Jim’s & Joe’s or X’s & O’s?
When things don’t go the way you had hoped, be it in life or for your favorite sports team, people always want one answer; why?
Is it the system or schemes or is it the talent or lack there of? That will be one of the many questions Iowa fans ponder during this coming long offseason.
I wish I could tell you with certainty that Iowa’s offensive problems this year were all about the scheme and the changes that were made this past off season. I wish I could tell you that and also add with certainty that such changes take time, more than just one football season. I wish I could tell you that it’s difficult to change what you thought you could be in the middle of a season after it wasn’t working and that the reason it didn’t work was because the players you had on your team couldn’t pull it off.
I can’t tell you any of those things with certainty, however.
One exercise we could undertake is looking at the 2012 Iowa roster and compare it to other teams in the Ferentz era. How many of this year’s starters would have started for the six Ferentz era teams that won eight or more games; 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009 & 2010?
Why do this? If nothing else it might shed light on the only thing we can really gauge with our eyes, since we don’t know the plays being called which means we can’t put our fingers on the ‘lack of execution’ train of thought.
First off, our resident college football schematic expert HawkeyeGameFilm tweeted this on Sunday:
To highlight what @hawkeyenation had talked about w/’08 & ’09 classes: ’08 class will have no more than 6 NFL prospects, ’09: 3 or 4
— Hawkeye Gamefilm (@hawkeyegamefilm) November 18, 2012
That tweet spawned a brief conversation between HGF, Marc Morehouse (@marcmorhouse) and me. I suggested that Micah Hyde is the only player on the 2012 Iowa defense who would have started for any of the eight-win Ferentz teams. Morehouse then added that every starter from the 2008 Iowa defense got a look at the NFL. HGF added that from this year’s team, perhaps four or five will get such a look and he used the term ‘maybe’.
I think Micah Hyde could have beaten out DJ Johnson or Antwan Allen in 2002. He could have beaten out Allen in 2003 & 2004, too. Hyde probably has a home on any Ferentz era team. Other than Hyde, which current Iowa starter could have started on those teams?
Zero. In fact, I don’t think any of this year’s defensive linemen would have started on any Iowa team dating back to at least 2000. It would be tough for any of the linebackers to have won the starting job on any of those teams, too and certainly none would have from those ‘Big Six’ years.
What about the offensive side of the ball?
Would Keenan Davis have started on any of the Big Six teams? Would have have beaten out CJ Jones or Mo Brown in 2002? Brown or Ed Hinkel in 2003? Hinkel or Clinton Solomon in 2004? Perhaps Andy Brodell in 2008, but not DJK and McNutt in 2009 & 2010. He was on both of those last two teams and was a reserve.
The only other player who is in the discussion would be James Ferentz. He wouldn’t have beaten out Bruce Nelson in 2002, but he is better than his brother Brian and would have started in 2004, as well as in 2003. I’d take Rob Bruggeman in 2008 but would take Ferentz over Rafael Eubanks in 2009. Ferentz was the starter in 2010. One additional caveat; the 2004 team would have taken any of Iowa’s three running backs this season, given the attrition they saw that year. Sorry, Sam Brownlee.
That is a pretty startling look, isn’t it? The talent drop off from the six best Ferentz era teams to this team is dramatic. Yes, I realize that I have sampled the six best Ferentz era teams but I don’t think too many players from 2012 would have started on Iowa’s teams in 2005 & 2006. Not many (aside from the three listed) would have started in 2007, either. Maybe a few offensive linemen would have gotten a look as that group could not protect the quarterback.
I wish I had undertaken this exercise before the season began and plan to add it to my annual list of preview stories to write going forward. Had I done it this year, I would have chosen James Vandenberg over Scott Chandler and likely taken JVB over the Ricky Stanzi of 2008. I’d still be tempted to take JVB over those two because he’d be playing in the same system that saw him throw for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, not this new horizontal passing scheme that Iowa has been using this year.
Much of this season’s challenges stem from a talent drop off. Ultimately, that is still under the purview of the coaching staff, either due to too many recruiting misses or too many players who have left the program (upwards of 15 in the 2008 and 2009 classes). As good as this staff has been at developing talent, you can’t develop the kids who are no longer there.