IOWA CITY — After six weeks of the college football season, the Iowa Hawkeyes have been good, bad, better, worse and almost everything in between. Trophy wins against rivals Iowa State and Minnesota fill the plus side of the ledger, but tough losses to Northern Illinois and Michigan State offset those on the minus side. The Hawks are 4-2 and on bye for a week before heading into a tough stretch of three games against Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin. Here’s how the team’s offense has graded out to this point of the season:
Quarterback – Jake Rudock is in his first season as starter and has shown promise. He has a move-the-chains mentality as evidenced by his scrambling for first downs and touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said he is very happy with Rudock’s play, despite a tendency for untimely interceptions. Rudock has the poise to make good decisions under pressure but is limited by his accuracy and arm strength.
Running backs – For the first month the Hawkeyes dominated on the ground, rushing for more than 200 yards each game. Mark Weisman led the nation in attempts at one point but has trailed off as of late. Backup Damon Bullock has show flashes, but neither player possesses true breakaway ability. The run game was completely shutdown against Michigan St., and it likely will be just as tough to run against the better Big 10 opponents.
Wide receivers/tight ends – Hawkeye fans wish Kevonte Martin-Manley were really Kevonte Martin and Kevonte Manley so he could play both outside receiver positions. KMM leads the team by far in receptions. Iowa has been searching all season for a WR2 to emerge to give Rudock and KMM some help. Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hilyer appear to be the likely candidates but both are young and inexperienced. Juco transfer Damond Powell is fast and may be the answer by season’s end. At tight end, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ray Hamilton are both solid and fit the Hayden Fry mold, but neither have developed into go-to players when Rudock needs some tough yards or a touchdown.
Offensive line –The jury is still out on how good this unit is or can be. At times they look dominant, other times average. Because of their experience they play well together, but do they have the talent to push around the big boys? Davis is pleased on how the line has protected Rudock thus far. If the line can avoid major injuries then fans can expect above average play the rest of the season.
Kicking/special teams – Placekicker Mike Meyer leads the team in scoring and hasn’t missed a PAT in forever. Punter Connor Kornbrath has had his ups and downs and is consistently getting outkicked by opposing kickers. Iowa’s opponents are averaging 7 more yards per return. Iowa allowed an onside kick and has made some mistakes in coverage that led to several big returns. Combine the two and for the most part the Hawkeyes have been losing the battle of field position.
Overall offense – Iowa began the season with a promise of a more up-tempo, wide-open style of offense. Three times the Hawks ran 80 plays or more. However, in the past couple of games, the no-huddle, zone-read look has given way to a more traditional, conservative approach. Davis said he wants to control the clock with a high number of snaps and possessions, but when those snaps result in just more inside handoffs and short passes and 3-and-outs, are they really as effective as they could be? For the most part, Iowa’s big plays are a result of breakdowns on defense as opposed to great individual efforts. With better competition in the Big 10 on the horizon, Iowa needs two or three playmakers to emerge or face the prospect of trying to rely on its defense to win games.