This was written under the assumption that Kirk Ferentz will be in Iowa City next fall.
TAMPA, Fla. — Get to know sophomore running back Jewel Hampton. Get to know freshman running back Jeff Brinson. Get to know someone at center and guard.
They’re all going to matter for the Iowa Hawkeyes (9-4) starting now.
Running back Shonn Greene made his millions-of-dollar decision, announcing after Thursday’s 31-10 Outback Bowl victory over South Carolina that he will forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft.
This season, Greene set Iowa’s record for yards (1,850), rushing touchdowns (20) and tied the record for points (120).
He was the focal point, the marquee, the everything for the Hawkeyes this season.
With Greene gone — and he’ll be 24 before next season starts — Hampton will have a hand in Iowa’s running game next fall. In spot duty behind Greene, Hampton, 5-9, 200 pounds, had one of the best seasons ever for a true freshman running back at Iowa, rushing for 463 yards (5.1 yards a carry) and freshman record of seven TDs.
“The future looks bright for Jewel,” offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe said. “He’s got a lot of the things that we’re looking for.”
Brinson, a 5-11, 220-pounder, could push for time. He redshirted this season, but came in with sparkling credentials and could fit that big back model that worked so well this season for the Hawkeyes.
“I think between Jewel and Brinson we’re going to have a 1-2 running attack that can stand up to anybody in the country,” Vandervelde said. “With Shonn leaving, of course, it’s a hit, but as long as our offensive line continues to improve and with the things that we’ve seen with Jewel on the field and Brinson on the practice field, I really don’t feel we’ll lose too much ground.”
Get to know Broderick Binns. Next season, he might really matter.
This is goodbye for Iowa’s four-year starters at defensive tackle, Mitch King and Matt Kroul. The pair combined for 95 career starts and more than 450 tackles. King is an all-timer in tackles for loss with 55 in his career. Kroul is an all-timer in consistency, setting Iowa’s career record for consecutive starts at 50.
This is why Broderick Binns might really matter in 2009.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound sophomore produced in spot duty at defensive end this season. He’s already mattered. In Iowa’s tight 22-17 victory over Purdue, Binns recovered a fumble and deflected a pass that linebacker Pat Angerer intercepted, stopping a Purdue drive at the Iowa 5-yard-line.
He finished the season with 20 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss, including two sacks.
“Broderick’s a guy who’s quietly moving up the charts,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He really had a good bye week (in October). I don’t think we blocked him — all week. I joked that if he played for another team, we’d be in serious trouble because we haven’t blocked the guy.”
Binns could give the Hawkeyes options on the defensive line next season.
Juniors Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard, this season’s set of defensive ends, have the bodies to take inside to the tackle positions. Clayborn weighs in at 282 and Ballard at 284.
Clayborn, 48 tackles and eight tackles for loss, has said he’d be open to a move inside. “I’d do whatever they (coaches) want,” Clayborn said. “I want to help the team.”
That would give defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who’s on the record for a return next season, some options.
“I don’t know what options we’ll have, but the thing is, we’ve got Broderick and Chad Geary that we feel comfortable playing at any time, so there’s four guys right there we feel good about,” Ferentz said. “And we feel good about the way Karl Klug and Mike Daniels have come on and we’ve got Cody Hundertmark, who is rehabbing a shoulder surgery right now. We’ll worry about that when the time comes, but you want to have at least six, seven guys in the mix, and I think we’ll be able to get there.”
Geary, a senior defensive end, has primiarily been a spot player in his career.
Klug, a 6-4, 255-pound junior, and Daniels, a 6-1, 261-pound sophomore, might really, really matter. If they continue to develop, they could be your tackle tandem, at least in certain combinations, next fall. Hundertmark, a sophomore tackle, redshirted this season after having shoulder surgery.
“We’ve got some guys who haven’t played much, but have been in the system for two or three years, have been working under (strength coach Chris) Doyle and are smart enough and fast enough,” King said. “They know the system now. They’re not coming in like freshmen, like me and Matt in that first year.
“Karl and Mike and Cody Hundertmark coming back next year, Broderick Binns, you’ve seen these guys make plays this year. They haven’t played a lot, but when they get in there, they make plays. I’m excited. I don’t expect a dropoff like in ‘04 compared to what we had in ‘05, when we were all first-year and freshman starters. Before that season, I was a linebacker. It took me awhile. I’m expecting a really strong D-line.
That’s about it on defense.
Cornerback Bradley Fletcher is the only other departing starter. Junior Jordan Bernstine and sophomore Shaun Prater will be in line to replace him.
Linebackers should be a strength. Senior A.J. Edds, who’ll have shoulder surgery he called minor, will be a three-year starter at outside linebacker. Senior Pat Angerer enjoyed a tremendously productive first season as starter at middle linebacker, leading the team with 101 tackles and five interceptions. Junior Jeremiha Hunter, also a first-year starter, was second on the team with 76 tackles.
With junior Ricky Stanzi having quarterback nailed down going into 2009, the biggest offensive replacements might be for center Rob Bruggeman and guard Seth Olsen, a pair of NFL prospects who gave Iowa its best inside blocking in three or so seasons.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Vandervelde said of the competition. “We don’t pick starters before the year. We’ll go into spring ball and all the way through summer and probably into camp with everybody battling for the starting spots.
“Whoever the five are who come out of it next year, I know we’ll step up to the challenge.”