- Brian Ferentz has been under the microscope all offseason, rightfully so and most Hawkeye fans are leading the charge there. Now that the 25ppg mark is out there and being counted. How realistic do you think it is that he hits it? Even if he does, should he be back?
A: Let’s Tarantino this and start with the end of your question, then circle back around. You will be hard-pressed to find a Hawkeye fan anywhere who thinks Brian should be here now, let alone be back next year. Having said that, I don’t think there are many rational fans who actually believe Brian will be gone next year, whether he hits the targets or not.
Coming into the year, there was a fair amount of optimism around the offense. Cade McNamara is lightyears ahead of Spencer Petras as a QB and the Hawkeyes added his former teammate TE Erick All, as well as a pair of WRs. Entering week one, there were four scholarship WRs listed on the depth chart for the first time in more than a year. So when McNamara became the first Iowa QB since Chuck Long to throw a TD on his first career pass as a Hawkeye, I think we were collectively bought in on hitting the over for 25ppg.
Then the rest of week one happened and we watched the offensive line really struggle in the run game. The consensus at this point seems to be if Iowa can’t put up 25 points against Utah State, they aren’t averaging 25 points per game on the season.
BUT, I think the most likely outcome is Iowa manages to win 8 or 9 games even with a scoring average below 25 ppg and we see interim AD Beth Goetz both honor Barta’s parting gift by letting Brian’s existing contract expire, then signs him to a new short term deal at lower money with incentives rather than minimum thresholds.
2. Cade McNamara got banged up in practice and came out Saturday with his hair on fire and then the offense stalled out and some believe he isn’t even close to healthy? What’s your take on that and are you worried at all?
A: I think I can speak for every Hawkeye fan in the world and say YES, we are worried. McNamara did come out with his hair on fire. A lot of focus has been placed on those opening drives, but he actually started the game 13 of 17 for 115 with 2 TDs through the first half. Three of those four incompletions came on passes that hit receivers (TE Luke Lachey, WR Nico Ragaini and RB Leshon Williams) in the hands, in stride for TDs at the end of the second quarter. His adjusted completion percentage was 74.1% on the day. Put simply, he was incredibly accurate and if any of those guys makes a catch in the first half, perception of the game would have been dramatically different.
But he is clearly limited on his mobility. Not that Cade is some sort of running QB, but he has escapability that I would describe as CJ Beathard-lite. When a play breaks, he has a great feel for the pocket and an ability to extend the play. But the quad is clearly bothering him and that ability to escape the pocket and get a first done is gone. We saw it a couple times on Saturday and we all collectively held our breath as he ultimately stumbled well short of the line to gain.
I expect him to continue to play through the injury, but it will limit the success of the offense, as well as some of the plays Brian Ferentz may have hidden in the playbook he would have liked to open up (haha yeah, Brian totally has plays in there we haven’t seen ugh).
3. Give us some Hawkeyes that are under the radar that we should be looking out for
A: On the offensive side of the ball, there are three names that come to mind. The first is WR Kaleb Brown. He was the only transfer who didn’t catch a TD pass in week one and he’s the most highly-touted of them. The Ohio State transfer is fast and talented and finished third in snaps at the receiver spot. Look for him to be more involved this week.
The other WR to note is Caden Wetjen. The walk-on from Iowa Western is the fastest player on the team and was used as the jet motion guy in week one. He finished with a handful of touches but his stat sheet would have been much more impressive if he hadn’t stepped out at the 2 on what would have been a 20-something yard TD run off the motion.
The last name on offense I would call out is Jazz Patterson. The RB from Florida has been very good in pass protection and is the best pass-catcher in the backfield. That’s notable given the aforementioned dropped TD pass from Leshon Williams. I think we could see Patterson take Williams’ spot in the rotation as the year moves on, potentially as soon as this week.
On the defensive side of the ball, Deshaun Lee is a name I would mention. He’s the backup corner behind Jermari Harris, but Harris is out for the second straight week after presumably being caught up in the gambling scandal. Utah State opted to essentially never throw in the general direction of Cooper DeJean (they still managed to have one pass bounce off another WR and nearly end up in DeJean’s hands for a walk-in pick-six, but generally speaking they didn’t look at that side of the field) and thus targeted Lee repeatedly. He proved really solid with 6 total tackles and what would have been the first pick of the season for Iowa, if not for an offsides call on DE Ethan Hurkett. I expect Campbell and the Cyclones to similarly target Lee this week.
4. Defense will be the theme in this one again I am sure. What makes Phil Parker so good at his job?
A: I think the thing that really makes Phil special is his ability to motivate and teach. His scheme is nothing special and it’s not really a secret. There has been some evolution, but much like the offense, opponents know what they are going to see from Parker’s defense each week.
The difference is Phil is going to have his guys out-executing an offense and ready to take advantage of any mistakes (as an aside, it is utterly infuriating to have a defense predicated on opponents not being able to string together 8-10 plays without a mistake while simultaneously having an offense predicated on expecting to string together 8-10 plays without mistakes). Players are rarely out of position and the attention to detail is relentless so every little thing is scrutinized. Then when opportunities arise, we almost never see drops from the DBs like we did in week 1.
5. Prediction time. Who do you got? Are you headed to Ames on Saturday?
A: Sadly, I am not headed to Ames. My sister and brother-in-law are both Cyclones and a trip across the state to soak it up with them is definitely on the list, but with little ones at home it’s just not in the cards this year.
As for the game itself, I do expect a defensive struggle. My assumption is Iowa State stacks the box and forces Iowa to throw the ball. McNamara is meaningfully better than Petras has been being being able to do that so I do think the Hawkeyes manage more than a FG (and a TD that was somehow overturned but whatever). On the other side, the Hawkeye defense is not what it was a year ago based on what we saw in week one. I think they’re still very good, but the inability to generate pressure up front likely allows Rocco Becht to connect on an infuriating number of well-timed passes to keep a couple scoring drives alive.
But I’m a homer so I’m going Iowa 20, Iowa State 17.