior year.

Defensive line

The Iowa defensive line will be full of moving parts, where some players will be playing multiple positions.
The reason?
Iowa has three ends returning who have started, and only one starting defensive tackle.
Plus, it’s going to be hard to keep five-star recruit A.J. Epenesa (6-5, 270) off the field. The five-star defensive end had four unofficial sacks last Saturday and is tough to block in passing situations.
“He’s impressed us,” said head coach Ferentz. “He definitely belongs on the varsity.”
That’s an understatement, to say the least.
You start with junior Matt Nelson (6-8, 285) who started every game last season at defensive end. Nelson had six sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
Last Saturday, at the scrimmage, he lined up at defensive tackle for most of the snaps.
Sophomore Anthony Nelson (6-7, 260) played in all 13 games last year as defensive end and finished second in sacks with seven.
Junior defensive end Parker Hesse (6-3, 257) started 12 games last season and sat out one because of injury. Hesse had eight tackles for loss and five sacks.
Senior Nathan Bazata (6-2, 287) is a two-year starter at defensive tackle and is the best run-stopper on the team.
Cedrick Lattimore (6-5, 295) is listed as the other starter at tackle. He played as a true freshman in six games last season.
Backup tackles include Brady Reiff (6-3, 260) and Garret Jansen (6-2, 280), both sophomores.
Think about this for a minute. You put 6-7 Anthony Nelson and 6-5 A.J. Epenesa at end, 6-8 Matt Nelson at tackle, either Parker Hesse (6-3), Brady Reiff (6-3) or Aaron Mends (6-0) in the radar package (he played there last season).
That’s some major arm length for a quarterback to throw over.
Pressure is the best thing a defensive line can do to help the defensive backs in coverage.

Next week, I’ll talk about the linebackers, defensive backs and special teams. Will the Hawkeyes have a first team All-American line backer?