IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa released its football depth chart Monday as it does every week at about the same time. On overreaction Monday, fans and media hope to glean some sort of changes on the horizon for a program stuck in football purgatory.
Guess what? It’s not going to happen … on Monday. Head coach Kirk Ferentz allows his coordinators to talk only a few times a year, mainly because they receive the brunt of criticism during losses. The same goes for his players. Unless there are injuries, don’t expect deviation in the depth chart from the previous Saturday. That leads to questions on Tuesday and rampant speculation, kind of like what I’m doing here.
But, you can imagine discussions are ongoing regarding the depth chart. Iowa is on pace to allow more rushing yards per game than in any season since 2000. The Hawkeyes are on pace to give up more sacks than in any season since 2007. Maybe one position change won’t affect a game, but it’s worth a try, right?
Register four sacks in a game, and you're going to claim #B1G DPOW.
— Northwestern On BTN (@NUOnBTN) October 3, 2016
Consider retooling the offensive line
Junior left guard Boone Myers opened last year at left tackle, where he started 10 games. Right guard Sean Welsh — the team’s best offensive lineman — started twice at right tackle and 12 games at left guard. Center James Daniels opened at left guard in two games. Left tackle Cole Croston started four times at left tackle and six at right tackle. Right tackle Ike Boettger opened the 2015 season at right tackle before an injury sidelined him for the final eight games.
Iowa has allowed 14 sacks this season, including six last Saturday. There’s no alignment that will cut that total to zero every week. But pressure along the edge should call for a personnel re-evaluation, if not a revamp. Although he lacks the length of Croston, Myers or Boettger, the 6-foot-3 Welsh should get a look at left tackle. Welsh, who spent the spring at center, has the versatility and toughness to play multiple positions. He also closely resembles perennial NFL All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda, who played left tackle at Iowa in 2006.
“The only other guy that comes to mind and I didn’t coach him, but has that kind of versatility and unflinching versatility, would be Yanda when you look at what he’s done in the NFL,” Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz said of Welsh last spring.
Open up linebacker
Maybe weak side linebacker Bo Bower is just the internet’s whipping boy. He makes for an easy target after a rough 2014 season as starting outside linebacker. But Iowa’s run defense is porous in allowing 182.8 yards per game. Bower dislodged original starter Aaron Mends in training camp and held off a late run by true freshman Amani Jones. But the team clearly needs a jolt in stopping the run. It’s time to give either Mends or Jones a shot.
We’re not at practice every day, which would give posts like this clarity. But with the run defense at a generational low, there’s nothing to lose here but time.
"Now Jackson with the shake and bake …" TD @NUFBFamily.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 1, 2016
Iowa’s tandem of Brandon Snyder and Miles Taylor are hard hitters but they struggle tackling in space. At Rutgers, Snyder airballed on receiver Janarion Grant, which led to a 76-yard reception. Taylor did the same on a 58-yard touchdown run by Northwestern running back Justin Jackson last week.
Snyder has forced fumbles in each of the last two weeks, both of which led to Iowa touchdowns. But taking care of the details is just as important as forcing turnovers at Iowa. Senior Anthony Gair or true freshman Amani Hooker should get a look here if either can be more consistent.
Let Dez do his thing
Iowa cornerback Desmond King is the nation’s best cornerback. Rarely does a quarterback throw on him and even fewer are successful. He’s also No. 1 in run support. He’s playing better now than he did as a junior when he won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back.
King also is impressive on special teams. He averages 11.4 yards per punt return and 29.5 on kickoffs. Among Big Ten performers, King is first in total kickoff return yards (295) and second in punt return yards (114). He’s a legitimate playmaker.
Iowa has avoided moving King to offense even in small doses to keep him fresh for his primary responsibility. But with top receiver Matt VandeBerg out for the season with a broken foot, the Hawkeyes should let King take a few snaps at receiver. Maybe King would be just a decoy, but it forces opponents to prepare for it. It might net one good play on offense, which could mean the difference in winning and losing. That makes it all worthwhile.
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) September 17, 2016